Professional development is a key part of graduate education, and often one in which students don't feel very supported. Here are some ways units on campus have helped their students prepare for and obtain jobs in their fields.
Atmospheric Sciences: Our professional development course is an excellent introduction to a graduate career.
Comparative & World Literature: We provide mock interviews and opportunities for candidates to practice delivering job talks.
Comparative & World Literature: We closely monitor each student’s progress through the curriculum and mentor them both academically and professionally. We also work very closely with them on developing their job placement materials and at every stage of the academic job search.
Curriculum & Instruction: In addition, doctoral students have unique service opportunities such as working as assistants on academic journals; this experience helps them to understand the criteria for review and publication of manuscripts.
East Asian Languages & Culture: At the same time, they are given the tools for proper professionalization in the form of the regular graduate student workshops as well as the Martindale seminar.
English: The top practice we would want to share with other programs would have to be our placement service. We are regularly contacted by other programs at UIUC, and by English departments at other universities, for advice on how they can improve the services they offer their job-seeking graduate students. Our placement service begins with pre-dissertation stage workshops for students in the early years of the Ph.D. program to give them the advance information they will need to build academic vitae and teaching portfolios during each stage of their progress toward the degree. We also distribute a 90-page “Placement Handbook” to our students that is the product of over a decade of faculty-directed writing and revision: the handbook gives students a preview of every aspect of the academic job search, from the initial drafting of application materials through MLA interviews, campus visits, and job-offer negotiation strategies. The book also includes examples of all of the major elements of the academic job application (cover letters, CVs, dissertation abstracts, teaching philosophy statements) from previous Ph.D.s who have successfully found employment.
For students who are about the enter the academic job market in a given year, we hold a May orientation meeting to discuss the details of the handbook and to prepare students for the eventually fast-paced job-search timeline: students then draft their application materials in peer groups throughout the summer, at the end of which process they meet with the Placement Director and/or the Director of Graduate Studies to discuss revision strategies before they go through a final round of feedback with their in-field advisors. We maintain a confidential dossier service in the Graduate Office, so that students can easily request that their faculty recommendations be sent out to prospective employers. In November and December, once applications have gone out, we hold a three-hour interview workshop—complete with a sample “demonstration” interview, a lengthy question-and-answer session, and a round of peer-interviewing in smaller groups—and an evening of mock interviews with faculty teams: each student goes through three 30-minute interviews with faculty from different areas of the department, as a way of preparing them for the wide range of interview approaches they are likely to encounter in their job search. In January and February, finally, we host a campus-visit workshop and a number of practice job talks for candidates who are preparing for this final stage of the search process. This commitment to advising students about the job search throughout the different stages of the doctoral program undoubtedly accounts for the very high rate of success reflected in our placement statistics—success which has continued even in the face of some of the worst job markets in recent memory.
Entomology: One activity at which our department has achieved a position of national prominence is in providing graduate students with opportunities to develop skills in outreach and public engagement. A wide range of outreach opportunities allow students to acquire supervised experience in interacting with a wide diversity of audiences; these include, among others, our annual Insect Fear Film Festival (which coincides with new graduate student recruitment), the Pollinatarium, National Pollinator Awareness Week, Beespotter Citizen Science project, BugScope (in concert with NCSA) and visits to local schools, nature centers, beekeeping associations, and civic organization. This training and experience contribute to making our students highly competitive nationally; skills and experience in this area are regarded as highly desirable and extremely useful in maintaining viable programs in entomology (and, indeed, in maintaining public support for the scientific enterprise).
Germanic Languages and Literatures: Our students have frequent opportunities to interact with guest speakers who on a regular basis also offer additional workshop meetings on topics such as scholarly publishing, editing, and other issues relevant to the students’ professionalization.
Musicology: We believe that our focus on grant writing is exceptional and important in making our students competitive and successful over time.
Nuclear, Plasma & Radiological Engineering: Our strong research relationships with national laboratories and industry which provides our students with opportunities to work on the most cutting-edge research with the best facilities (including those at Illinois).
Political Science: We focus on professional development at all stages of the curriculum. Our consistent success in placement of students has created renewed energy and excitement in the program.
Special Education: We offer a two course sequence (SPED 592 and SPED 593) that all new PhD students take during their first year (using a cohort model) with the two courses focusing on critical issues in special education and emphasizing professional development in the field.