Tips for Grads: Skill development recommendations for each phase of the doctoral journey

By Olivia Gacka, PhD student

As we begin a new semester (for some the first, and for some the third, sixth, ninth, etc.) it’s hard not to look at this time as a fresh start. As we plan our classes, anticipate what sort of assignments we may have, and what route we may take to the buildings we need to go to, we are always planning, even if we don’t know the conditions we’re planning for. And, like the anticipation and uncertainty of the start of a new semester, planning for the future is a great equalizer, but one still marked by our place in our graduate school journey.

Skill development is a crucial part of graduate school for everyone, but not a one-size-fits-all operation. Not only do we come from different backgrounds and have different strengths, interests, and fields of study, but we also sit at different stages of the educational experience. Knowing where to focus your energy based on the phase of graduate school at which you sit is a huge advantage and will help you optimize your time here at UW-Madison. Taking from a report by the Council of Graduate Schools, the UW–Madison Graduate School Office of Professional Development has created recommended professional development benchmarks for each phase of the doctoral journey.

These recommendations are a great way for you to measure your own progress, to ask yourself if there is something you should be working on or identify an area in which you already know you are well ahead of the game. It’s also a great reminder that skill building is something all graduate students have in common, because we all still have things to learn, whether tomorrow is our first day of doctoral work, or one of our last. No matter where you are on the path to your degree, there’s probably something you want to be better at in the future than you are today. If there weren’t, you wouldn’t be in graduate school!

Tips for Grads is a professional and academic advice column written by graduate students for graduate students at UW­–Madison. It is published in the student newsletter, GradConnections Weekly.