Professional Development

When you participate in professional development, you build skills needed to succeed academically and thrive in your career.

Start here: DiscoverPD

DiscoverPD helps master’s and doctoral students at UW–Madison advance their academic and professional goals.

  • You’ll read more about the facets of professional development.
  • Our 5-minute self-assessment provides you a report of your strengths and weaknesses.
  • You’ll explore customized recommendations within each facet, and add these to your Individual Development Plan.

Behind DiscoverPD is a curated database of professional development activities on campus and beyond.  Your recommendations will draw from this database, or you’ll have the option to search the database if you know what you’re looking for.

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Watch the 3-minute video.

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Inquiry, discovery, and creation
Disciplinary expertise and interdisciplinary connections
Leadership
Career development
Managing projects and people
Communication
Diversity and inclusion
Personal and interpersonal effectiveness

Individual Development Plan

The Individual Development Plan (IDP) helps you reflect, plan, and discuss in order to achieve your academic and professional goals.

What is the IDP?

It’s a process in which you will:

  • assess your skills, interests, and strengths;
  • define a written plan for developing skills; and
  • communicate with your mentor(s).

The product of this process will be a written, ever-evolving IDP document.

You’ll revisit your IDP at least once per year, to update and refine as goals change or come into focus, and to record progress and accomplishments.

How it works:

To create your IDP, you can start with one of the IDP resources listed below, or attend an IDP workshop hosted by the Graduate School.  Your graduate program coordinator or faculty mentor may also be able to help you get started.

UW–Madison IDP policy:

IDPs are required for graduate students and postdocs with NIH funding, and recommended for all graduate students and postdocs regardless of funding source.

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Professional Development Programming

Each semester the Graduate School, together with campus partners, hosts nearly 400 professional development events, which can be found through DiscoverPD and our events calendar.

Professional Development for Doctoral Students: What To Do by Career Stage

It’s always a good time to work on professional development, but some skills can be especially impactful if you focus on them during specific stages of graduate school.

Below are some recommendations of what to do whether you are just starting graduate school, well into your program, or in the latter stages of a PhD. While you’ll develop many of these skills through the coursework, research, and scholarship that is part of your graduate program, you can also seek out opportunities to further develop these skills by searching the DiscoverPD database.

These recommendations are based on research from the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) on PhD Professional Development: Value, Timing, and Participation, which surveyed PhD alumni including those at UW–Madison to determine which activities they found the most useful at each career stage of graduate school.

Here are a few things to think about as you get started:

  • You might find that some of these ideas are more relevant to you than others. Alumni in the CGS survey reported different participation in some activities depending on whether they were in humanities or non-humanities programs. Use your judgment but think creatively about whether these skills might be useful to you.
  • To maximize your likelihood of success, incorporate ideas from the lists below into your Individual Development Plan. Use the SMART goal method to develop action-oriented goals.
  • Talk with your mentor(s) or more senior graduate student peers to increase your accountability to following through on your goals and get even more advice.

Most PhD alumni suggest that taking advantage of professional development opportunities in these areas is the most useful when done in the beginning stages of a PhD program.

Communication: The graduate student events calendar compiles workshops and events that focus on communication skills. Think about communication broadly – encompassing written, verbal, visual, and digital skills – as well as being able to tailor media to engage fellow scholars and the general public.

Public Speaking: Try these public speaking tips from GradHacker. To develop effective materials for public speaking events, look to DesignLab for help creating presentation slides, research posters, and more.

Networking: Learn how to network authentically and effectively, then put that knowledge into practice during graduate school. You may already be thinking about networking in different ways, such as building intellectual or professional communities with the new people you meet on campus, or building relationships with those in your program and courses. Whether you join an existing writing group, start a regular social outing for peers, or something else, these interactions all help build your network.

Digital Literacy: DesignLab can help you learn how to work effectively with digital media, including presentation slides, infographics, webpages, video, and audio. To learn how to use different software, look to the classes offered by Software Training for Students or through LinkedIn Learning.

Quantitative Literacy/Data Analytics: The Data Science Hub offers workshops to help you learn data analysis skills, and compiles a list of data science resources on campus. The Social Science Computing Cooperative offers training and support to researchers who use statistical analysis.

Academic Writing: The Writing Center offers writing workshops to enhance your academic writing and a self-paced, in-depth guide to academic and professional writing. Additionally, a micro-course from the UW Libraries introduces you to copyright and fair use for your projects.

Research Ethics/Scholarly Integrity: Get an introduction to research ethics and integrity with UW–Madison specific information on Research Integrity at UW–Madison, Responsible Data Planning, Use, and Sharing, and campus guidelines on Responsible Conduct of Research.

Diversity/Multicultural Competency: Many diversity training resources are available on campus, including the annual UW–Madison Diversity Forum. The micro-course Reflecting on Social Justice Foundational Concepts is a great starting point.

Teaching Preparation: The Delta Program engages students in teaching, mentoring, outreach, and advising professional development. UW–Madison is a member of the CIRTL Network, (the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning). Also, the Teaching Academy offers regular opportunities for teaching preparation such as the LEaP Institute and Active Teaching Labs. A self-guided micro-course on Including & Navigating Race in the Classroom introduces the importance of representation in class materials, and focuses on how to facilitate productive dialogue with students that doesn’t bring harm. Use this cross-campus teaching professional development search to find even more opportunities.

Networking: Improve your experience and effectiveness with networking, a skill that can be vital for career success as you build professional and intellectual communities and relationships.

Project Management: Learn about the principles of project management. Consider attending the Project Management Workshop hosted by the Graduate School each January (Check GradConnections Weekly in your inbox for workshop announcements.)

Leadership Development: The Center for Leadership & Involvement connects students with opportunities to develop leadership capacity and offers a leadership certificate to interested students. The UW–Madison Leadership Framework further articulates ways you can engage in leadership on and off campus.

Grant Writing: Get an introduction to the grant proposal process with this grants and funding micro-course, then learn the basics of planning and writing a grant proposal.

Research or Fieldwork Abroad: Campus offers many funding opportunities and other support to help you pursue research or fieldwork outside of the U.S., including:

Networking: As you prepare to enter the job market, make networking part of your job search plan. When you attend professional conferences, make meeting new people part of what you aim to get out of the experience. And if you are exploring career options, consider informational interviewing as a way to both learn about jobs and establish valuable connections that could lead to job offers down the road.

Career Preparation: The Office of Professional Development regularly hosts workshops on interviewing, job negotiations, and similar topics, so check the graduate student events calendar for opportunities. Recordings are often available on the Graduate School’s YouTube channel. When it’s time to apply for a job, Writing Center workshops can help with preparing materials – both academic and non-academic – and has on-demand guides for CVs, Resumes, and Cover Letters in the Writer’s Handbook.

Leadership Development: The Center for Leadership & Involvement connects students with opportunities to develop leadership capacity and offers a leadership certificate to interested students. The UW–Madison Leadership Framework further articulates ways you can engage in leadership on and off campus.

Entrepreneurship: The Weinert Center at the Wisconsin School of Business serves as a resource for all students interested in entrepreneurship and hosts the Distinguished Entrepreneurs Lunch program. The Innovate Network also provides resources in the campus and Madison community. To become familiar with intellectual property as you may encounter and produce it in your time as a student, check out the UW Libraries’ Intellectual Property micro-course or watch these videos on Intellectual Property and Invention Disclosure for Graduate Students.

Career Exploration

Career advising for graduate students is usually offered within your school/college, department, or program, supplemented by career exploration programming offered through the Graduate School.

Marcela Guerrero

Alumni career profiles

  • Marcela Guerrero

    Assistant Curator, Whitney Museum of American Art Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Guerrero received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus, and holds a PhD in Art History from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

  • Jared Knowles

    President, Civilytics Consulting LLC
    Jared Knowles founded Civilytics Consulting, LLC, in 2016 to pursue his passion of providing high-quality public performance metrics for government services. Knowles completed his political science PhD in 2015 at UW–Madison, where he was also a fellow in the Interdisciplinary Training Program in Education Sciences.

  • Sasānēhsaeh Pyawasay

    Native American Student Success Coordinator, University of Wisconsin System
    Sasānēhsaeh Pyawasay is an enrolled member of the Menominee Nation from the Menominee Indian Reservation of Wisconsin. She attended UW–Madison as an undergraduate majoring in Sociology and American Indian Studies and continued to earn a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis (ELPA) in 2009.

  • More alumni career profiles and employment sectors

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ImaginePhD is a free online career exploration and planning tool for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars in the humanities and social sciences.

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myIDP is a web-based career planning tool, hosted by the AAAS, tailored to meet the needs of graduate students and postdocs in the sciences.

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