Preparing for your next steps may involve self-discovery, exploration, and skill development, but it will also involve putting together a strong resume or CV, learning how to write a cover letter, developing graduate school or fellowship applications, understanding the importance of networking, honing your interviewing skills, and developing a timeline for how you’ll achieve your goals.
Suggested Planning Timelines
Learning about who you are and how you want to make an impact is a great place to begin. Careers that combine your skills, interests, values, and personality are usually a great fit.
Ingredients for Making a Well-Informed Decision
Interests are those subjects, objects, topics, and issues that deeply engage you and pique your curiosity, defining what you like to do and how you prefer to do it. Skills are your strengths and abilities, and may reflect analytical, communication, organizational, technical, or creative capabilities. Personality reflects our preferences, and how we like to operate in the world based on our particular combination of preferences. Values reflect the things that are most important to us in both personal and work life, motivating us to do the work we enjoy.
- Start out by taking the online assessments available through MyPlan.
- Work with an OCS "Undecided" Adviser to discuss your MyPlan results, identifying your skills, interests, and values.
- Attend a career exploration program.
Exploring your personal, academic, and career interests enables you to begin to develop career goals. Reflecting on experiences in your classes, internships, student groups, and community will generate many interesting options to consider and learn more about.
- Talk with peers and alumni (see Alumni Directory and LinkedIn) doing work you think is interesting. Ask what they like and dislike about what they do.
- Explore your interests through internships, January Winternships, volunteering, and/or extracurriculars.
- Follow people or organizations of interest on LinkedIn or Twitter.
- Explore career pathways and attend talks and workshops on campus to learn about diverse options.
Preparing for your next steps may involve developing relevant skills. But it will also involve putting together a strong resume, learning how to write a cover letter, developing graduate school or fellowship applications, understanding the importance of networking, honing your interviewing skills, and developing a timeline for how you’ll achieve your goals.
- Attend OCS programs on resume and cover letter writing and interviewing.
- Use Interview Stream to prepare for interviews.
- Build your professional network on LinkedIn.
- Connect with Harvard alumni for a career conversation, resume critique, or mock interview through OCS Firsthand Advisers.
Once you have some ideas about next steps, you’re ready to move forward!
- Apply for jobs, fellowships, service opportunities, or graduate school.
- Continue to build your network of connections.
- Be open to considering unexpected opportunities, or different pathways to your goal.
- Some students decide to take a gap year off between high school and college to travel, volunteer, pursue an activity, or engage in some other meaningful experience. Harvard College supports, and in some cases, requires such a “gap year.” Some resources that might be helpful in making this decision and/or identifying activities are:
- Meet with an OCS adviser to learn more about your skills, interests, and values, and to brainstorm your career options.
- Explore myIDP, an individual development plan (IDP) for science Ph.D.s.
- Check out ImaginePhD, a free, online career exploration and planning tool designed specifically for Ph.D. students and postdoctoral scholars in humanities and social sciences.
- Use Versatile Ph.D., a nonacademic career resource for Ph.D. students and alumni.
- Consider joining a student group that suits your career interests, to help you learn more about a field of interest.
- Determine your strengths and how to leverage them through StrengthsQuest (contact the OCS front desk for more information).
- Explore Career Pathways; while these resources were developed for Harvard College students, GSAS students will find relevant information.
Graduate students often receive help from their departments on their academic job search. However, OCS offers additional support to help ensure success in today’s competitive academic market. Below are links that will help you explore an academic career:
- Watch the “Going on the Market: Preparing for the Academic Job Search” tutorial.
- Read The Academic Job Search Handbook, available at OCS and online through the Harvard library system.
Engage in a variety of professional development activities, such as:
- mapping out a strategic plan for your graduate studies.
- pursuing fellowships.
- attending Bok Center Teaching Orientations.
- developing and updating your CV.
- presenting research seminars in your department.
- attending professional conferences.
- networking with professionals in your field.
- attending the Professional Development for Life Scientists series for GSAS students in the sciences.
- serving on a committee in your department, or organizing a conference or seminar series.
- Meet with an OCS adviser.
- Explore resources on surviving and thriving in graduate school.
- Contact Linda Spencer to explore personality assessment tools, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).
- Contact Linda Spencer to take CareerLeader, an online self-assessment program. This tool is recommended for students who know they want a career in business, but are unsure about their best fit with regard to industry or functional area. ($30 candidates and $75 alumni.)
- Download the My Career Story Workbook (pdf).
- Meet with an adviser.
- Evaluate career options through MyPlan.
- Explore Career Pathways; while these resources were developed for Harvard College students, HES students will find relevant information.
Download the video transcript (pdf).