Graduate & Professional Students
VCU Career Services provides a variety of career- and professional development-related resources for graduate and first-professional students. Whether you’re interested in an academic or nonacademic track after graduation, we have a variety of resources to help reach your goals and enrich your career.
We can help you with:
We encourage you to use the tools available online and in our office to help you determine the best career direction for you. Schedule an appointment with your career advisor or attend one of the many events offered by our office or by your college or school to seek out additional ways to enrich your VCU education.
These tools can be used on your own time and at your discretion or as a complement to working one-on-one with a career advisor. While it’s true that most careers do not follow a linear or predictable path, to actively manage your career success, it is vital that you consistently reflect on your career goals and plan the steps you will take to achieve them.
Planning tools and resources
- VCU Libraries Career and Professional Development Guide
- myIDP - for Ph.D.s in science
- Graduate Career Consortium Student Resources
Skills, interests and value assessments
The more you know about yourself, the more confident you'll feel in taking next steps. Connecting your values to your studies and career adds clarification. Knowing what you don't want is just as important as knowing what you want. Discovering your interests and uncovering your skills further enables you to take that next step.
- Life Values Inventory - The Life Values Inventory helps you know what your work values are. Prioritizing them is one of the best ways to build a foundation for further career exploration. Whether you're just starting out or you're in the midst of a career change, identifying values and accounting for them in your career plan is essentia
- Myers Briggs Type Indicator - You will need to meet with an advisor for an appointment to discuss taking the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). It is rooted in the idea that there are 16 different personality types. This instrument will give you an understanding of personality factors which aid in determining whether certain career environments would be a good fit for you. It will also provides insight into your interactions with others, both in the workplace and in your personal life.
- StrengthsFinder - You will need to meet with an advisor for an appointment to discuss taking the StrengthsFinder assessment. This tool asks, "What's right with you?" and provides you with your top five strengths. Knowing your top five strengths can be helpful by enabling you to focus in on areas in which you may be interested in working to articulating your skills in an interview.
- Strong Interest Inventory - You will need to meet with an advisor for an appointment to discuss taking the Strong Interest Inventory. The inventory is designed to assess your interests. It compares your preferences to those of people in various careers, so that you can see what types of work you might enjoy most. It also matches your preferences to six broad areas of work and provides you with a 3-letter code that you can use to further research careers of interest.
You have pursued graduate or professional education and now you have a choice – would you like to focus your career on continued research and teaching, or are you more interested in applying what you have learned outside of the academy?
You may have only experienced the academic setting thus far, and if that’s the case, it’s important to investigate what other settings are like and whether they are a good fit for you. Identify what skills and experiences are needed in the sector in which you want to work, and proceed to implement your career plan accordingly.
Learn to become a great professor through the VCU Preparing Future Faculty Program. This short course series provides those interested in careers in academia with the skills necessary to effectively educate and addresses current issues and trends in college classrooms. Courses are open to all degree-seeking graduate students. Graduate students who are enrolled full-time can register for the courses at no additional charge as long as their total semester enrollment does not exceed 15 hours.
The majority of postings for teaching and research opportunities are found in specialized websites that cater to higher education as well as each college or university’s own website. As you begin your search, familiarize yourself with each school’s hiring cycle as they often differ depending upon the institution and sometimes the subject area.
Higher Education Job Search Resources
- Higher Ed Jobs
- Higher Education Recruitment Consortium
- Academic Keys
- HigherEd 360
- VCU faculty recruitment
Writing a teaching philosophy
A teaching philosophy is a brief statement that details your outlook on teaching, a description of your teaching methodology, and justifies your rationale for your methods as an educator. Your teaching philosophy should convince the reader that you think deeply about your approach to teaching, your goals as an educator, and it should summarize the other sections of your portfolio. Learn more about how to write a teaching philosophy.
Writing a research statement
You may be asked to provide a research summary, statement, or proposal. Pay close attention to which word is used. In most cases, the word summary signifies that you should focus on your current research. If asked for a statement, focus on writing about your current research as well as your aspirations for future research.
The purpose of such a statement is to provide a search committee a general understanding of your research interests and who you are as a researcher. Research statements also give committees clues about your writing and your potential fit within the department. Learn more about how to write a research statement.
Writing a diversity statement
Many institutions ask for a diversity statement as a part of the application process. A diversity statement is simply a brief synopsis of your philosophy on diversity and can take several forms. It can detail your ability to challenge and support diverse students the classroom, how you address diversity in your research, or how your personal experiences have prepared you to thrive in diverse settings.
An effective statement adds value to your application. Even if it is not requested, it is recommended that you include a brief statement as a part of your application package or include it as a part of your teaching philosophy. Learn more about incorporating a diversity statement into your application.
An intentional and successful job search plan can take months to implement from the initial research phase to application to interviews to job offer. Get a jump-start on your planning with the resources available to you through VCU Career Services.
Research career fields
Understanding how your interests, skills and experiences match with the variety of career fields out there is an important step in helping you target organizations you’d like to work for and jobs that interest you.
Meet with your career advisor
Your career advisor can meet with you one-on-one to discuss your career goals and answer all of your burning questions:
- When should I start my professional job search? Is it too early? Too late?
- How do I narrow down my options?
- Where do I even begin?
Search for opportunities
- Handshake - A comprehensive job and internship search tool available to all VCU students and alumni for life. Within Handshake, you can search for and apply for full-time, part-time and federal work-study positions that are posted specifically for VCU students and alumni.
- Beyond the Tenure Track - The definitive guide for Ph.D. success beyond academia
- CheekyScientist - A science-focused website for Ph.D.s seeking industry careers
- MyIDP - A science and health care focused site for creating an individual development plan
- Ph.Ds at Work - The “how to” website for networking for Ph.D.s
- Science Careers at Sciencemag - forums, employer profiles and search resource for careers in science
- Versatile Ph.D. - Helping graduate students and PhDs envision, prepare for, and excel in non-academic careers since 1999
- ConnectVA.org - ConnectVA provides information, resources and instant access to nonprofits, civic leaders, volunteers and others interested in improving Metro Richmond.
- LinkedIn - Utilize LinkedIn to network with VCU alumni who can connect you to job opportunities
- Glassdoor - Unlimited access to millions of salaries, company reviews, and specific interview questions at over 280,000 companies
- GoGovernment - Learn about the variety of career paths with the federal government.
- Idealist - An interactive site where people and organizations across the globe can exchange resources and ideas, locate opportunities and supporters and take steps toward building a world where all people can lead free and dignified lives.
- Indeed - Search job sites, newspapers, associations and company career pages.
- OUT for Work Career Center Library - LGBTQ career resources, including job search, résumés, interviews and info on coming out at work. The library houses books, magazines, links and video clips.
- Username: outforwork
- Password: cccp2013
- My Skills My Future - An excellent tool for changing careers
- USA.gov - Explore all the different departments within the government
- USAJobs - Search and apply for most federal government jobs
- Exam2Jobs - Search by industry
Networking is the process of creating connections
Networking is a great way to gain information and advice about your chosen career field, learn about potential opportunities, inform people about your interests and create opportunities for yourself. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that 80% of jobs are now found through networking. The best jobs often go to people who network and sometimes, jobs are created for those people.
- Basic networks are broken down into four categories:
- Strategists: advice-givers, mentors, insiders to industry information
- Targets: individuals at organizations where you would like to work
- Allies: idea-generators and those who can facilitate connections and key information
- Supporters: recommendations and references
It’s possible that individuals in your network may fall into multiple categories. Try to develop a blend of people who you can turn to for advice, connections, ideas, and recommendations. Having problems thinking of where to start? Consider these five groups:
- Friends and family
- Fellow colleagues
- Former classmates
- VCU alumni
Each of these groups represents a potential source for networking. Talk to those you know and tell them about your goals. They may be able to introduce you to someone new who can help.
Networking happens everywhere and takes many shapes and forms. How you network is largely a personal decision based on your level of comfort.
LinkedIn is a valuable tool for developing new professional connections and expanding your network. Understanding how to network properly will help you develop a strategy for making new connections and building your network.
Creating a good profile provides a foundation for getting the most out of LinkedIn. Additionally, LinkedIn groups are an excellent way to network and learn more about a specific industry. Nearly every industry has one, if not several, groups associated with it. LinkedIn University offers fantastic tools to help you make the most of this amazing resource.
To learn more about networking, talk with a career advisor or attend an upcoming networking event.
Professional and Industry Organizations
Nearly every industry or job function has a related professional association. Professional associations are an extremely underutilized source of networking. If you aren’t a member of a professional organization, consider joining one. There are hundreds of them with chapters around the country. Attend meetings, comment on articles posted the organization’s website or take advantage of established networking programs.
Good mentors can make a huge difference in your professional success. Mentors have the knowledge and experience to help you develop and advance your career and can provide advice and guidance when you need it most. Mentors are often a boss, a professor, or someone you know through a professional organization. However, the right mentor may be someone you have not yet met. Keep in mind that your mentors don’t need to be the most senior people you can find, they just need to have the ability and desire to help you succeed. Consider these factors when searching for a mentor:
- What do you hope to achieve from the relationship?
Before you begin developing a relationship, you first have to decide what you hope to gain from it. Do you want a deeper understanding of your field, a new job, or help developing specific skills you may lack? Qualifying your goals will make it easier for you to choose the right person.
- Does this person possess the knowledge and skills you need?
Your mentor doesn’t need to be distinguished, well-known, or at the top of their field. A good mentor is simply someone with more experience than you within your area of interest. Consider whether or not your potential mentor’s experience matches your goals.
- Will this person have time to devote to you?
You don’t have to meet every week or for hours at a time. But a mentor with no time to devote to you will do little to help you reach your goals.
- Will this person be open and honest with you?
The best mentors are individuals who will tell you the truth, whether it’s good or bad. You are in this relationship because you want to acquire new knowledge and skills. A good mentor will be honest with you because they ultimately have your best interests in mind.