Career preparation for graduate students.

This is an important issue, and I have already spent 4 news items on this. A recent publication in PLOS ONE investigated some of the strategies and resources PhD students (and postdocs) use for non-academic jobs. This is very important because more than 80% of our graduate students end in these non-academic jobs (although these numbers also includes MSc students). I should not have been surprised, but there are sociological theories and active research programs around this issue, resulting in publications where I am only comfortable reading the abstract and discussion, and hoping that the reviewers did their job. The crux from the results section to me was this section:

Interestingly, our results also show that a trainee’s perception of high program support for career goals had direct and significant effects on their career development search efficacy, while perceived advisor support was not significant at all. It may be that perceived program support for career goals enables trainees to develop a broader support base within their graduate programs (as opposed to being driven by dissatisfaction with one’s advisor).
This presents a glass half full/empty perspective on career preparation: a grad student readiness does not depend on an advisor’s experience that will vary wildly between faculty members, but more on the support provided by the department/college/university. And since universities are explicitly tasked to prepare their graduates for the job market, there is some incentive to address any shortcoming institutionally. The question, of course, still remains if Integrative Biology and the university as a whole provides sufficient support. So is your glass half full, or half empty? Let me know.

Karl Cottenie
Associate Professor in Community Ecology

I am a community ecologist with a broad interest in data analysis.