Planning & Timelines

Suggested Planning Timelines

Self-Discovery Icon

Learning about who you are and how you want to make an impact is a great place to begin. Career choices that combine your skills, interests, values, and personality are likely to be a good fit.

Ingredients for Making a Well-Informed Decision

Venn Diagram: Interests, Values, Personality, and Skills Overlap to Form Well-informed decisions,

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.

Game Plan

Exploration Icon 

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.

Game Plan  

  • 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, as well as about pathways into the field.
  • Explore your interests through internships, research, volunteering, and/or extracurriculars.
  • Follow people or organizations of interest on LinkedIn or Twitter.
  • Explore career pathways, read the Vault Guides, and attend talks and workshops on campus to learn about diverse options. 

Preparation Icon 

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.

Game Plan

Next Step Icon 

Once you have some ideas about next steps, you’re ready to move forward!

Game Plan

  • Apply for jobsfellowships, service opportunities, or graduate school.
  • Continue to build your network of connections.
  • Attend one of our 20+ annual career fairs to learn about opportunities and make connections.
  • Be open to considering unexpected opportunities, or different pathways to your goal.
  • Note: 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:



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.

  • Read The Academic Job Search Handbookavailable at OCS and online through the Harvard library system.
  • Engage in a variety of professional development activities:
    • map out a strategic plan for your graduate studies.
    • pursue fellowships.
    • attend Bok Center Teaching Orientations.
    • develop and update your CV.
    • present research seminars in your department.
    • attend professional conferences.
    • network with professionals in your field.
    • serve on a committee in your department, or organize a conference or seminar series.
  • Meet with an OCS adviserWe can help you with many aspects of your academic job search, such as:
    • Critique your CV, cover letters, and other documents from an experienced but non-specialist perspective
    • Discuss your timeline and help you develop a plan of action
    • Prepare for interviews. If you would like to do a mock interview, please call OCS to request a one hour advising appointment
    • Discuss offers and prepare for negotiation
  • Contact Amanda Peters 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.
  • Explore Career Pathways; while these resources were developed for Harvard College students, HES students will find relevant information.
  • Attend Navigating a Successful Career Change Webinars.