Aug 02

Personal & Professional Development

Today’s blog post was written by Liz Loughran, Graduate Career Consultant for the College of Science. Liz also has her Ph.D. from Notre Dame, and provides her perspectives below.


Why engage in personal & professional development (PD)? There are multiple ways to consider this question. From a holistic perspective, engaging in PD can lead to a happier, healthier, more fulfilling graduate education. A more pragmatic perspective is that fantastic research and publications alone may not be enough to land you a job or career you want in a dynamic economy after graduating. Not only does PD lead to a well-rounded graduate education and a smoother transition to your first destination post graduation, it provides the opportunity to develop skills, perspectives and relationships you will carry past graduate school into the rest of your life. In this post, I share about two of my PD experiences from my Ph.D. at Notre Dame and give a few tips for engaging in PD as a graduate student.

Ethical Leaders in STEM

Ethical Leaders in STEM was a precursor to LASER (Leadership Advancing Socially Engaged Research). These are amazing opportunities and I encourage all graduate students to consider applying for LASER. Two among many highlights of EL-STEM were:

  • Crucibles. Over the course of the year, each fellow shared a reflection on a crucible, or a challenging moment or experience that allows a person to grow through reflection on values, motives, assumptions and judgments made. Crucibles are often pivotal moments in the life of a leader. This practice of sharing crucibles helped me adapt a framework with which to understand and make use of difficult events or experiences in my life. I became quicker to recognize that difficult situations can help me grow. I now have more hope that difficult situations will produce something new.
  • Career Uncertainty. EL-STEM provided a forum for conversation with peers and speakers about the uncertainty involved in career discernment. More often than not, the road to our goals is circuitous. Learning to expect the unexpected, accept uncertainties and to stop worrying has been really valuable to me.


The Graduate School Shaheen Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition is an opportunity to showcase your research to a general audience in 3 minutes. This is why I chose to participate in 3MT and how it benefited me:

  • I wanted to enhance my ability to communicate my research to a general audience.
  • I used some of the content and my slide (which I spent a lot of time on!) in my defense introduction. It was a great way to engage my audience, many of whom were not scientists, right off the bat.
  • If you are a finalist, you will have a published link of yourself presenting that you can share during a job search. Even if you don’t make it to the finals, you’ll have a recording of your first round presentation that you can share.
  • Both in high school drama productions and graduate school presentations, I always got the jitters for the first 5 minutes of presenting. After that, I calmed down and enjoyed presenting. 3MT was a unique challenge for me because it’s only 3 minutes! There’s no time to settle into presentation mode. I knew I wanted to learn to manage adrenaline and nerves at the beginning of presentations more effectively, and practice makes perfect.
  • 3MT is fun. It affords a chance to meet other grad students from diverse fields and do something challenging together.

A few tips from Liz

  • Think of professional development as part of your graduate education. During my dissertation work, I had a piece of copy paper with a green outline of a shamrock. In each of the 3 leaves was written Research, Writing, Professional Development. This served as a visual reminder to engage in PD and “gave me permission” to take the time to engage in activities other than my research.
  • Connect with other graduate students, including from other disciplines. Graduate school can feel isolating at times, with large amounts of time spent in your library carrel or laboratory. Know you are not alone! There are many people eager to connect with you. Gradlife events are great way to connect with others, as are professional development opportunities through the graduate school, departmental clubs and associations like AWIS and SWE.
  • Pick 1-3 personal/professional development items each month. Keep an eye on the professional development webpage of the Graduate School and come meet with your Graduate Career Consultant.
  • The unexamined life is not worth living. Carve out time to engage in self-reflection. In June, Erik Simon wrote a blog post stressing the importance of reflecting on and understanding ourselves. Reflections on our values, skills and interests and how they intersect is an important piece to your career development. Engage in assessments on as well as through myIDP (STEM) and ImaginePhD (Humanities).
  • Apply for Grants and funding early and often. Applying for funding is critical whether or not you plan to stay in academia or pursue a career outside academia.
  • Go out to lunch with faculty candidates, attend their job talks and participate in student-led interviews within your department.
  • Apply for a Common Good Initiative (GGI) seminar with the Center for Social Concerns and reflect on how your discipline can benefit the common good. I participated in CGI Haiti 2015 and it was a profound experience.

What are ways you engage in PD and how do you think about PD in the context of graduate education? Please share your ideas and experiences in the comments section below.

Jul 19

Resource Spotlight: ReferenceUSA

One of my favorite resources is a database called ReferenceUSA. I’ve been telling so many students about it during one-on-one consultations recently that I thought a blog post might come in handy.

ReferenceUSA is a database of companies and organizations. Students can use it to identify potential employers, and it’s particularly helpful when you are interested in a particular industry or field and have a particular geographic location of interest or necessity. Here’s what you can do:

  • Visit (NOTE: You must be connected to the ND network or use off-campus proxy access like any other ND library database).
  • Click the “U.S. Businesses” link (see screenshot above), and then the “advanced search” tab.
  • On the left submenu that appears, under “Business Type” check “Keyword/SIC/NAICS.”
  • In the search bar that comes up, search for different keywords related to your interests, and select the related fields that pop up. You should be able to select as many different ones as you want, and some of them can get very specific/niche. Note: the “industries” are based on what the company does, not on what the job would be. You might have the opportunity to do communications-based work at a company that manufactures engines, for example. Think of the contexts you would enjoy writing about.
    • Advanced tip: start with a quick search and look up a company you know you’d want to work for. See how the database classifies them through the SIC or NAICS codes. Then use those codes rather than keywords for your advanced search.
  • After you’ve selected your industries, go back to the submenu on the left and expand “Geography.” Select the geography type that fits you best, and define your geographic search parameters. If you’re open to relocating anywhere in the country, don’t feel obligated to narrow it down geographically, I’m just offering it as a suggestion. You could also do a few different places, like all of Indiana, and part of Chicago.
  • If you want to preview how many results you will have, click the blue “update count” button first. That can tell you if you need to narrow or widen your search parameters.
  • You can also narrow the results by size of company (# of employees).
  • Once you’ve got your fields and locations, click the green “view results” button on the upper right.
  • On the results page, you can simply click the name of the company to learn more about that company. The database has a lot of information, but it’s not infallible. If you don’t see a website listed, for example, just google the company. Chances are they actually do have a website.
  • To download your results to excel, click the blue “download” button at the top of the results page. You can download up to 100 results at a time, and go back for the next 100 after each download. The only kind of downloading I have done is to excel, but you can do the others if you prefer.
  • If you find a company you like, look at their “industry profile.” You can use the SIC codes to look for similar companies in step #3 above in lieu of keywords.

Have you used ReferenceUSA yet? Any other great resources you have found? Share your stories in the comments below.

Jul 05

Networking: Your Tactical Advantage to Stand Out from the Crowd

Today’s blog post was written by Larry Milks, Graduate Career Consultant for the College of Engineering.


Whether you are a 1st year grad student looking for an internship, or a 5th year student approaching the last stages of degree completion, or somewhere in between, at some point you will face the sometimes daunting challenge of seeking meaningful employment among scarce options in a highly competitive environment. So how can you set yourself apart and stand out from the crowd? How can you gain a competitive advantage?

The answer is NETWORKING! Forbes senior editor Susan Adams cites data that show 42% of 59,133 job seekers obtained their position as a result of networking. The next highest source of obtaining work was internet job boards at 21%. Networking is twice as productive as job boards in this survey and far more effective than any other single job search strategy such as using a search agency or online system.

However, as I talk with students I find that many are reluctant to network and find it a bit intimidating, particularly when they are considering asking for an informational interview, perhaps the richest form of networking. They have some fear that they will be rejected, that the person they reach out to won’t have time for them or even want to talk with them. Others are not really sure how to go about it. So be encouraged, you are not alone, and there are good antidotes to these issues.

First, consider for a moment that an undergrad in your department approached you with something like this.

“Hi Feng, I’m an undergrad in electrical engineering and getting ready to graduate next year. I’m thinking though my future and am wondering if a PhD in EE would be a good fit for me. Would you be willing to spend 15-20 minutes with me to help me understand how you decided to take that route, and what it’s like to be a grad student doing research? Maybe I could even meet you in your lab for this conversation so I could get a sense of the environment and get a peek behind the scenes.”

I’m quite sure that most of you would be happy to help out such an earnest and thoughtful student who is interested in considering the path you have taken. You would probably even find it rewarding to be able to share a bit from your life with a younger student. You would also likely be quite supportive and speak positively with your DGS if they did apply in the future.

If you had pressing deadlines at the moment, then you would politely decline the student’s request, but likely you would have an idea of someone else who could help. Alternatively, you might just suggest a delay in the meeting to accommodate your schedule.

Now reverse the roles, and realize that those people you would like to do an informational interview with will generally want to be helpful, just like you would be for the undergraduate. When they understand you are not asking them for a job, but seeking to understand their career area and how to best prepare for a move in that direction, they might even be honored that you asked them. They will also remember you when a future position becomes available in their organization.

In my own recent job search this past year I reached out to 8 different college career advisors. These were all cold call emails with no one to introduce me to them first. I received “yes” responses from 4 of these 8! Imagine the improved response rate that you will get if you can find a bridge person to introduce you to the individual you hope to interview!

Irish Compass is a great resource which can connect you with ND alumni who have already agreed to do informational interviews for ND students! Additionally, they could possibly be a bridge person who introduces you to the individual at their company who would be a perfect fit for an informational interview given your specific needs.

So be bold! Reach out! You have nothing to lose and much to gain!

Do you have a story to tell about how networking has worked for you? Please share below!

P.S. For more on this see strategic networking

Jun 21

YOU are the EXPERT of YOU

Today’s blog post was written by Erik Simon, Graduate Career Consultant for the College of Arts and Letters.


YOU are the most important part of YOUR life, so why is it that we often aren’t given the time, or don’t take the time, to reflect on ourselves. Understanding WHY you do what you do could be the best investment and use of your time. Answering basic questions such as WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, HOW and  WHY from a variety of angles can bring CLARITY, COMFORT, and ultimately, CONFIDENCE in both your personal and professional life.

From a very young age, we are taught the importance of education and learning how to read, write, and do well in subjects such as math, social studies, and science. These are the skills and information that we are often evaluated upon when it comes to assessments and grades. This “technical/content” knowledge tends to be at the forefront throughout our schooling. After hours of researching, studying, memorization, test taking, writing, and completing assignments, how much time is left to better understand yourself? Have you taken the time to reflect on what encompasses your “foundational” skills such as passion, purpose, leadership, character, integrity, and resilience; or your “transferable skills” such as communication, organization, problem solving, and teamwork?

These “foundational” and “transferable” skills are formally taught through subjects such as “Character Education” and “Senior Survival Skills” within the K-12 system and through courses and services such as the “First Year Experience,” “Health & Wellness,” or “Career Services” within higher education. Often, these are not required and tend to be taken less seriously than academic and discipline-specific courses. The focus is drawn to “real” subjects that can be assessed through more tangible methods such as publications, coursework, and standardized testing. Assessing and improving character is certainly more subjective than objective, so is this why we tend to avoid it? Is it that statistical numbers are difficult to derive and we don’t have the time to take a deep dive into our own mental and emotional capabilities?

This article is not meant to answer these questions but to encourage you to ask more questions around the importance of self-reflection in a world that tends to focus more on what takes place around us than what takes place WITHIN us. Does content knowledge carry as much importance if an individual’s emotional intelligence, mental health, and personality are not understood? What is the priority between research and reflection, content and confidence?

If YOU want to be the EXPERT of YOU, take the time to consciously and consistently research YOU. Below are some resources and services that can get you started in better understanding the most important research topic in your life, YOU:

Jun 07

Underqualified? Overqualified? Here’s What To Do

One of the most common questions students ask is regarding what to do when they see a job posting for which they are underqualified (or overqualified). For example, you might see a job for a “Director of Research Initiatives” that requires 15 years of experience leading interdisciplinary research teams. You have plenty of experience conducting research, and this is the kind of job you will eventually want to take on, but at the current moment you are not a good fit for this specific position. However, you love the organization and would be thrilled to work there, but no other positions are posted at this time. What should you do?

The answer is to reach out to the organization, indicate that you see the Director position posted, acknowledge that while you do have X amount of experience you realize you are not quite qualified for that specific role, and inquire about potential opportunities that might better fit your skills and experiences. (The opposite for jobs you are overqualified for). Sound intimidating or unrealistic? It’s not, and seven potential outcomes could result from taking such initiative.

Worst case (which really isn’t all that bad):

1) You receive no response. Bummer! Follow up again, and if you still receive no reply to your second e-mail then try calling. Some folks just operate better via phone than e-mail, and it can demonstrate a genuine interest in working there. Not sure how to find their contact info? Your grad career consultant can help.

2) They reply to thank you for your inquiry, and to confirm that this Director position is truly the only position they are hiring for at the moment. They’ll wish you well in your search. No harm, no foul. Move on with confidence, and check back again in about 6 months to maintain the relationship.

Now for the good news! FIVE potentially positive responses:

3) They could reply and say yes indeed they do have an opening for someone with your experience that’s just not posted anywhere. They would send it to you and you can apply!

4) They could reply and say that while they are hoping for an experienced person to take on the Director role, the job has been open for a while and they haven’t found anyone. Perhaps it would be worth talking to you about what you can do, and then consider adjusting the position to align with your background. That way the projects that are piling up can start to be accomplished, even if it’s not at the level of a Director. (This scenario may be more likely when the position is Senior Researcher, for example, and they bring you on at the Associate Researcher level instead).

5) They could reply and say that as of now they are only hiring for the Director, but once that person is on board he or she will be adding roles to the team, and your HR contact will pass along your resume/CV once the person is hired.

6) They could reply to say that you have a solid background and they would be interested in investigating opportunities to create a role for you on the team right away.

7) They could reply to say that while they don’t have any openings now, they will keep your resume/CV on file in case anything opens up down the road.

The likelihood of each of these scenarios being realized varies at every organization, but with such little risk for negative reactions and a potentially huge reward, we highly encourage you to actively engage the organizations you admire for the potential opportunities they might have. This can be achieved through a “prospecting cover letter,” and we can help you write it. To get started, take a basic application cover letter and switch the focus to inquiring about such potential openings.

Additional considerations:

When evaluating whether or not you are qualified for a position, know that you really only need to have about 60% of what they are looking for. If you have that, and you feel you can do the job and are interested, go ahead and apply. Let the employer decide that other candidates are more qualified than you, because you never know who else is out there. Someone with the exact qualifications described in the posting may not even exist in real life, aside from the chances they will actually want to apply for that same job. So be realistic, but also confident in your skills and experiences. You’ll miss out on 100% of the opportunities you don’t apply for (or at least inquire about).

Have you had success reaching out to an employer to inquire about opportunities? Share your story in the comments below!

May 24

Colleagues and Collegiality

Today’s guest post was submitted by Trish Bredar, 3rd year English PhD student and grad assistant in Graduate Career Services. The views presented are her own, but we highly support them!


Graduate students are required to constantly negotiate different professional roles. They might act as a student, teacher, researcher, advisee, and mentor, all within a single afternoon. While wearing many hats can be exciting and rewarding, it can also cause confusion and conflict. Kelly Hanson’s GradHacker post “Student or Professional? The Paradox of Being a Graduate ‘Student’” demonstrates that the way grad students think about their professional or student capacities has major implications for how they conceptualize and organize their responsibilities. The same holds true for our working relationships. In a profession where nearly everyone you work with juggles a variety of professional and personal roles, it can become difficult to set the tone for those relationships.

One way to reconcile some of the conflicts between your many roles while also making an investment in your future career is to think in terms of collegiality. On the surface, this may seem like common sense—”obviously the people I work with are my colleagues”—but this simple term can actually entail a significant shift in how you conceptualize and cultivate professional relationships.

So, what makes a good colleague? Maria Shine Stewart’s Inside Higher Ed blog post asks this exact question, and offers several potential definitions, identifying key qualities such as encouragement, support, and guidance. All of these definitions imply that a good colleague meets the basics of professional conduct, but also acts according to values such as respect and good will that contribute to positive and productive working relationships. Melissa Ridley Elmes’s discussion of collegiality provides some concrete examples of what these practices look like in academic context. While her blog post centers on the academic conference scene, her core points about generosity and good conduct can translate into any professional environment.

So how does this concept of collegiality factor into your career success? For one thing, it can help you to build strong professional connections. We tend to think about networking as a discreet activity centered on making connections in a particular field or industry, but your network is largely made up of the people you work with on a regular basis. This includes not only advisors or senior faculty, but also your fellow graduate students. Your peer relationships will extend far beyond your time as a graduate student. How you interact with them now may leave lasting impressions that can follow you throughout your career.

However, collegiality is about more than just making connections right now—it is also a transferable skill. Just like project management, written communication, or public speaking, being a good colleague is an ability that can help you no matter where your future career may take you. As Karla Zepeda has pointed out, your professional persona and interpersonal skills are two of the post important areas that graduate students should cultivate in order to prepare for your future career search. Being a good colleague requires you to leverage both. Chances are that you already follow many strong practices of collegiality but, as with other skills, it becomes much easier to build and articulate those abilities once you start to be mindful of them.

Apr 13

How to use VersatilePhD for Career Exploration

2019 Edit: Notre Dame no longer subscribes to the premium content on VersatilePhD. VPhD still provides free content, but we also encourage you to check out for the most up-to-date resource for researching humanities and social science career paths in particular.

ND Graduate Career Services Team


VersatilePhD provides information to graduate students by identifying careers outside of academia that both utilize and value your professional skill set. There are a few key features to note:

The PhD Career Finder offers information about a wide variety of interesting careers that real PhDs have gone into. Their stories are both fascinating and informative, and are categorized by different career paths. Each one includes a narrative of the PhD graduate’s career discernment and job search process, the resume they used to apply for their job, and their academic CV for comparison. Many also include their cover letter, questions they were asked during the interview process, job offer letter, information about the negotiation process if applicable, and more.

From time to time, there have also been panels of PhD professionals. These asynchronous panels featured designated individuals who volunteered to be available in the Humanities/SocialScience forum. They wrote a post introducing themselves and their career path into various fields, and then throughout the week other members of VersatilePhD posted career-related questions in the forum that those designated panelists then answered. Forum posts related to each monthly panel started with the word “Panel:” followed by the topic or question. You can find these previous panel discussions in the archive.

This year, VPhD has been offering structured “Ask-Me-Anything (AMA)” events that were similar to the panels but were a little more targeted toward a specific individual. The previous AMAs are in a separate section of the Forums page. The next event will take place April 17-19, and will feature two well-known figures in graduate student professional development and career advising: Dr. Thi Nguyen from Washington University in St. Louis and Dr. Fatimah Williams from Beyond the Tenure Track.

Overall, the other forums operate in an ongoing way every day as well, to leverage the collective knowledge and experience of all members of the VPhD community. One of the great aspects of VPhD is that it is a more positive and supportive community than many other PhD related forums or wikis, because the alumni have all found successful careers with their PhD and are happy to help current graduate students find success as well.

Visit our website to get started:

Has VersatilePhD helped you in your career exploration or job search? Leave a comment below.

Mar 29

LinkedIn 101: Using LinkedIn to Land Your Dream Job Before You Leave ND


Today’s guest blog post was provided by the LinkedIn Careers Team, whose role is to help job-seekers maximize the value of LinkedIn in their job search.


LinkedIn is helping graduating students tap into their professional community—whether they realize they have one already or not.

Trying to land your dream career out of the gate is a tall order. But here’s the good news: There are roughly 11 million job openings per month in America at any given time. Sure, you don’t want all those jobs, but you want some of them—and some of them want you!

LinkedIn connects qualified candidates with companies and organizations that crave top talent. With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to snagging a seat at the professional table before graduation.


Why LinkedIn?

  • 80% of LinkedIn members consider professional networking to be important to new job opportunities and career success, according to LinkedIn research.
  • 70% of people were hired at a company where they had a connection.
  • More than 20 million professionals including recruiters, hiring managers and decision makers use LinkedIn every week.

With 530+ million professionals in the LinkedIn community, there is no other place where you can access such a wide range of knowledge, skills and resources to help you reach your goals.


Let LinkedIn do the work for you

Searching for a job can seem like a daunting task. More than a quarter of professionals say they have no time to search for new opportunities.

But worry not, with search alerts you can get notifications and updates to a saved search via email or shared with you on LinkedIn. Use advanced search filters to narrow down opportunities by industry, location, experience level and more. Once your filtered search is set, simply create the alert.

Let recruiters know you’re open to new opportunities by simply flipping a switch on your LinkedIn profile. It’s called Open Candidates, and yes, it’s that easy. Open Candidates is accessible from the “Preferences” tab on the LinkedIn Jobs home page.

By flipping the switch, you privately signal to recruiters that you’re interested in new opportunities. Don’t forget to update your career interests. This helps you appear in the search results that recruiters are regularly scouring. Additionally, this helps inform the daily job recommendations LinkedIn sends you and surfaces on the jobs homepage.


Discover your earning potential

LinkedIn tapped into its network of more than 530 million members to give you deep salary insights into the compensation landscape. You can also dig deeper into compensation insights about specific companies you’re interested in so when the time comes to talk money, you’re ready.

This tool includes salary, bonus, and equity data for specific job titles, and the different factors that impact pay such as years of experience, industry, company size, location, and education level


Connect with alumni

One of the easiest ways for students and alumni to make connections is through the LinkedIn Alumni tool. It’s an easy way to explore people who graduated from your same school, where they work now and in what cities. Simply search for your school and select “see alumni” to get started. You can access career paths for more than 23,000 colleges and universities worldwide.


Entrepreneur? Create your own job — become a freelancer

  • Nearly 20% of freelancers confirmed they’ll make six figures or more this year with their freelance work, according to LinkedIn.
  • More than half of freelancers confirmed that they will never return to more traditional, full-time employment.
  • 80% of freelancers do not actually have any concern about their freelance work being replaced by technology, artificial intelligence, or automation in the next 10-20 years.

LinkedIn ProFinder started as an idea that has grown into a vibrant freelance marketplace being used by more than 70,000 freelance professionals across the nation. LinkedIn has seen client demand surge with weekly requests for proposals growing more than fivefold in one year.


Seek career advice from others

  • More than 80% of professionals on LinkedIn have stated they either want to have a mentor or be one to others.
  • More than half don’t know where to begin and more than one-third have a hard time finding the right person.

LinkedIn launched Career Advice, a new feature that helps connect members across the LinkedIn network with one another for lightweight mentorship opportunities. Whether you need advice on your career path, switching to a new industry or best practices for a project you’re working on, Career Advice can help you find and connect with the right person who can help.

[Note from Graduate Career Services: is a Notre Dame resource you can use for establishing mentoring relationships with ND alumni]


Learn the skills needed for your next gig

  • One-third of job-seekers have expressed concern that they don’t have the necessary skills to be competitive in the job market

With LinkedIn Learning, you can now access a gigantic database of online courses on topics from coding and graphic design to public speaking. And here’s the best part: each course is typically sliced up into very manageable 5-10 minute learning chunks. Learning a new skill over the course of a week quickly becomes very achievable.


What now? — Get started

Create or update your LinkedIn profile today. This provides other LinkedIn members with a better understanding of the unique skills, interests, and experience that make you — you.

  • Make sure you have a profile photo – it will help get you recognized and connect to potential opportunities. Members with a profile photo receive up to 21x more profile views and 9x more connection requests.
  • Members with current positions are discovered up to 16x more in recruiter searches.
  • Members with more than 5 skills are 27x more likely to be discovered in searches by recruiters.
  • Including the city where you are based makes you stand out up to 23x in searches.


Bonus: Check out Resume Assistant, a new integration from Microsoft and LinkedIn to help you craft a compelling resume directly within Microsoft Word.

Mar 15

Virtual Career Fair – advice from a past participant

With the GCC Virtual Career Fair coming up on Wednesday, March 28th, we asked PhD alumna Julia Beck to share her experiences and advice after participating in last year’s event.


The virtual career fair is a great way to enter the job market and practice important job search skills without a lot of (or really any) pressure. There will be several companies attending the fair, so it is important that one is prepared prior to chatting with companies.

How to prepare:

  1. Know the companies who will be there and their open positions.

After registering for the career fair there will be a list highlighting all of the companies who will be attending the career fair, and it will list the company’s location, job area (e.g. health care, marketing, consulting, etc), and open position. Many of these companies will have more than one position offered. Be sure to visit their website and understand the company, their mission statement, and the position.

  1. Refine a list to your top ~5 companies.

After going through all of the companies that have positions of interest, create a word document listing the top 5 companies including the times that they will be online. Include any important reminders about the company and how your skills mesh with the position.

  1. Have specific questions and an introduction for each company.

Example: Hello my name is _________ and I am a _______ at the University of Notre Dame.  I enjoy list specific skills that would make you marketable to the position (use key words in the job description if applicable). Could you please tell me more about your _______ position?

  1. Have your CV ready.

If your CV has not been reviewed by Graduate Career Services, please do! It is a very valuable experience. After registering for the career fair, the CV can be uploaded for the companies to view. Be sure to do this!


What to expect:

  1. Jobs that are advertised are non-traditional science jobs (non-academic/industry).

While you are creating the list of top companies, the job type can be refined. Many of the jobs related to science included consulting, health care, medical or academic editor, or technology leadership programs.

  1. Will not be able to simultaneously chat with multiple companies.

Be sure to prioritize and chat with top two companies first. I had another word document up while I was chatting with companies. This allowed me to copy the questions and responses in the chat room so that I would not miss any information if I switched to chatting with a different company. Each chat room will have two or three representatives for the company and everyone will be able to see who is in the chat room, so I would not recommend bouncing between companies.

  1. Call backs can occur weeks or months later.

I received call backs from companies both a few weeks after the career fair and even a few months later. If there is a particular company that interests you, be sure to get the contact information from one of the representatives and stay up to date with that company.


Julia Beck graduated from the College of Science in August 2017 and is currently a post doctorate at Purdue University. Her experiences and insights are her own.

Feb 15

Alumni Guest Post: Employed ABD

Today’s guest blog post comes from Meagan Simpson. Her bio appears below the post.


Like many academic hopefuls, I applied for and enrolled in my PhD program with only a tenure-track career path in mind. It was during orientation, however, that I resolved to have contingency plans. As I’m sure it does for many, the (now cliché) crisis of the humanities speech sobered me right up!

I was aware that one of the service appointments available to English PhDs in their third year was managing editor of Nineteenth-Century Contexts, an interdisciplinary journal co-edited by a faculty member in our English department. I advocated for and was granted the appointment for the entire academic year. I managed the submission process, peer review process, and production processes under the guidance of my faculty mentor. When my appointment was over, I helped train the incoming graduate student editor. When the journal eventually moved from the University of Notre Dame to the University of Texas two years later, I also helped hand off the journal operations. I left confident that I understood the entire publishing process and, more importantly, that I found the work rewarding.

As I finished my sixth year of graduate study, I decided to conduct a job search in publishing the following fall—even before I had defended. I had been considering this move for quite a few years, but it was a workshop offered by Graduate Career Services and run by Stephen Wrinn from the University of Notre Dame Press that gave me the confidence to send out cover letters and résumés immediately. I offered up my experience as the managing editor of Nineteenth-Century Contexts and my advanced research in literary studies as the credentials that would make me most appealing to employers. I began applying, interviewed, and was hired within 10 days—breakneck compared to the academic job market.

For anyone interested in pursuing an “alt-ac” career, particularly an editorial one, I would suggest the following action steps, which I took myself:

  • Research career paths:
    • Learn as much as possible about the potential careers you want to target. Analyze job descriptions of current employees, read job postings, and subscribe to industry digests or periodicals in order to learn about typical salaries, benefits, and career mobility.
  • Gain some experience:
    • Ideally, you’ll have at least one year of experience in whatever field you intend to target. Realistically, any experience helps! The more, the better. Search out these opportunities at Notre Dame; search them out anywhere. Journal publishing is different in volume and scope from book publishing, but it is logistically almost identical. My employer hired me knowing there would be a learning curve, but confident in my content expertise and commitment to long-term skills acquisition.
  • Tailor your résumé:
    • Ideally, you will tailor your cover letter and résumé to each position; realistically, you should at least tailor these documents for each industry. I worked with Erik Oswald at Grad Career Services to tailor my cover letter and résumé for the academic publishing industry and then I further tailored both documents to my current position by myself. It is painful to compress 4-5 pages of academic accomplishments into 1 page, but it is crucial. Human resources departments and employers read through these materials lightening fast, sometimes scanning for keywords alone. I’ve helped hire assistants and interns since joining the company, so I now have first hand experience in wading through dozens and dozens of applications over the course of a single day. Be concise!
  • Publishing-specific caveats:
    • Publishing is region-specific, primarily New York. This includes trade, academic, magazine, etc. Be prepared to fly into interviews at a moment’s notice and be prepared to relocate quickly. If you’re interested in academic publishing, but not interested in relocating to New York, target university presses.
    • Pub jobs are advertised and filled unbelievably fast in New York! Even postings 3 days old might be filled already. Use,, or to find job postings and apply immediately.

Almost a dozen other graduate students have reached out to me in the last year asking for advice. Typically, they’re looking for concrete tips about how to conduct an alt-ac job search. Just as often, however, they are interested in hearing how I feel about my decision looking back.

Truth be told, I miss the intellectual rigor afforded by scholarly work. I miss the creative aspect of wrestling with and producing new knowledge. There is simply nothing more rewarding than academic work in my opinion. However, for me, the future it promised was unstable and therefore potentially unhealthy. I find the security and flexibility of fulltime alt-ac work more valuable than the intellectual and creative affordances of academia. What’s more, my particular job is what I like to call “intellectually adjacent.” I still get to engage and wrestle with scholarly work; I still get to attend conferences and read the latest journals; I still get to think. It also affords me an exceptional amount of free time—time that I could easily fill up by teaching courses as an adjunct or independent research.

I also tell inquirers that it is tough work to balance a full time job while completing a dissertation. It will take much longer to finish and defend the dissertation if you’re also employed fulltime. Committees might not approve of such a plan for exactly this reason. So, be sure to talk frankly with them and come up with a concrete plan to finish. It might be in your best interest to defend the dissertation before going on an alt-ac job market. I had personal mitigating factors that made this balancing act my only option and an exceptionally understanding committee. If you are going to juggle both, then be sure to create and stick to a writing schedule in consultation with your committee members.

Technically, I could still go on the academic market after I defend, but I have no interest in doing so. While I will always miss certain features of academia, I much prefer the “alt-ac” career path I’ve taken. I have no regrets.


Meagan Simpson is Acquisitions Editor of the Humanities List at Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. in New York, NY. She is a PhD candidate in English at the University of Notre Dame, currently completing her dissertation.

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