Graduate Student Career Options Symposium Success

By Carolina Cheng
BGE Office of Communications

Georgetown University recently held its first ever Graduate Student Career Options Symposium. The symposium was orchestrated by Dr. Caleb C. McKinney, PhD, Founding Chair of the Career Options Symposium Committee and Assistant Director of Biomedical Graduate Education Office of Career Strategy and Professional Development, and Owen Agho, MA, Co-Chair of the Career Options Symposium Committee and Assistant Director of Graduate Student Enrichment for the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

The focus of the symposium was to train students to leverage skills gained from their graduate training to strategically navigate the workforce, and be more competitive for employment opportunities. Networking with graduate students from other graduate programs and Georgetown schools was also a key theme to reflect the interdisciplinary nature of the workforce. 

Georgetown University alumni from various career fields – industry, consulting, government and policy – were invited to speak about their experience as a graduate student on the job hunt, and to share insights about how they got they got their respective positions. Notably, three of the alumni speakers graduated from our very own Biomedical Graduate Education programs – Eddie Billingslea, PhD (Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience), Scientific Analyst, NCI, NIH, Carla Cabrera, PhD (Tumor Biology Program), Postdoctoral Research Fellow MedImmune, and Andrew Herr, MA, MS (Health Physics and Microbiology and Immunology Programs), Chief Executive Officer of Helicase.

Speakers represented various Georgetown graduate programs and disciplines across Biomedical Graduate Education, McCourt School of Public Policy, Walsh School of Foreign Service, and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Yet, they shared common obstacles to career advancement that all graduate students face, and gave important kernels of broadly resonating career advice. Check out the Session Editorials to see what was discussed!

“Could we grab a cup of coffee?”

Across the symposium sessions, alumni and plenary session speakers voiced uniformed messages about what networking is and qualities employers look for.

A few of the overarching messages about networking were, networking is vital, “networking is a conversation, not a solicitation” and “quality over quantity.” In other words, build a quality relationship with few people rather than knowing a lot of people superficially.

“Don’t be shy! Most people are willing to help. At most you take 5 minutes copying and pasting an email that you already used,” said Andrew Herr. Reach out to someone with a job that you may aspire to have, and ask, “Could we grab a cup of coffee.”

Multiple speakers emphasized employers are looking for scientists and researchers with multifaceted skills, such as the ability to write well, work with others, manage people. Many also wished they had focused more in graduate school on developing computer programming schools. Credentials will make a strong resume but aren’t everything. “Being likable” in your interview is equally as important.

Inspirational Quotes

“Everyone to some extent is faking it right now. Go with the flow. Then, narrow the gap between where you are now and where you want to be.”

Anastasia Nedayvoda, MA –
Private Sector Development Analyst, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Cities, World Bank Group

“Idea integration is taking your idea and what someone else knows and making it into an even better idea.”

Caleb McKinney, PhD –
Founding Chair of Career Options Symposium Committee and Assistant Director of Career Strategy and Professional Development, Biomedical Graduate Education

“Stories are more important than knowledge. Humans are feeling beings that sometimes think.”

Andrew Herr, MS –
Chief Executive Officer, Helicase
Master’s in Microbiology and Immunology, Health Physics, and Security Studies

“Don’t ever tell yourself no, let someone else tell you no.”

Christopher Williams, PhD –
AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow National Science Foundation