None of us knows exactly what the world of work will look like in the coming year, within or outside of academia. But we do know that it’s not the world our graduate students thought they would find themselves in when they started their programs.
As graduate students head into this uncertain future, they need supportive mentoring more than ever. In addition to acknowledging the uncertainty and listening to their worries with openness and empathy, here are some simple steps you can take in the coming months to actively support your graduate students:
Students’ paths toward fulfilling careers are rarely linear. And they are likely to get even more circuitous in the near future. One of the most important moves you can make is to foster flexible thinking about careers and what success looks like—in your students and yourself.
Take this opportunity, for example, to locate, learn from, and celebrate alumni working in a variety of careers. Introduce students to folks who graduated around 2008, who can share their experiences of transition during a crisis. And encourage all students to explore new career paths, even if they’re also searching for faculty jobs.
Be Positive & Proactive
Help students identify positive, proactive steps they can take to move forward in the coming year. Suggest attending a professional development workshop or scheduling a career advising appointment with the Graduate College. Propose broadening their horizons with web-based tools like ImaginePhD, MyIDP, or the InterSECT Job Simulations. And regularly communicate the importance of keeping rest and relaxation on the agenda.
Keep in mind that while your soon-to-be-graduated students will need focused support during their upcoming transition, all graduate students would benefit from open and empathetic career mentoring. Early- and mid-stage students will need support for robust networking while conferences are on hold or gaining experience when internships are disrupted.
Finally, don’t wait for things to be clear before acting. The future our students imagined for themselves is shifting moment to moment, and they need support long before they’ll get certainty.