How are you planning your professional development activities?

Calendar with some pencils

Have you ever found yourself thinking that you need to start engaging in professional development activities, but feel so overwhelmed because you have no idea where to start? If this is you, I have the perfect resource for you. Stay tuned.

Alternatively, do you find yourself taking part in professional development (PD) activities, but wonder if you are doing enough? Whether the activities that you are engaging in are useful at all for the career that you want to pursue? If so, I’ve got a tool that can help.

ImaginePhD is a free(!) career exploration resource for graduate students in the social sciences and humanities, an initiative put forth by the Graduate Career Consortium. So what is all the hype about?

Are you in a STEM field? Keep reading, and then check out myIDP - a similar online resource that's tailored for STEM needs!


This tool has three central parts: assessments, job descriptions and a professional development activity-planning tool. The assessments point you in the direction of potential careers based on your skills, values and interests. The descriptions of careers are categorized into job families and include articles that describe those careers. Not to mention, the tool also provides a list of organizations that are associated with those careers, skills that are sought by employers, and examples of typical job postings. A resource that I really loved described a woman’s experience in pursuing a rather atypical career path for a PhD in psychology: this woman became a trial consultant! This resource reminded me how important it will be to stay open to all possibilities in my post-grad school career search.

In my opinion, the most useful part of this website is the section on planning. This section has an interactive tool that lists common degree completion, career development, skill development, personal development and money goals. It also allows you to visually map out due dates and timeframes for all these PD goals. In fact, it’s hard to forget any goals because this tool is so visual. One opportunity that I hadn't thought about pursuing before using ImaginePhD was taking part in a conference organizing committee. What a fantastic way to not only meet, but really get to know, key contacts in your field! The PD goals listed are targeted towards both academic and non-academic careers too!

So you might be thinking “I already know what skills I possess, how can this help me?” Well this tool can help you to identify gaps in your skillset and therefore can help you to hone your PD efforts so that you are spending time on the skills that you need to develop, instead of those that you already possess. It can also help you to identify research topics that are interesting to the industry that you would like to work in, and therefore, transferable! You might even discover that you can incorporate research methods used in industry into your research projects at school, to maximize on the transferability of your skills.

I strongly suggest that you checkout this free tool when you get a chance and hope that you will love this tool as much as I do!

Paige Stirling is a PhD Candidate in the Faculty of Arts. Her doctoral research bridges the gap between the human resource and education literatures by looking at how experiences result in the development of competencies commonly sought by employers.

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