With a career goal in mind, knowledge of employer requirements and how your skills fit, a useful next step is talking to people in your field of interest. These conversations can give you a more in-depth view of what is required to enter the position and an understanding of how to enhance your qualifications. It’s also an excellent opportunity to make contacts through which job opportunities flow! Enhancing your skills and experience can be a positive way to achieve your goals faster. Ways for graduate students to do this are covered in this section.
This section includes:
- 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
- How to use Internships databases, technology transfer programs and various entrepreneurial paths
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 help you clarify how your prospective career goal fits your needs and interests, the pathways to your career destination and what is required to qualify for the positions you would like. It also presents opportunities to make and develop valuable professional contacts which can be instrumental in breaking into a new field.
Article explaining the value of information interviews in science careers
Web sites and programs to find prospective information interview contacts:
Job Shadowing Program matches students with professionals in their field of interest for career exploration through information interviewing in the context of job shadowing over the course of a day or more.
Join the University of Toronto Alumni Association to find and make information interview contacts
Join various University of Toronto Alumni LinkedIn groups to find and make information interview contacts
Ten Thousand Coffees links established professionals to those beginning their careers. Sign in using your UTORid to access the University of Toronto 10,000 Coffees Hub.
Building Professional Skills and Enhancing Qualifications
Advanced degrees provide higher-level skills in many areas such as: analytical and critical thinking, research skills, writing, creativity, collaboration, project management and attention to detail. See the results from the graduate student workshop “Focus on Skills” for more information on the transferrable skills most graduate students possess. 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 GPDC Conference
The Graduate Professional Development Conference (GPDC), is an initiative from the University of Toronto’s School of Graduate Studies. It is designed to help all graduate students become fully prepared for their futures. 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. GPDC 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 and Interpersonal Skills, Personal Effectiveness, Teaching Competence and Research-Related Skills.
Mitacs Step Program
Mitacs professional training programs are Canada’s only comprehensive programs providing business-ready skills to up-and-coming researchers. Graduate students and postdoctoral fellows learn 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. They constantly evolve their 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 industry relevant areas such as Business and Professional Studies; Project Management; Life Science Enterprise; Occupational Health and Safety; Lean Sigma 6; Human Resources Management and Big Data Management. Recent Graduates from the University of Toronto have credits to use towards taking these courses as well. Learn more about U of T Alumni Benefits.
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 make sure to set Program Level to Post Diploma.
To learn more about internships and find ones that fit your interests consult this concise tipsheet
Consider volunteering to round out your skills or meet a specific employer requirement. Also consider gaining international experience as well. GoingGlobal 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 encompass 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 include: MITACS -Accelerate; Elevate; Globalink; Canadian Science Policy Fellowship; Entrepreneur International and Business Strategy Internship.
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 toward this ultimate goal. One option is to take 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.
Here is a full list of links to Regional Innovation Centres across Ontario:
Canadian government services and programs for manufacturing businesses
Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs provides tools and resources for business startups
Toronto Board of Trade supports new and existing businesses through a network of members, resources and events. This is a great place to get advice and find networking opportunities
An interesting first-hand account about how doing a PhD provides transferrable skills for entrepreneurship
Updated August 3, 2022
Next Step: Develop your Professional Network