Kickstart Your Career

Friday, September 22, 2017

UCSF offers several resources to help students take advantage of the expanding career paths that have become available to scientists in recent decades.

The first step is understanding the breadth of opportunities available to you.

Although dogma has long idealized the pursuit of an academic position, Ph.D.’s today can apply their training to communication, law, policy, business, and other niche fields.

It cannot be understated how special this choice is; you get to choose the direction you want to take your life without taking a step backwards. Make the most of it! UCSF encourages personalized career development and promotes exploration of the many available directions outside of academia. Use the resources here widely; you have access to almost unlimited free information and resources.

During several conversations with alumni in many fields, all have offered the same advice: “Start planning for your career early.” Here are some great resources to do just that.

Discover your options with OCPD.

The Office of Career and Professional Development (OCPD) exists to help UCSF students and postdocs with career planning. Their staff is knowledgeable, friendly, and dedicated to ensuring you navigate your career successfully.

Still curious about the full breadth of options available to you as a Ph.D.?

Visit the UCSF annual career exploration calendar for events that detail career options available to Ph.D.’s. Every month, OCPD puts together information on a different career path; these range from introductory seminars providing career overviews to in-depth workshops covering how to network for your chosen route.

If you need one on one assistance, OCPD will listen to your personal professional goals and provide guidance in how to best fulfill them with the options available to you.

OCPD can provide useful information for students at every step of their decision making process. Once you have begun to think about your direction, seek feedback to further fine-tune your plan.

Ask difficult questions at the Basic Sciences Alumni Seminar Series.

This Seminar series, initially limited to Integrative Program in Quantitative Biology alumni and students, has recently been expanded to include all basic science fields. Even if you are not a student in the basic sciences, the series has benefits to offer.

Each month, a UCSF alumni from a field outside of academia visits campus and holds a casual conversation with students about their profession. The hour is formatted as a student driven Q&A session; no faculty are in the room, allowing for a candid discussion about the nitty-gritty details of a career.

The seminars are excellent for figuring out the day-to-day work life in a number of fields, and determining if the lifestyle suits your interests. These alumni are not here to give you a promotional talk for their company - they are honest about the pros and cons of their profession.

Reach out to alumni on UCSFConnect.

Once you have an idea of what you want to pursue, connect with people in your field. Getting your foot in a company’s door or your name in someone’s head gives you a great head start on the application process.

A key step in pursuing any professional ambition is knowing where the openings lie.

UCSF connect is an excellent tool for accomplishing this. Although appearing so at first glance, it is not simply a rehash of Linkedin. It is a much more intimate platform. UCSF connect members are more open to students reaching out and establishing an individual connection. In fact, most alumni on the site have a“willing to help” tag on their profile.

Very few institutions can claim an alumni network of such a manageable size, which is a significant advantage in this era of impersonal spam.

For more information on UCSFconnect, refer to this article written by OCPD during the platform’s launch.

Network and learn at mixers.

Another underutilized networking strategy is alumni mixers. The Graduate Division Alumni Association and individual programs hold events throughout the year, usually in a happy hour setting.

Although they may seem intimidating or hard to schedule in, they can be invaluable and a good way to relax after a long day of lab work.

Establishing relationships at these casual events can pay off when you need feedback on your prospective career ideas. Many alumni have been in the same difficult position as a graduate student, and successfully navigated it.

As in the lab, the more advice you can gather from experienced professionals, the better equipped you will be for your future work.

The next upcoming event is the UCSFConnect Happy Hour on Sept. 28th. Stop by and enjoy yourself!

The best time to start is yesterday.

While a UCSF graduate student, you can get a great idea of what a profession would look like without investing a substantial portion of your life. This is an undervalued blessing — use it.