Perspective from a 5th year PhD: don’t abandon professional development!

It feels like only yesterday that I quit my job as a product development engineer and jumped into the world of graduate school… but actually its been more than 4 years! Time doesn’t just fly in graduate school, it seems to dissipate in large chunks, which is both a relief and terrifying.

My first year, I tried to do EVERYTHING; I took a bunch of classes, started my research project, and participated in multiple extracurricular groups. By my third year I dropped everything except my research project, which to be fair is the most critical item to finishing my PhD. During the winter of my 4th year, I suddenly realized that ultimately I would graduate and that I had done nothing to prepare for that eventuality. So, I started looking for career development support on campus. I attended events put on by ILead, ILead:Grad, LSCDS, SickKids, basically anything I could find. Some were more helpful than others and the ones that stood out were those hosted by ILead and ILead:Grad; these events are engineering graduate student focused and there are lots of events to choose from. I was so excited about the idea of leadership and professional development and the need for these skills within the engineering graduate student population that I decided to join ILead:Grad as a Co-Chair and let my enthusiasm abound.

We are so excited to offer a wide variety of events this year, including a career panel, an informational session on entrepreneurship and on-campus resources, networking events, resume and interview workshops, and the oh-so-popular speed interviewing. It’s going to be an awesome year with ILead:Grad and we really hope to reach as many students as possible. We are committed to providing workshops that will help engineering graduate students realize their potential as leaders and build the skills they need to find successful careers after graduation. What I hope for each and every one of you is that you stay engaged, don’t let those middle years slip away like I did! I’ve had to do some major catching up in the last 8 months and it would have been so much easier if I had just kept a steady pace of research interspersed with classes and extracurricular activities.

You don’t have to run every committee or team, but don’t abandon professional development, no matter what career path you may be considering- soft skills matter!

Consider taking an hour or two each month to attend our ILead:Grad workshops- I promise you’ll be better for it!

University of Toronto resources for Graduate Students:
ILead:Grad: engineering leadership and professional development workshops, open to all students
ILead: particularly the OPTIONS program if you’re considering careers outside academia
Graduate Professional Skills (GPS) program: courses/workshops focused on Communication and interpersonal skills, personal effectiveness, teaching competence, research-related skills
The Career Centre: tools and support for career exploration and professional skill development
Career Learning Network: did you know that you can sign up for job shadowing through UofT?!
Life Sciences Career Development Society: focused on career development for students in life sciences, but events such as the annual career fair are open to all students
SickKids Research Training Centre: career and skills development training for researchers at SickKids, but many events are open to all students