This morning I sat down to speak with Amy Blackburn, Senior Assistant Director for Graduate Students at University Career Services (UCS). Amy has extensive experience mentoring both undergraduate and graduate students in the humanities and social sciences as well as STEM fields through various stages of career decision making, professional development, and the job search.

When posed the question “what can UCS do for graduate students in the humanities and social sciences exploring career paths outside of academia,” Amy could point to abundant on-campus resources at free or little cost to current graduate students. In other words, the opportunities are there for the taking, but what is required on the part of graduate students is the initiative to seek them out. Putting aside for the moment the challenge and frustration of adding yet another professionalization task to daunting to-do lists, according to Amy, grad students considering non-academic careers should begin to developing relevant professional skills early while they’re still in coursework. One resource she mentioned is the Graduate School Professional Development website, which offers (among other things) a Professional Development Guide. This guide outlines core competencies that grad students should be developing at the early-stage, mid-stage, and late-stage of their graduate student careers, as well as actions, resources, and events on campus to facilitate this development.

Amy also spotlighted several upcoming activities of interest for graduate students exploring diverse career options. First, there are still a few spots available for the Gallup Strengths Workshop for Graduate/Professional Students on Thursday, September 27. This event, which leads students through an assessment of their professional strengths, will take place in the Graduate Student Center from 2:00pm to 3:30pm. Registration is required. Second, on Saturday, October 27, UNC is sponsoring a Career Symposium for Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars. This event will run from 9:30am until 4pm in the Aquarium Lounge of the Carolina Union. There will be 3 panels, including one for grad students in the humanities and social sciences, as well as a series of workshops in the afternoon. The keynote speaker is Fatimah Williams Castro, who is the founder and CEO of Beyond the Tenure Track, a firm that specializes in professional development and career planning for graduate students, faculty, and Ph.D.’s . The cost of this conference is $15, which includes lunch. You can find more information and register to attend at this link. And third, on Tuesday, November 14 from 12:00pm to 4:00pm, UNC will host the 18th Annual NC Master’s/Doctoral Fair at the Friday Center. No registration is required, and graduate and professional students from all fields are encouraged to attend.

For graduate students interested in gaining some practical professional experience in higher ed, Amy suggested three opportunities available through the University Career Services offices. First, Amy Blackburn is always looking for volunteers to help with a variety of essential tasks in facilitating career services at the graduate student level. This includes data collection and analysis, departmental communication, event planning, listserv management, social media and blogging, as well as helping to facilitate SHARE, the graduate student-led group about career decision making and the job search. Second, there are yearly opportunities to volunteer in pre-graduate advising with William Taylor, who is the Assistant Director of Pre-Gradate and Pre-Law Advising. And third, consider working as a Career Peer, a paid position (10hr/week) that pairs graduate students with undergraduate and MA-students who come to drop-in hours looking for assistance resume building, searching for internships, or exploring careers options. All of these opportunities are a great way to develop program building skills and gain mentoring experience, which are relevant professional skills for those considering jobs in higher ed.

Please keep your eyes peeled for posts and emails about upcoming career diversity events sponsored by UCS and Graduate School Professional Development. I will attempt to make those opportunities known via this site, a bi-weekly email, and on Twitter. If you’d like to join the UCS listserv that offers relevant articles, resources, events, and job opportunities for graduate and professional students, please send an email to with subscribe grad_prof_careers in the body of the email.