Symposium for Graduate and Post-Doctoral Students Offers Valuable Information on Career Options

The University of Miami Career Development Committee, a Ph.D.-student-run branch under the Biomedical Graduate Student Government and the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, hosted its first annual Graduate Student/Post-Doc Career Symposium on May 30.

The goal of the symposium was to provide Ph.D. and post-doctoral students with a comprehensive workshop on career options and skill sets needed to obtain career goals.

Susan Blanton, Ph.D., executive director of the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics, kicked off the symposium with her presentation, “A Slightly Non-Traditional Path to a Career in Academia.” She recounted the many personal and professional pathways she traveled before accepting her current appointment in academia. Blanton’s take-home message focused on the importance of balancing family commitment and career goals while remaining flexible to changes and networking along the way.

The second part of the program featured a career panel comprised of Bin Yan, Ph.D., director of the Office of Technology Transfer; Patricia Wahl, Ph.D., director of business operations at the Center for AIDS Research; Anthony Griswold, Ph.D., associate director at the Center for Genome Technology; Thomas Champney, Ph.D., professor of cell biology; Joanna Johnson, Ph.D., director of writing at the College of Arts and Sciences; and Delphine Prou, Ph.D., manager of research administration.

The panelists discussed current occupations and described their average workday. The audience then engaged them in a lively discussion about various career paths. The panelists mutually agreed that finding happiness in a career is a moving target, and there is no requirement to commit to only one path. They echoed Blanton’s view that careers are chosen — not only by professional interests, but also by lifestyle choices, including family commitments, where you want to live and the type of work you want to do.

Carly Smith, associate director at Toppel Career Services, provided information on the resources available to students transitioning into the work force. According to a follow-up survey, the information she provided was considered one of the most valuable takeaways from the symposium.

The keynote presentation was delivered by Isaiah Hankel, Ph.D., founder and chief executive officer of the Cheeky Scientist Association, a Ph.D.-only job search and training platform that specializes in assisting the transition to industry careers. Hankel is also an internationally recognized industry consultant, founder of several biotechnology startups and author of bestselling business books. He emphasized the steps and actions that are crucial to finding industry positions, as well as some of the common mistakes Ph.D.s make in managing their time and approaching a job search. His other discussion topics included:

• How to write the perfect industry resume
• How to turn networking contacts into job referrals
• How to create the perfect LinkedIn profile
• How to be more confident in interviewing and networking skills
• What options are available outside of research
• How to get recruiters and hiring managers to contact you
• Where to find top unlisted jobs and how to choose the right job

The attendees asked many questions and said they valued Hankel’s candid insights and advice. A post-event survey found that more than 80 percent agreed that his approach to job searching and his practical tips for finding industry positions were most helpful. The majority also agreed that attending the symposium resulted in more awareness of career options and of the resources available to assist with career development needs, access to hidden job markets and professional networking strategies. There was unanimous agreement to attend similar events in the future and recommend such events to their peers.

At the conclusion of the symposium, a happy hour/networking event was held at Jackson Hall.

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