These days, Carleton graduate students and postdoctoral fellows have more resources than ever to assist them with their professional development (PD).
Says PD coordinator David Lafferty: “We know that students need more than just a series of workshops to help them succeed while at Carleton and beyond.”
With the hiring of Karim Abuawad over a year ago, Lafferty and Abuawad have developed a whole new, interactive approach to professional development. The delivery of PD resources has been reconfigured using methods that are more holistic and systematic.
The collection of disparate workshops that once existed under the title of Grad Navigate has been replaced with more streamlined and focused professional development workshops and personalized professional writing and career sessions.
Abuawad has been offering individual writing support, which provides students with a non-evaluative, supportive environment for discussing any challenges they are facing in their writing. These consultations support students as they plan and write their theses and dissertations. In addition to consultations, Abuawad has also been delivering professional writing modules on topics such as report writing, grant proposals and structuring academic articles.
In career assistance sessions, students are guided to create an Individual Development Plan (IDP) in order to facilitate realistic self-evaluation and goal setting.
Explains Abuawad: “As part of our new program Establish Your Career Narrative, we encourage students to create IDPs by reflecting on their transferrable skills, researching various career options, and developing any needed skills through taking advantage of professional development opportunities they have identified. We provide personalized and flexible approaches because we recognize that each student is in a unique situation.”
Over the past year, the team has developed new programs and events adapted to online delivery, including a series of live interviews with Carleton alumni. During the interviews, alumni talk about their field of employment, discuss their experiences and the lessons they learned on the job market and answer students’ questions. The discussions focus on working outside of academia and on securing “alternative academic” positions.
To keep graduate students connected and to foster the exchange of ideas during the COVID pandemic, the PD team has established the Grad Café, a forum dedicated to informal discussions on a variety of topics pertinent to grad school life.
In an effort to enhance their outreach, the PD team started conducting class visits to talk to students about career development. They have also started a project to track and contact Carleton alumni who are then invited to conduct live and written interviews and to advise individual students interested in careers within their field of employment.
As part of his portfolio, Lafferty also organizes the annual Three Minute Thesis competition in which grad students talk about their research in three minutes or less, while vying for prizes. This year, he put together a virtual competition (the results will be available shortly.) The 3MT, along with other research competitions, helps students learn how to talk about their research to the media and the general public.
All of these changes fall on the heels of last year’s Canadian Graduate and Professional Student Survey (CGPSS) in which more than 54% of Carleton graduate students participated…the highest-ever response.
Overall, Carleton maintained the improved satisfaction level achieved in 2016, and was significantly higher in a number of areas than the provincial average.
One area which the CGPSS covers is professional skills development. In 2019, master’s respondents in course-based programs were more satisfied on almost all items while doctoral respondents in research-based programs reported similar to master’s respondents’ satisfaction levels with the professional skill development occurring in and around their programs.
“Since 2013, we have made continual upgrades to our professional development program,” says Lafferty. “We were delighted to see some of our efforts reflected in last year’s CGPSS and are excited to see how grad students will view our newest initiatives in the next CGPSS.”
Lafferty notes that professional development is a team activity and emphasizes that it’s a combination of work by individual departments, the Education Development Centre, graduate supervisors, the Library, Career Services, FGPA initiatives, etc. that make the entire platform work effectively.”
To receive regular updates on PD events and resources, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows are encouraged to add their email address to the PD mailing list.