Let this timeline guide you through your graduate and post-doctoral studies with a focus on professional development that will prepare for your chosen career path. The Career Services Office is always available to help.
First Year

  • Assess your interests, abilities, and short- and long-term career goals.
  • Identify at least four skills that employers look for and plan how you will acquire these skills before you complete your Ph.D..
  • Determine what research & lab skills will be necessary to secure your choice of careers and find a research group that matches.
  • Consider volunteer, leadership and/or other alternative (but related!) experiences to help build your résumé/CV.
  • Familiarize yourself with the services and resources available in Career Services.
  • Come to the Career Services office to create a first draft résumé/CV.

Second Year

  • Explore at least three career options available to you through your field.
  • Conduct one or two informational interviews with people who have careers you think you’d enjoy.
  • Use your teaching assistant position to assess your interest in and fit for an academic career.
  • Make a special effort to get to know one or two additional faculty members in related research areas.
  • Join at least one professional organization related to your field (ACS, IUCr, IChemE, etc.) in order to make contact with and learn from people in the professional world.
  • Register with Handshake @ Illinois.
  • Attend one or more career-related workshops and update your résumé/CV with teaching & research experiences.

Third Year

  • Begin to figure out what is really important to you (i.e. your specific career path, work values, goals, geographic preferences, etc.) and narrow your career interest areas.
  • Review your progress in learning four (or more) skills employers look for in new hires.
  • Determine whether you will pursue a postdoctoral position.
  • Research potential organizations and talk to other graduate students who are currently in the job search process about their experiences.
  • Work with your advisor to prepare & publish papers and to deliver presentations at meetings and workshops.
  • Attend career fairs that relate to your interests to raise your comfort level for the following year.
  • Attend at least two company information sessions to find out more about the skills various organizations seek.
  • Participate in Career Services workshops.
  • Practice your interviewing skills during a mock interview with the Career Services office.
  • Develop an employer prospect list with contact names and addresses from organizations you are interested in pursuing.
  • Read two or more professional or trade publications from your field on a regular basis.
  • Gather information on realistic salary expectations.

Fourth Year & Beyond

The job search process for both academic and industry-related positions is heaviest during the fall semester, so no matter when you plan to complete your Ph.D., make sure you are ready-to-go in July and can fully participate in the recruiting activities during the last complete fall semester prior to your finish date.

  • Put together an interview outfit (include a leather portfolio, professional briefcase/purse, and quality pen in addition to suit, shoes, and accessories).
  • Prepare condensed slides, research summary, and other materials you can utilize in an interview.
  • Visit the Career Services office to have your final résumé/CV critiqued.
  • Draft a cover letter, research summary, educational philosophy and/or other application documents (depending on your career-path) and have them critiqued.
  • Stay abreast of and participate in the on-campus recruiting activities & workshops.
  • Attend career fairs to learn about hiring organizations and to network with professionals.
  • Determine your career-related strengths and skills; determine what you have to offer an employer (it is crucial that you convey your related skills to employers utilizing specific experiences).
  • Check vacancy listings and apply for positions of interest at least once per week (this can be a challenge when you are also trying to finish your research, but setting a few hours aside each week for your job search will make it more manageable and will help ensure your success).
  • Complete and submit all pending publications so they can be included on your résumé/CV.
  • Ask former employers and professors to serve as references or to write letters of recommendation.

“You must choose in life or life will ultimately choose for you.” –Author unknown

Career Decision Making

Professional development is a process that begins the day you begin graduate school. It begins with knowing your unique interests, values, strengths, and of course, continues to develop as you pursue your graduate education. However, it is also the first step in considering your career options. The School of Chemical Sciences (SCS) Career Services office can assist you at many points throughout your graduate education.

Explore possible PhD level careers through InterSECT Job Simulations, a career exploration tool.

You can also use the Individual Development Plan created by ScienceCareers to take complete exercises to help you examine skills, interests, and values or review information about various career paths.  Also check out ChemIDP, the American Chemical Society's career planning tool.

ACS Chemist (Grad & Postdoc) also offers great insights and tips for surviving graduate school and being successful in a career.

Careers Inside or Outside of Academia

Your graduate education provides you with the flexibility and skills to pursue both academic and non-academic options. Many of you will make a choice to pursue an academic career as faculty, administrators, or researchers. Others may choose a career as a researcher within industry or for a government agency, a management consultant, a writer and editor for a publishing firm, or a multitude of other options. Your choices are diverse, and they may vary throughout your career. Some of you may start in academia and transition to a position as a consultant, researcher, or entrepreneur.

How SCS Career Services Can Help You

Join other students on Handshake @ Illinois. Handshake @ Illinois is the new University career services platform and is the online job system that allows industry and government employers to communicate with you about job opportunities and when they will visit campus for recruiting activities. The system is only accessible to those who have registered and been approved by Career Services.

Whatever your career needs, Career Services can support you during your time at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We can help you to assess your skills, interests, values, and experiences as they relate to your long-range career goals, and support you in your search. Being able to talk about yourself and about your strengths can be essential in networking, interviewing, and successfully landing the opportunity that matches your long-term goals, whether inside or outside of academia. We can support you in your search and help you to prepare your résumé, CV and application materials, practice your interview skills, and assist you in negotiating your offer.

Career Services is dedicated to you. Schedule an appointment with Patricia Simpson or Jennifer Tasneem through Handshake @ Illinois to help with your career needs.