Build experience and prepare for careers in a variety of sectors

With a career goal in mind, knowledge of employer requirements and how your skills fit, a useful next step is talking to those in your field of interest. These conversations can give a more in depth view of what is required to enter the position and an understanding how to enhance your qualifications and make contacts and through which job opportunities flow. Enhancing your skills and experience can be a positive way to achieve your goals faster. Ways to do this open to graduate students are covered in this section.

Contents in this section include:

  • How to do informational interviews to get in depth information and career development guidance
  • The many ways to build and enhance your professional skills and qualifications
  • Internships database, technology transfer programs and entrepreneurial paths

Information Interviews

Information interviewing is the widespread and accepted practice of finding contacts in a career area of interest and conducting focused conversations to gain insights into that field, industry, company or career path. Detailed answers from insiders can assist you in clarifying how your prospective career goal fits your needs and interest, what are the careers paths to your destination and what is required to qualify for the positions you would like. It can also present opportunities to make and develop valuable professional contacts which can be instrumental in breaking into a new field.

Web sites and programs to find prospective information interview contacts: 


Building Professional Skills and Enhancing Qualifications

Advanced degrees provide higher level skills in many areas such: analytical and critical thinking, research skills, writing, creativity, collaboration, project management and attention to detail. Employers in a wide variety of fields prize these transferrable skills. Technical skills derived from your graduate degree experiences such as: advanced statistical analysis; laboratory skills; and skills using specific software may also be compelling to your future employer. However, depending on your career goal, there may be other skills and experience requirements you may need to further develop. To become competitive for the career of your choice, a variety of strategies can help you break into your field. These include: professional development programs, part-time or evening studies in an area relevant to your new career, internships (formal and informal), technology transfer programs, as well as volunteering and initiating community based projects. Entrepreneurship may be a preferred work style for some or a means to enhance qualifications for a salaried career within a company down the road. These programs and strategies are discussed in more detail below. Appointments with a Career Counsellor to discuss professional development strategies are available as well.


The GPS Program

The Graduate Professional Skills (GPS) program, an initiative from University of Toronto’s School of Graduate Studies, is designed to help all graduate students become fully prepared for their future. GPS focuses on skills beyond those conventionally learned within a disciplinary program—skills that may be critical to success in the wide range of careers that graduates enter, both within and outside academe. The program can help you to communicate better, plan and manage your time, learn entrepreneurial skills, understand and apply ethical practices, and work effectively in teams and as leaders. GPS consists of a range of optional “offerings” with a time commitment roughly equivalent to 60 hours of work. Its successful completion will be recognized by a transcript notation (although completion is not mandatory). Course offerings in the following areas are available: Communication & Interpersonal Skills, Personal Effectiveness, Teaching Competence, and Research-Related Skills​.


Mitacs Step Program

Mitacs Step is Canada’s only comprehensive program providing business-ready skills to up and coming researchers. Step trains graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in essential interpersonal, project management and entrepreneurial skills required for them to succeed in their future career.


Continuing Studies Options for Professional Development

University of Toronto‘s School of Continuing Studies provides valuable knowledge and credentials - to open up new career paths and to inspire creative curiosity. We constantly evolve our programs: to help people achieve their personal and professional goals, to further the economic and cultural life of Canadians and to match the pace of social change. The School offers courses in: Business & Professional Studies; Creative Writing; Languages & Translation; Arts & Science; and English Language through part-time classes and online learning.  Examples of Certificate programs: Project Management, Life Science Enterprize, Occupational Health and Safety, Lean Sigma 6, Human Resources Management, Big Data Management to name a few.  

Other universities and colleges also offer continuing education programs which may suit your needs and may be more convenient in terms of location and timing.


Post-Degree Certificated Offered in the College System

  • See the following concise tip sheet on short, industry focused programs that usually feature internship placements, offered in the Ontario College system in a wide variety of career areas.
  • Research Post-degree / Post Diploma Programs on the Ontario Colleges site by selecting a Program Category, Sub Category and set Program Level to Post Diploma.


Internships


Other Resources

Consider volunteering to round out your skills or meet a specific employer requirement. Also consider gaining international experience as well. GoinGlobal is also a place to search for opportunities abroad; it is accessible via the Career Learning Network under the "Resources" tab.


Technology Transfer Programs

A variety of government funded programs have evolved to facilitate technology transfer, collaboration and innovation between industry and academic research. There are many opportunities for graduate students to become involved with entrepreneurship, research projects, fellowships and internships which can be instrumental in evolving your research experience into skills and expertise in demand in industry. 

MaRS Innovation specializes in technology transfer and innovation from academia to entrepreneurship in partnership with University of Toronto

The Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE)  Businesses access expert talent in Ontario’s research institutions to solve innovation challenges and students and graduates gain real-world skills and experience in research and development.  Programs include: Industry-Academic R&D Collaboration Programs, Commercialization Programs, and Entrepreneurship Programs

Through unique research and training programs, MITACS is developing the next generation of innovators with vital scientific and business skills. In partnership with companies, government and academia, MITACS is supporting a new economy using Canada’s most valuable resource – its people. Programs: MITACS -Accelerate; Elevate; and Globalink.


Entrepreneurship as an Option

Starting your own business is a viable and preferred option for many graduate students. For others who would prefer a salaried position with a company, it can be a way to build skills, experience and contacts  towards this ultimate goal by taking advantage of an increasing number of sub-contractor opportunities which fall under the umbrella of self-employment as a sole proprietor.  Being your own boss does not always require major investment and it can be quite simple to implement. There are also many tax advantages of entrepreneurial career styles as well. Find out more in this section.

Innovation and Entrepreneurship Programs for the STEM disciplines

  • The RIC Centre supports the development of innovation and entrepreneurship in Mississauga, Brampton, and Caledon. Providing commercialization support to both new and seasoned entrepreneurs, the RIC Centre aims to facilitate connections between the entrepreneurial imagination and the practical resources necessary for business success.

For a full list of links to Regional Innovation Centres across Ontario:

Next Step

Develop your professional network outside of academia for career exploration and effective job search