Lessons learned for Career Preparation via Non-academic Graduate Assistant Experience

Graduate Assistants from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Graduate School shared in a recent article in Carpe Careers what they learned from their career preparation experience while working in non-academic projects. The four lessons they learned are:

1) finding multiple mentors with different focuses (e.g., academic, professional, personal),

2) being a versatile communicator,

3) being proactive and planning ahead, and

4) pinpointing specific skills and articulating them well with potential employers.

Entering my third year in my doctoral program, I found most of these lessons resonate with me to a large extent, especially the first and the fourth, and I have benefited quite a bit from them. Working within a non-academic department as a Graduate Assistant at UConn’s Center for Career Development with a focus on graduate student career support, I have the opportunities to learn from a group of higher education professionals through my role. I am also fortunate to have the privilege to get acquainted with a variety of career resources. There are opportunities for me to develop new skills and polish those of which I am less proficient. For example, the skills of interdisciplinary communication and discussion moderation were not in my CV previously, while now I feel more comfortable opening my arms to career options that require or value such skills. Another aspect of the article that I agree with is the importance of mentorships in different areas. In addition to my academic advisor, what I am grateful for in my current GA experience is to meet my work supervisor; my professional and life mentor, and a role model whom I aspire to become in any future supervisory position.

There are different approaches to career preparation in grad school. Why not learn about others’ experiences before starting to chart your own path? Check out the original article “4 Key Lessons Learned,” written by two Graduate Assistants, Lydia Gandy-Fastovich and Kirby Livingston, and published in the Carpe Careers column in Inside Higher Ed. The Carpe Careers column focuses on career-related advice and opinions specifically for doctoral students.

By Damiao Zoe Xu
Damiao Zoe Xu Graduate Assistant, Graduate Student and Postdoc Career Programs and Services