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Professional Skills Foundations

 symbols denoting the four core categories

What is it?

The Professional Skills Foundations (PSF) program provides a comprehensive framework for graduate students to pursue personalized professional development opportunities and to meet specific, measurable career exploration goals. The program is structured around students developing their own Individual Development Plan, and completing a series of workshops and activities, culminating in a mock interview capstone with the Centre for Career Development. Throughout the program, students assess their skills and goals, while reflecting on their professional development with guidance and feedback. Participating students set their own timeline for completion; we track their progress and award them with a letter of completion signed by the Associate Vice-President, Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs, when they finish the program. The PSF program is a valuable addition to a resumé or CV and gives students an opportunity to empower themselves as they complete their graduate training.

Why participate? 

Professional Skills Foundations is an excellent opportunity to proactively take charge of your own professional development and approach your career in a more purposeful manner. The program is self-directed and can be completed at your own pace, but provides invaluable structure, feedback, and accountability to help you meet the goals you've set for yourself. 

During the program, you will:

  • Develop key skills in career preparation, communication, leadership, and personal effectiveness. 

  • Assess your skills, interests, and values relative to your career goals.

  • Learn to identify and articulate your skills.

  • Increase your confidence and experience as an advanced degree candidate exploring career options.

  • Achieve your specific professional development goals within a framework that provides structure, feedback, resources, and accountability. 

Hear from past participants

If you are still considering whether to register, or want to hear from those who have already completed the program, check out our Professional Skills Foundations participant showcase. You will find stories from graduate students explaining what they found useful about the program, what skills they developed or improved, and how they have applied those skills to further their personal professional development and career goals. 

Learn more about: 

How it works

This program is completed in three steps:

1) Introductory activities

To get started in the Professional Skills Foundations program, you must first:

  • Attend a Professional Skills Foundations: Introductory Workshop. There are two options to complete the Introductory Workshop:
    • Option 1: Complete the online asynchronous Introductory Workshop in LEARN. This five-module workshop can be completed at your own pace. Register now to gain access to the LEARN course and begin your progress through Foundations. 
    • Option 2: Attend an in-person Introductory Workshop offering. These are delivered approximately twice per term in the fall and winter. Register for the Foundations program to receive notifications when future synchronous Introductory Workshops are scheduled. 
      • Please note: The asynchronous and synchronous workshops cover the same content. Foundations participants only need to complete one version of the workshop. 
  • Create an Individual Development Plan (IDP), using the document available on the LEARN course.
    • This plan will outline the workshops and activities you will complete during the PSF program in order to achieve the specific professional development goals you set for yourself. 
    • You will be shown how to do this during the Introductory Workshop.
  • Book an appointment with Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA) staff to have your IDP reviewed and approved.
    • You will use our online booking tool to book this appointment. The link is also available through the LEARN course.
    • These appointments are typically 45 minutes in length. 
    • The meeting will determine whether your goals are focused and manageable, and provide feedback on how to achieve them. 

2) Core workshops and activities

  • Complete one approved workshop and one approved activity within each skill area
    • Workshops and activities are approved through their inclusion in your IDP (see above)
  • Write a brief reflection (approximately 500 words) on the benefits or learning outcomes of participating in each activity
    • Activity tracking documents are available through the LEARN course, and are submitted electronically to the dropbox there. 
  • Write 4-5 learning outcomes or "key takeaways" of each workshop that you attended.
    • Workshop tracking documents are available through the LEARN course, and are submitted electronically to the dropbox there. 

3) Capstone interview

  • Complete a mock interview with a Career Advisor
    • You will be eligible to book this interview through the Centre for Career Development once you have completed the previous two steps in their entirety.
    • You will receive tailored feedback from the advisor that will help improve your skills and confidence for future job interviews. 
  • Record the feedback you received and the key takeaways from your mock interview
    • The capstone preparation and tracking document is available through the LEARN course, and is submitted electronically to the dropbox there.

Program completion confirmation

Upon completion of the capstone, you will be provided with confirmation of program completion in the form of a letter from associate vice-president, GSPA, Jeff Casello. 

Register to participate

Sign up for the Foundations program via our registration form. Once you have registered, you will be added to the LEARN course and receive a confirmation e-mail with additional information within two business days. 

Who can apply

To register, participants must be Master's or PhD students officially registered at the University of Waterloo.

Still not sure?

If you're still wondering whether the Professional Skills Foundations program is right for you, consider registering for an Introductory Workshop. This session, facilitated in partnership with the Centre for Career Development, will outline the benefits of the program and provide a detailed outline of all the steps involved. Participants in the workshop are automatically registered for the program and added to our LEARN site (with the option to opt out), so if you decide to continue in the program, you will already have access to the program resources, and the first requirement will have already been completed!

Current participants

If you are a current Foundations participant, please review the following information for instructions on booking an IDP review/approval meeting, submitting your proof of workshop completion, submitting your activity reflection, or completing your capstone mock interview:

Booking an IDP review/approval meeting: 

  • Access the Foundations appointment booking tool to review available appointment times and book your appointment. 
    • Please note that all one-on-one appointments are taking place virtually using Microsoft Teams. After booking, you will receive an email within two business days inviting you to the meeting and providing a link.
    • Please note, the zcal booking tool may not work in Internet Explorer. If you are having difficulty accessing the booking link, please try opening it with Chrome or Firefox.
  • If you are unable to access your Teams meeting, please email for alternative arrangements. 
  • If none of the available appointment times fit with your schedule, please email and provide a list of 3 or 4 times and dates that work for you. 

Submitting proof of workshop completion: 

  • Whenever you have completed a workshop from your approved IDP, fill out a workshop tracking document, recording 4-5 key takeaways and a brief reflection on your experience of the workshop.
    • The workshop tracking documents are available as either a fillable PDF or a word document in the LEARN course, under the "Resources for Step 2" section of the "Contents" tab.  
    • Include the facilitator's signature in the document (this can be an electronic signature) as proof that you attended, or request an e-mail confirmation of your completion of the workshop from the facilitator and forward it to along with your full name and student number. 
  • Submit the workshop tracking document with proof of completion to the appropriate dropbox in LEARN.
    • There is a separate workshop tracking dropbox for each of the four core categories.  

Completing and submitting activity reflections: 

  • For each activity in your IDP, complete an activity tracking document, which includes a pre-activity reflection as well as a post-activity reflection. The combined word count of these two sections should be approximately 500 words. 
    • The activity tracking documents are available as either a fillable PDF or a word document in the LEARN course, under the "Resources for Step 2" section of the "Contents" tab. 
  • Submit the activity tracking document to the appropriate dropbox in LEARN.
    • There is a separate activity tracking dropbox for each of the four core categories. 

Completing your capstone mock interview: 

  • Before booking your appointment, contact to confirm that you have completed all necessary requirements to move on to the capstone portion of the Foundations program.
  • Once you have received confirmation from GRADventure: 
    • Log in to WaterlooWorks (using your WatIAM ID and password)
    • Select ‘Appointments’ from the left navigation pane
    • Follow the prompts and book your “Capstone: Professional Skills Foundations Mock Interview” appointment.
      • If the "Capstone" option is not visible in WaterlooWorks, please book a regular "interview" appointment type and write "Professional Skills Foundations capstone" in the notes.
  • To make the best use of your time at the mock interview: 
    • Review your reflections and what you’ve learned about yourself while completing Foundations
    • Review interview resources in Career Hub
    • Bring a copy of your resume, CV and/or a job posting you are interested in
  • Following your mock interview, complete the capstone preparation and tracking document, recording 2-3 pieces of feedback or key takeaways from the appointment. 
    • Submit this document to the capstone tracking dropbox in LEARN. 
    • Following this submission, you will be contacted by GSPA staff notifying you of your successful completion of the program and explaining the next steps for receiving your letter of completion. 


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Professional Skills Foundations is delivered with financial support from the Graduate Studies Endowment Fund.