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### Enhancing Career Progression by Developing Essential Competencies

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Graduate school is often referred to as a graduate career, with some debating that a career truly commences post-graduation. However, we assert that time spent in a graduate program, particularly as a doctoral student and even more so during a postdoctoral appointment, should be acknowledged as a career stage.

Amidst the mid-phase of our respective careers, Jovana, Tithi, Connor, and Mark embarked on a research endeavor. Collaborating with other colleagues, we scrutinized 100 job advertisements within the realm of graduate career and professional development. This exploration led us to formulate a career-stage framework aimed at aiding current professionals in self-assessment, identifying their current career stage, essential competencies, envisioning progression, and discerning the prerequisites for advancement. Furthermore, our discoveries can guide graduate students and postdocs in recognizing the competencies cultivated during their academic journey, empowering them to secure more favorable positions.

Career Stages

Across various professions, three primary career stages are commonly observed: early, middle, and advanced. The early stage typically marks the entry into the job market post-academic endeavors. Transitioning between different fields can also align with the early career phase, underscoring the significance of recognizing transferable competencies. Understanding one’s proficiencies, strengths, and areas for growth is crucial when embarking on the job search journey, irrespective of whether it’s the first or twentieth time.

Distinguishing between middle and late career stages can be intricate, especially considering the varying hierarchies in different institutions. Job titles may not consistently reflect the actual career stage, as the same position at one institution might equate to a different level at another. This disparity underscores the importance of evaluating responsibilities and experiences rather than relying solely on titles.

Career Competencies

Our analysis involved decoding 100 job ads for roles in graduate career and professional development. Ranging from coaching positions to associate dean roles, we categorized competencies such as career coaching, communications, diversity awareness, financial acumen, leadership, and more. By aligning job qualifications with these competencies, we classified each role into the early, middle, or advanced career stage, emphasizing differences in experience and responsibilities.

Utilizing the Framework

  1. Assessing the requirements and competencies of each role to determine its career stage.
  2. Identifying areas for growth by recognizing the skills needed for desired positions.
  3. Cultivating competencies in these areas through relevant experiences and responsibilities.
  4. Readying oneself to negotiate promotions or secure better positions by leveraging existing competencies and pursuing opportunities for skill development.

Our project offers valuable insights applicable to professionals in career and professional development fields and beyond. For graduate students and postdocs, translating academic experiences into marketable skills is often challenging. Emphasizing transferable capabilities honed during academia, such as mentoring, teaching, research, and communication, can enhance their competitiveness in diverse job markets.

In conclusion, our endeavor to delineate career stages and associated competencies aims to equip individuals with a roadmap for career progression. By delving deeper into the data, exploring specific job requirements, and contextualizing roles within different institutional settings, professionals can gain a comprehensive understanding of the skills and aptitudes vital for career advancement.

Jovana Milosavljevic Ardeljan, Mark Kaloko, Connor Ferguson, and Tithi Basu Mallik are esteemed members of the Graduate Career Consortium, dedicated to advancing graduate-level career and professional development initiatives across various institutions.