How many times do you think you will change careers? Many Canadians entering the job market for the first time hope to stick to the same, stable position, while others expect to change it up two or three times in their lives. However, this number may be much higher than you expect. A 2014 survey completed by Workopolis found that if current hiring trends continue, Canadians will hold about 15 different jobs on average during their working years. While there are many reasons a person will leave their position, Canadians entering the workforce will need to be prepared to not only weather frequent change, but thrive in it.
To graduate students who spend years becoming specialists, this may seem alarming. The knowledge and skills you have developed during your graduate degree may seem impossible to translate between different careers, and the idea that you might have you completely start over every few years makes all the long nights and hard work seem even more frustrating. It’s easy to feel locked into your chosen field, simply because the skills you recognize in yourself feel too specific to be useful in any other setting. This tunnel vision can leave students feeling unprepared for any career outside the set boundaries of what they think they already know, when in reality their graduate degree will actually provides a multitude of unique and valuable opportunities to sharpen skills that apply to a wide range of careers.
Professional development has a tendency to be overlooked by students. It’s a practice that is all too often brushed aside as being irrelevant to a degree when in reality, it covers the majority of what makes or breaks a future career. Professional development can be thought of as simply gaining awareness of the skills that you know, the skills that you don’t know, and perhaps most importantly, the skills that you don’t know you know. These professional skills include the specific skills required by your studies, but also cover much broader categories which are often referred to as transferrable skills. True to their name, these skills can be transferred between a multitude of different environments, and include things like communication, data management, and leadership. Transferrable skills can be easy to take for granted, or even confuse with personality traits, but they are skills like any other that can be learned, practiced to perfection, or remain underdeveloped. As you progress through your program, you will most likely gain many transferrable skills simply by completing your research or coursework, but did you know that there are a multitude of opportunities designed to complement and enrich your graduate experience that can help you master these transferrable skills?
At the University of Lethbridge, the https://www.uleth.ca/graduate-studies/thrive provides optional programming on a variety of transferrable skills throughout the year, and is designed to provide support and opportunities for students interested in getting the most out of their degrees. THRIVE programming is composed of three skill categories; teaching, research, and career. Teaching skill focused workshops help students learn skills such as grading, mentorship, or public speaking in a classroom environment. Research skills often strongly complement the student’s core degree, teaching students data management, proposal writing, and even software tutorials. Finally, career/professional skills give students the chance to learn interview techniques, time management, and how to build and maintain a professional network. One of the largest benefits of the professional development programs offered alongside graduate programming lies within the institution’s ability to certify student participation in skill training activities. A job-seeker who is able to provide specific, verifiable examples of these skills will have a strong advantage over one who has to come up with a vague example on the spot in an interview.
Keeping track of every opportunity that you get can be a lot to manage, so the University of Lethbridge has developed the MyExperience platform as a tool for students to identify, find, and track professional development opportunities throughout the year. When you register for a workshop using this platform, it records your participation on a transcript that is complementary to your academic one. At any time, you can view a complete record of every workshop you’ve attended, and use your experiences to build up your resume!
While many transferrable skills are broadly applicable, developing these skills is an incredibly personal journey. Your background, personality and needs are unique, and only you can decide what opportunities you want to take. To take full advantage of professional development programming, students need to be aware of their own strengths and shortcomings, then seek out opportunities to practice their competencies of choice in a constructive manner. Working on professional development while completing a graduate degree can seem like a daunting task in addition to all the other hard work your degree requires, but the skills and competencies you will develop via the unique opportunities presented to you will be worth it, helping to set you apart, and set you up for success.
Stay engaged with your professional development opportunities at the University of Lethbridge by keeping an eye on the SGS Newsletter, and at ulethbridge.ca/graduate-studies/thrive and myexperience.uleth.ca. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.