May 4, 2017

Life after graduate school: It’s time to celebrate! Jump-start your career by celebrating your achievements and starting early

Stephanie Barletta and Hao Wang

Look at how far you’ve come and how much you’ve done! Look back at yourself with pride, look to your future with hope – but most importantly – it’s time to celebrate! Celebrate with your friends, family, loved ones, and most importantly, with your future employers! (Wait- what? Let’s take a step back for a second, and I’ll explain this unconventional guest list.)

Make time to celebrate some of your accomplishments with friends and employers. (Image Source:

Graduate school can be one of the most trying, yet exciting and personally defining times of our lives. We get to spend years honing research techniques to investigate our greatest interests and feed our curiosity alongside like-minded mentors and cohorts, who all share in the mutual advancement of scientific knowledge! And while we can all appreciate the romantic ideals of being champions of science, there is a less obvious cause to champion: yourself! Be your own greatest ally by starting early and staying updated on the scientific, political, and economic world around you through job prospects before graduation. Don’t be afraid to talk to your advisors, teachers, and outgoing or incoming graduates about where they’re going or where they have come from.

Valuable advice from Mark Twain. (Image Source:

Jump-starting your career can be overwhelming, so let’s break it down:

Step 1: Start now.

While in graduate school, browse job advertisements that can be found through university or graduate program websites and newsletters, job hosting websites like, or scientific association websites like Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO) and American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Step 2: Ask questions.

Talk to your advisors, mentors, and incoming or outgoing cohorts. See where they came from and where they are heading next. Seek out people who have some of the experiences or opportunities that you desire, and hear them out. Most importantly, show respect for these people and demonstrate your ambition for similar, or even collaborative, work by keeping in contact with them. In the long run, showing that you remembered them may help them remember you and keep you in mind the next time they, or someone they know, is looking for a new hire. The key is to be actively involved, even before you graduate. Look for the jobs you want, and see what positions people have left behind in other places in order to discover job vacancies in that place or some other.

Step 3: Prepare.

Make sure you look good on paper and online! You want to custom-tailor your cover letter and CV to the job you are applying for – and don’t forget additional materials like writing samples, references, or a statement of interest. You are marketing yourself here, so know your audience and make yourself sound enticing in order to land that interview. It can help enormously to have a consistent and professional presence online. For example, a well-thought-out personal website or regularly-published and knowledgeable blog are excellent ways to demonstrate your talent, commitment, and responsibility to prospective employers in ways that don’t quite resonate on a CV. Showing a prospective employer that extra bit of composure and confidence is exactly what it takes to edge out the competition. Speaking of composure, for goodness’ sake – don’t forget to clean up and privatize your personal social media pages; you’re not an undergrad anymore!

Tips for writing and formatting a CV. (Image Source:

Step 4: Get your foot in the door.

In many cases, the right amount of preparation should already get your foot in the door and get you that crucial interview, but when it doesn’t, there are some other techniques to try. Look ahead by putting yourself out there with emails and phone calls, and be professional, clear, and succinct during the process. Sometimes the best way in to a prospective job is through volunteer opportunities, especially if the job you want isn’t one that exists yet. By developing the skill set needed to do a job through a volunteer, internship, or part-time position, you can often carve out a place for yourself and net a job offer1.

Don’t forget to look back as well: a diverse and thorough portfolio of references (including their names, titles, institution, and contact information) is invaluable to getting an edge up on competition, especially if you have a reference that is known or trusted by your prospective employer2. Make sure to contact your references ahead of time (especially for letters of recommendation), and it can also sometimes be beneficial to remind them of your skills and attributes, especially those pertaining to the position you’re applying for2.

Think carefully about which social platforms you choose to use- some are more professional than others. (Image adapted from: and

Step 5: Celebrate. This is where we get back to that guest list!

Celebrate knowledge you have learned and published, techniques you have designed and innovated, and skills you have adapted and acquired! Shout it out to the world on job networking sites, social media, a personal website or blog, and of course on your CV! Emphasize your ability to learn new skills through your aptitude to acquire your other skills (which are preferably more difficult to obtain). Don’t be afraid to say what you haven’t done, but do so while showing that you have the competency to do moreBill Dennison explained, “You need to show that you’ll continually advance your technical competency, that you’re capable, and continuously developing your lifelong skills.”

Step 6: Communicate. Adapt. Evolve.

Turns out that the age old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” has some merit, but that alone will not carry us to greatness; it’s also what you do and how you do it. In the end, graduate school hasn’t molded us into the people we are, but instead, it has given us the tools to actively carve the person we are going to be. Continue networking by communicating what you know and what you have accomplished with colleagues and prospective employers. Adapt your CV with additional achievements that are tailored to specific prospects. Finally, evolve your skills with the changing job market, so you will be ready for whatever comes your way.

The MEES Science for Environmental Management 2017 class together in Annapolis. (Photo credit: Jamie Currie)


1.  Adams, S. “Odds Are Your Internship Will Get You a Job“. Forbes. July 24, 2012.

2.  Heffernan, E. “Your References: An Important Part of the Job Search Process“. HigherEdJobs. May 2, 2007.

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About the author
This blog was produced by graduate students in the Science for Environmental Management course, part of the Marine, Environmental and Estuarine Science (MEES) program at the University System of Maryland. Bill Dennison and Don Boesch are teaching the course as a 'flipped' classroom so that classtime is spent discussing lectures and readings which are summarized in this blog series.
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Filed under: Applying Science,Uncategorized — Tags: , , — MEES Students - Science for Environmental Management @ 2:00 pm


  1. I really liked this blog. Sometimes we forget how important it is to celebrate achievements and we try to go to the next thing as fast as possible. Taking time to think about the best path for our future is super important too.

    Comment by Ana Sosa — May 4, 2017 @ 3:05 pm

  2. It was a pity for me missing this class which could provide me so many guidelines on my future career. But the good thing is that Stephanie’s blog did an excellent job in breaking this overwhelming task into small manageable pieces and presented us a clear outline of what we should do step by step. I really benefit a lot from this blog.

    Comment by Qiurui Zhu — May 4, 2017 @ 3:50 pm

  3. Great blog Steph! If only applying for jobs after graduate school is as easy as the 6 steps you lay out above. Maybe it can be though, as we grow our networks and meet professionals in various industries. I just learned a friend of a friend has landed a job that I’m interested in after school. Connecting with that friend of a friend will shed some light onto whether or not it is actually what I would like to do.

    Comment by Hadley McIntosh — May 4, 2017 @ 4:24 pm

  4. Great job Stephanie! I like the way you partitioned the advice into “action steps” and I enjoy how encouraging the tone is throughout. It has reminded me to reach out and communicate my accomplishments so far with some of my key undergraduate mentors, and I certainly plan on getting a LinkedIn account soon!

    Comment by Ginni La Rosa — May 4, 2017 @ 6:22 pm

  5. This blog is not only informative but also well written and engaging! Having this information in one place, both in the blog and the lecture is invaluable. Speaking from my small amount of experience with job hunting, learning much of this the hard way takes too much valuable time. Thanks for the insight and constructive advice from all contributing parties!

    Comment by Jake Shaner — May 4, 2017 @ 7:46 pm

  6. I also really like how you summarized the class discussion into the various steps. A ton of good advice in this blog! I can see myself referring back to it in the future. I also love the Mark Twain quote, so true!

    Comment by Juliet Nagel — May 4, 2017 @ 9:23 pm

  7. I really liked how you broke things down into steps, each with references and clear directions. I also thought this blog had a really good “hook”–I had to keep reading to figure out where you were going with that celebration metaphor. Well done!

    Comment by Annie Carew — May 4, 2017 @ 11:16 pm

  8. Thanks for the motivational blog post, Stephanie. Who would have guessed, the principles of adaptive management are also relevant to tailoring a resume and CV for different job opportunities. I like that you emphasized the importance of asking questions and maintaining connections.

    Comment by Katie Martin — May 5, 2017 @ 7:37 am

  9. Great job on the blog! Like a lot of people I also really liked the step-by-step format of the blog. I really didn’t think of our class discussion as a series of steps to life after graduate school, but it definitely seems like it now. Also, the point of preparing for graduation by starting now is something I’ll definitely have to keep in mind. Especially in terms of networking opportunities and improving on relevant skills.

    Comment by Kavya Pradhan — May 5, 2017 @ 9:25 am

  10. Great blog! This really puts a positive perspective on looking​ for a job after my degree!

    Comment by Alterra Sanchez — May 5, 2017 @ 10:27 am

  11. Thanks for the blog, Steph! I really appreciate the ‘Perfecting your Graduate CV’ diagram as I think this will be important to in the near future. Also, celebrate! Great addition and very apt for our champagne toast today.

    Comment by Dylan Taillie — May 5, 2017 @ 1:46 pm

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