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URMC / Education / Graduate Education / URBest Blog / April 2024 / “Exploring Career Paths: My Journey from Research to Career Services at the University of Rochester”

“Exploring Career Paths: My Journey from Research to Career Services at the University of Rochester”

By MaKenna Cealie, MS, PhD Candidate in Neuroscience

One of the reasons I chose to attend the University of Rochester for my PhD was the URBEST program. While I thought I wanted to become a PI when I started, I was still interested in exploring other career options. As the first person in my family to pursue a PhD and having never met one before attending undergrad, I had little knowledge of careers other than becoming a PI and/or professor. When I realized I no longer wanted to become a PI and likely did not want to stay in research either, I felt very lost. This brought me to our SMD Graduate Career Services and its Director, Eric Vaughn. After my qualifying exam, I worked with Eric to make career exploration a top priority. We created a plan for me to complete my IDP, attend myHub events, like career stories and alumni panels, as well as the What Can You Be with a PhD virtual conference. Through this work, I was able to explore my interests and set up informational interviews with people in the relevant fields. Eventually, I realized that I enjoyed planning events, building community, and supporting trainees. Additionally, I wanted to help others the way Eric helped me. With this goal in mind, I went to Eric who kindly offered me an internship at SMD Graduate Career Services.

Eric and I designed an internship for me that would expose me to a multitude of tasks someone working in Career Services would perform. During my semester-long internship, my primary task was organizing the annual myHub URBEST Retreat. For this event, we hosted a morning career workshop, invited UR alumni to speak with trainees in a roundtable lunch, and ended with a dinner for speakers and trainees. I collaborated with Eric on all steps in the process: from identifying and contacting UR alumni to creating the itinerary to aiding with the post-event survey. Through this experience, I was able to see all the work that goes into putting together a large-scale event. During my internship, I also helped with the myHub website redesign. I provided feedback to streamline existing pages, as well as created a new page for Career Exploration Modules. One of my most valuable experiences was sitting in and commenting on Eric’s career coaching sessions with trainees. During these, I was able to observe Eric advise trainees on career exploration, CV/resume writing, and LinkedIn design. At times, I could also share my experience with trainees. Afterwards, Eric and I would discuss the meetings and what I could bring into future career coaching sessions. It was interesting to compare the similarities and differences from my own one-on-one sessions with Eric and see how he tailored each meeting to the trainee.

I would highly encourage everyone to consider an internship or job shadow experience during their PhD. It is a fantastic way to learn new skills outside of your lab and a great networking opportunity. During my rotation, I specifically asked potential PIs what their thoughts on internships were and I chose a PI who had a previous trainee complete an internship. I was fortunate that my career choice allowed me to stay in Rochester at SMD, so I could continue my research during my internship experience. Exploring internship or job shadowing opportunities at SMD or River campus, or throughout the Rochester region could be an option for those hesitant to take time away from the bench. In my experience, it is definitely worth it.

Overall, this internship was an incredibly valuable experience, and I can see myself working at Career Services as a future career option. I learned so much and I would like the opportunity to guide others’ career exploration, as I know how daunting switching fields can be for someone. Eric is an incredible mentor and I look forward to working with him next semester on the trainee side again as I begin my job search. I am also very excited that as part of my internship Eric has given me the opportunity to attend the annual Graduate Career Consortium conference for professionals working on graduate career services in June. I know this will be a fantastic networking opportunity and I am sure that I will learn a lot. Thank you again to Eric Vaughn and SMD Graduate Career Services for this opportunity.

To learn more about internships or job shadowing opportunities check out the URBEST Internship & Career Exploration webpage or make an appointment with Eric Vaughn through Handshake.

Katherine Bognanno | 4/11/2024

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