5 Takeaways for Aspiring Higher Ed Professionals with PhDs

In a recent career panel for graduate students titled “Expand Your Career Options” (Fall 2023), four panelists with PhDs working in different offices at UConn shared their career trajectories and advice with graduate students interested in exploring careers in higher education leadership/administration. Here are the key takeaways:  

1.Navigating the Path from Graduate School to University Leadership/Administration   

  • Work-related experience in grad school can help you envision your career, prompting you to think about career opportunities beyond teaching and research. Those experiences, especially when working with students, can inspire you to explore careers aimed at addressing their challenges.  
  • Gaining experience in grad school helps with confidence building and skill development.  
  • You can gain leadership skills through your involvement in leadership opportunities in student organizations or even your lab.  

2.Building and Articulating Skills for Higher Education Administration/Leadership Roles  

  • Project management and time management skills are important. Consider seeking out leadership opportunities to develop those skills.  
  • Many of the skills needed for these roles are already inherent in your PhD training. The key is to translate them to the job you are applying for.  
  • To articulate your skills effectively in your application, utilize campus resources such as the Center for Career Development.  

3.Facing the Job Search   

  • Be open to different opportunities and connect with professionals who work in your field of interest. 
  • Work to overcome your emotional struggles related to the gap between your academic training and a job outcome. Your job can differ from the one you may have imagined or felt was expected of you. 

4.Leveraging Your Graduate Studies 

  • With your PhD training, you are equipped to dive into the literature for a specific topic, think critically, and utilize data to investigate the topic.  
  • Use your time in grad school to review job postings, find out what the employers are looking for, and acquire the required skills.  

5.Cultivating Success in Careers in Higher Education  

  • Understand that job titles and office structures vary across institutions; not all are organized like those at UConn.   
  • Higher education recognizes that a PhD is a significant accomplishment. You are valued in this environment.  
  • Give yourself time and be patient because the job search takes time.  
  • Stay on the path that you desire to take, even if it diverges from your current one.  
  • Find mentors in your career areas of interest who can provide guidance and support.  

Visit here to discover more about leadership opportunities for graduate students. 

Stay tuned for the next Expand Your Career Options, an event series that occurs every semester and features speakers with graduate degrees pursuing various career fields. 

By Damiao Zoe Xu
Damiao Zoe Xu Graduate Assistant, Graduate Student and Postdoc Career Programs and Services (She/Her/Hers)