Embarking on a graduate program can be an exciting yet, at times, uncertain journey. Everyone’s journey looks different and will evolve as you navigate your program. Personal and professional development opportunities can enhance your program by helping with your academics as well as offer support for wellbeing, teaching, and your career. We had the opportunity to speak with Jacqui Brinkman (Director of Graduate Student Professional Development at UBC Graduate Studies) and Parker Li (PhD candidate, Political Science). They shared their invaluable insights and advice on how to navigate professional development as a graduate student.
In her role, Jacqui oversees the Graduate Pathways to Success program and maintains the professional development section of the Graduate Studies website, as well as a newsletter, both of which highlight professional development opportunities through campus partners and Graduate Studies. These workshops, services, and resources cover various topics from academic support & success, teaching development, writing & communication, professional skills, research skills, health & wellbeing, and career.
View our events calendar to stay up to date with events happening at UBC Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (G+PS), and read on to hear tips from Jacqui and Parker.
It can be overwhelming starting a new program, but taking some time to explore various options and seek support to set yourself up for success can save time and unnecessary stress. Jacqui recommends attending workshops to complement your academic skillsets and techniques. such as time management, goal setting, creating strategic plans, and citation or research management tools to build a comprehensive academic toolset. Focus on workshops that explore “settling in and knowing what is required in your program” as a graduate student, says Jacqui.
Simultaneously, you might want to begin exploring different career options. As Parker suggests, start early, “even for PhD students.” Tailoring a perfect career path is not the goal and everyone’s path looks different. It is essential to stay curious for change, but “start early to gather resources from UBC” to make the most of your time.
Getting the most out of your academic experience: designing your grad school/ career strategy
December 7, 2023, 3 - 5 pm
To learn more about event details, visit our event page.
Prioritizing work-life balance and mental health
Maintaining good physical and mental health is essential for overall well-being and shouldn’t be neglected. Remember to build time for recreation, eating well, and rest into your strategic plan. Parker urges us to remind ourselves that feeling overwhelmed at times is totally normal and we are not alone in this journey. He recommends attending the Graduate Pathways to Success (GPS) workshops that are targeted to help graduate students manage stressors.
Athanasios Kritharis, a PhD student in Chemical and Biological Engineering, recommends that graduate students have activities to help them in their work-life balance. “Get involved in 1 or 2 side activities, one for recreation and the other to complement your professional development. You will be a much more well-rounded person if you DON’T spend all your time in the lab.”
Self-care strategies for managing stress and avoiding burnout
November 21, 2023, 1-2:30 pm
Register through our event page.
Importance of attending workshops
Workshops can hold immense value for graduate students, offering a multitude of opportunities that complement their academic pursuits. Parker encourages students to take workshops that focus on networking and building connections. He emphasizes the value that research brings in building skills, but being able to “transfer existing skillsets from research into marketable skills” will be key in communicating your skillset to potential employers This could be in the form of learning how to write a CV, booking a career counselling appointment, speaking to your peers, or even asking Jacqui for guidance.
National Career Symposium
October 24 - 27
Visit the event page to learn more and register. Free for UBC graduate students.
To present or not to present?
Attending conferences as both a participant and a speaker offers benefits for graduate students. Being an attendee allows you to expand your network and learn about the broader research area within your discipline. Jacqui urges those attending presentations or conferences to “ask questions, even though it’s hard sometimes, try.”
Similarly, Parker speaks from personal experiences to never be afraid of putting yourself out there, as “you never know where it might lead.” By embracing opportunities for exposure, you can expand your professional network and propel your research and career forward. Presenting your work – especially towards the end of your program – allows you to gain visibility, receive valuable feedback, and establish potential life-long connections within your discipline.
UBC's annual three-minute thesis competition
Present your research in only three minutes and gain valuable experience on how to communicate your research effectively to a lay audience.
Visit the 3MT website to learn more about participating.
Near the finish line
For students nearing the end of their program, you may be feeling a range of sentiments. Perhaps it’s excitement, anticipation, and a sense of accomplishment to approach the end of your graduate studies. But maybe, alongside these positive feelings, there could be a sense of uncertainty or nervousness about the next stage of your journey.
As Jacqui says, “It’s important to take opportunities for reflection, [think back to] what you have done to help build a portfolio for going into [the] next steps.” This will look different for everyone but consider taking workshops that will help you “get to the finish line of graduate work – overcoming perfectionism, support for reaching academic milestones like submitting your thesis, or some career exploration such as interview techniques or how to establish relationships.”
While coming close to the end of your studies, it’s important to acknowledge and address the various emotions that will come, while harnessing the motivation that comes with completing such a significant milestone.
December 5, 2023, 1 - 2 pm
Learn more about how to utilize LinkedIn to your advantage through our upcoming event. Visit the event page to learn more.
UBC G+PS resources
UBC's Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (G+PS) website offers a range of resources to support student’s professional development:
- Grad funding for conferences/ travel. If you need support to attend a conference, or you only have limited support from your department, visit our grad funding page.
- “You are qualified, but you may not be aware of what type of funding exists” – Parker
- Professional development. Visit our professional development section for more.
- “It’s a great resource to know what type of events are going on at UBC” – Parker
- Access online on-demand resources, provided through UBC subscriptions, while you are still a student (e.g., LinkedIn Learning)
To all incoming or current graduate students, embrace the journey. Here at UBC, we believe that your graduate experience goes beyond academic growth to building a strong foundation for your personal and professional development, and we are here to support you, every step of the way.