What I Learned at Career Pathways Week

By Kristoffer Ekroll |

Career Pathways Week came and went like your favorite new candy bar or restaurant (the one that was just too good for this world). During this exciting week, we focused on a singular thing: how to best prepare for entering the non-academic job market. We did this through a variety of avenues such as talks, workshops, and panels. The topics covered ranged from a 10-step guide to conducting a job search with an advanced degree, to how to best turn your curriculum vitae (CV) into a resumé. The lessons were many - too many to be summarized here, so you should definitely also check out the recordings on our website. In this blog I will try to convey the most important lessons I gained from this week of professional development programming.

Vincent Adultman (three kids in a trenchcoat) on Bojack Horseman says “Good. I went to stock market today. I did a business."

[Image Description: Vincent Adultman (three kids in a trenchcoat) on Bojack Horseman says “Good. I went to stock market today. I did a business."
Pictured: Me going into job interviews before attending Career Pathways Week.

The non-academic employment sector is massive, with a huge variety of jobs and possible career trajectories. It is therefore a big plus to know what you want to do AND be open to change. Both our keynote speaker and many of the panelists emphasized this point: know what you want but be ready to adapt. Define the skills that you have and actually like to use.

Once you know what you want, you need to answer some questions about what you want your working life to look like. Do you want to work with people or does the idea make you break out in hives? Where do you want to work - virtually or in person? The final thing to consider is your values and in which order you want to prioritize them. Arrive at the answer to these questions, and you will have a foundation upon which to build your job search. Our keynote speaker Caroline Rende touched upon all three of these core issues in her keynote address.

Neo (Keanu Reeves) in The Matrix stares up at a sign that says “Temet Nosce” in the Oracle’s apartment.

[Image Description: Neo (Keanu Reeves) in The Matrix stares up at a sign that says
“Temet Nosce” in the Oracle’s apartment.]
Pictured: Like Neo, thou - I mean you - have to “know thyself” and what you want in your career.

The ability to adapt was something that came up again and again. Career Center Career Specialist Vanessa Lee mentioned adaptability with regards to turning your CV into a resumé. In this case, you need to adapt the skills and language you have been using in academia to industry, government, and/or the non-profit sector. In particular, you must bridge the gap between what you can do and what the hiring company is looking for. How does your particular skillset fit in with the skills and competencies they want, and can you explain that in easy-to-understand terms?

The other form of adaptability is in your approach to your own career. This came up in both of our panels with UCR alumni who have gone into industry (from both STEM and CHASS fields). The panelists mentioned the very different paths on which their careers have taken them because they were open to trying new things when the job sounded interesting.


[Image Description: Sibyl (Tamara Taylor) on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. says “We must continue to adapt.”]
Pictured: Sibyl was wrong about a lot but this rings true.

For your interview (that you got because you were following the advice in the previous sections!), our speakers and panelists all agreed that practice makes perfect. Have your elevator pitch ready for networking events and job interviews. Be ready to explain in short and simple terms why you are the ideal candidate. Remember, the interview is less about you and more what the hiring organization needs for the role. At the same time, you need to bring your own values and needs into the mix. Always estimate what a job would mean for you - not just financially and career-wise, but as an integral part of your life. In short, focus on what is best for you. There is nothing selfish about pursuing a career that meets your needs.


[Image Description: Scar (Jeremy Irons) in The Lion King sings “Be Prepared.”]
Pictured: Be prepared for what the interview will throw at you (hopefully it's not conspiratorial hyenas,
but you never know).

I think my main takeaway from this week is that GradSuccess and the Career Center are here to help guide you through your job search. In addition to our quarterly "After Grad" events, the Graduate Writing Center can look over your application materials. And the Career Center can help prepare you for your interview, and they also host networking events for you to participate in to meet those who are hiring.

I learned a lot at this year’s Career Pathways Week, but it's definitely more than I can share in this brief blog. I encourage you to check out the event recordings and get started on choosing your own career pathway!