How to prepare for your dream career
Updated: Aug 22, 2022
Find out about key tips from experienced job seekers and career coaches to help you prepare for the job market, and ultimately, your dream career. Topics include identifying essential skills/qualifications for a job, understanding your skillset, and conducting informational interviews to learn more about a specific career.
Congratulations! You have accomplished a critical step on the career exploration journey – to successfully identify a career possibility that aligns with your passion and skills. So what’s next? For many graduate students with career interests outside of academia, it is intimidating, confusing and overwhelming to dive straight into the job market. Without sufficient preparation and guidance, job applications could quickly turn into months of waiting and continuous rejections. The goal of this article is to show you key tips that we’ve gathered from experienced job seekers and career coaches to help you better prepare yourself for the job market, and ultimately, your dream career.
One question that every graduate student asks themselves during job searching is “how can I stand out among other applicants in job applications?” or “how do I develop a resume that hiring managers cannot possibly pass on?” To answer these questions, it is important to first study the job descriptions of the roles that you are interested in and to identify the common skills/qualifications that are emphasized. If a particular job description consists of dense texts and is not well organized, job coaches sometimes recommend entering the job description into word cloud generators. This automatically creates a list/map of words that are repeatedly used in the job description. This list can then act as a guide for deciphering the skills/qualifications essential for the position.
Once essential skills have been identified for a position, the next step is to learn more about them and to compare them with a list of your own skill set. It is common to think that the skills that you need do not overlap with those that you have already acquired, but that is likely not true. Graduate students tend to overlook the soft skills or transferrable skills that they have gained during graduate school – project management, time management and teamwork, just to name a few.
Get accustomed to describing your skills within the context of the work that you have produced and other accomplishments that you have achieved as a graduate student.
Common transferrable skills after graduate school
Another typical misconception at this stage of career preparation is to think that you can learn everything about a job and its qualifications by researching and reading as much as you can on the internet. On the contrary, the most effective and valuable approach to learn is by talking to others, specifically those with the jobs that you desire. Connect with them by reaching out on LinkedIn, attending networking events or through mutual friends and family. Don’t be scared of reaching out and simply sending a message to introduce yourself and politely inquire about their availability. You can set up a brief 30-minute career discussion or ‘informational interview’. You may be surprised by the response. Many have stood in your shoes and are more than happy to help, offer career advice and share their experiences. Prior to meeting with your new connections, prepare a short text as to why you reached out to them and what you hope to gain from this conversation. Prepare a list of questions so that you can effectively learn more about their role and responsibilities. Below are several examples of common informational interview questions:
What’s a typical work day like for you?
What are the skills that you use most at work, and what can we do to earn or practice these skills while in graduate school?
How is your work-life balance?
What’s your favourite and least favourite thing about your job?
What do you like the most about the company?
What experience/qualifications do you think made you competitive as an applicant?
After learning from job descriptions, analyzing your skillset and conducting multiple rounds of informational interviews, you are guaranteed to be closer to representing yourself as the ideal candidate for your dream job. But job preparation does not end there. Remember to keep in touch with your connections, update them with your career progress, and continue asking them career questions to show commitment and interest. We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavours. If you have further questions about other aspects of non- academic career development for graduate students and early career professionals, please check out the other resources on our website.