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Responsibilities May Include

Responsibilities May Include is a column published in University Affairs, which is published monthly and provides news about policies, programs and issues of relevance to Canadian higher education, as well as career advice, award-winning editorial content and job listings for academics at all levels.  

Responsibilities May Include offers practical professional and career advice for graduate students and postdocs. 
Most articles in the series will be written by members of the GPDN. There are also articles written for faculty and staff who work with graduate students and postdocs to explore employment options after graduation.

Specific topics will include (but are not limited to) strategies for success in graduate school, professional development, academic integrity, networking and leadership skills.

We are actively seeking authors who would be interested in contributing an article for Fall 2022 or Winter 2023. Articles may be written in English or French and are usually around 800-words long. If you are interested in contributing a piece, please fill out one of the forms below by June 24, 2022.

Call for Authors                                                
Appel à propositions

If you have any questions, please reach out to the Responsibilities May Include editor, Gina Beltran, at


Responsabilités potentielles est une chronique publiée dans Affaires universitaires, qui est publié mensuellement et fournit des nouvelles sur les politiques, les programmes et les questions pertinentes pour l'enseignement supérieur canadien, ainsi que des conseils de carrière, un contenu éditorial primé et des listes d'emplois pour les universitaires de tous les niveaux.

Responsabilités potentielles offre des conseils pratiques sur la profession et la carrière des étudiants supérieures et des chercheurs postdoctoraux. 
La plupart des articles de cette série seront rédigés par des membres du le RPESP. Certains articles sont également rédigés à l'intention des membres du corps enseignant et du personnel qui travaillent avec des étudiants supérieures et des chercheurs postdoctoraux pour explorer les possibilités d'emploi après l'obtention du diplôme.

Les sujets spécifiques incluront (mais ne sont pas limités à) les stratégies pour réussir dans les études supérieures, le développement professionnel, l'intégrité académique, le réseautage et les compétences de leadership.

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  • 6 May 2022 10:03 AM | Deleted user

    When mentorship skills are a major influence on student success in STEM, how do you develop training that meets that challenge?

    Read the article in University Affairs.

    Authors: MELISSA DALGLEISH | MAY 05 2022

  • 6 Apr 2022 10:19 AM | Deleted user

    While evaluation is not without challenges, the information obtained can help streamline and target program resources most efficiently.

    Read the article in University Affairs.

    Author: DINUKA GUNARATNE | APR 05 2022

  • 1 Mar 2022 9:34 AM | Deleted user

    What separates the hero from others is a willingness to embrace the challenge despite the unknown and to keep going no matter the obstacles.

    Read the article in University Affairs.

    Author: MATTHEW GEDDES | FEB 28 2022

  • 7 Feb 2022 2:28 PM | Deleted user

    Put yourself front and centre in your career planning.

    Read the article in University Affairs.

    Authors: CATHERINE MAYBREY & MABEL HO | FEB 07 2022

  • 11 Jan 2022 9:35 AM | Deleted user

    Educational development is an alt-ac career that leverages teaching experience and ‘enhances the work of colleges and universities, with a focus on teaching and learning.’

    Read the article in University Affairs.


  • 22 Nov 2021 9:42 AM | Deleted user

    A faculty member collaborated with campus career services to deliver an experiential learning option to PhD students with diverse backgrounds.

    Read the article in University Affairs.


  • 1 Nov 2021 10:50 AM | Deleted user

    An interview with winners of McGill University’s Three Minute Thesis and Ma thèse en 180 seconds competitions.

    Read the article in University Affairs.  Lire la version française de cet article.

    Author: KATHERINE BELISLE | NOV 1 2021

  • 14 Oct 2021 4:07 PM | Deleted user

    A career education specialist shares how he rediscovered his strengths and was able to forge a new career path.

    Read the article in University Affairs.  Lire la version française de cet article.

    Author: KETAN MARBALLI | SEP 27 2021

  • 11 Aug 2021 5:48 PM | Manager GPDN (Administrator)

    Do our students have the skills to succeed in a post-pandemic world?

    Earlier this year, I was preparing to deliver a presentation to a group of graduate students about future-ready skills and planning for success after grad school. As I went through my slide deck, it occurred to me that the last time I delivered this session was in the months before the COVID-19 pandemic, before the world went virtual.

    My presentation focused on employer in-demand skills and strategies for students to translate graduate school skills and experiences into career-ready language and into a format easily digestible by their prospective employers. Since that first presentation, my students, along with the rest of the world, experienced major shifts in the way that just about everything was done; from how they learned in the classroom to how they interviewed for a new job, , to setting up a makeshift home office  to live the life of a remote worker.

    When I arrived at the section of my presentation covering in-demand skills and saw problem solving, collaboration, teamwork and creativity, I realized that these are the skills students needed before the pandemic. But what about post-pandemic skills?

    Post-COVID skills?

    A quick internet search of the phrase “post-COVID skills” produces pages and pages of articles with titles like 8 Job Skills to Succeed in a Post-Coronavirus WorldThriving After COVID-19: What Skills do Employees Need?, and How to Upgrade Your Skills for the COVID-19 Job Market. At first glance, it may appear that in addition to economic uncertainty and social isolation, the pandemic has also given rise to an entirely new set of skills that job-seekers haven’t encountered before, instantly “under-qualifying” those about to enter the job market.

    Reality check

    It is my job to help university students identify, articulate, strengthen and translate their skills from a postsecondary context into a workplace ready one. That means it is also my job to be aware of new, disruptive, or trending “future skills.” If you click on any of the titles above you will find, in fact, that there are very few if any brand new pandemic-specific skills.

    A close reading of 10 articles listing post-COVID skills (the first page of the Google search results at the time of writing) shows that the top five most commonly occurring post-pandemic skills are not technological or digital skills inextricably tied to the virtual world. They are:

    • Emotional intelligence
    • Creativity
    • Adaptability
    • Technology
    • Flexibility

    What can we extrapolate from this list? We can assume that most employers in most industries are looking for new hires that are self-aware and work well with others, approach challenges and solve problems innovatively, work well in times of change and under pressure, and can navigate technological platforms allowing for a blended (virtual/in-person) working environment. (While “technology” can be widely interpreted, it is worth noting that this skill appeared most in association with virtual meeting software and the MS Office suite.)

    Despite the alarming headlines, the vast majority of “post-COVID” skills are really pre-COVID skills imagined through a different lens (a webcam, for example). Pre-pandemic research shows an increasing demand for foundational skills like critical thinking, social perceptiveness and complex problem solving. The core competencies that have been embedded into postsecondary institutions by campus career centres still hold water, even though they may be taught, practiced or reflected upon differently in a virtual setting. In other words:

    Myth: the post-COVID graduate must acquire an entirely new skillset to adapt to the post-pandemic labour market.

    Reality: the post-COVID graduate has been developing the necessary career-readiness skills and competencies throughout their entire postsecondary experience.

    The post-COVID graduate

    Do new graduates have these skills? The short answer is yes.

    The challenge, however, is that many students do not understand exactly how their postsecondary education is teaching them these skills, and they often struggle to convey this information to their future employers. Unfortunately, the pandemic and the abrupt shift to remote learning seems to compound this problem.

    To be successful on their career journey, the pre-COVID student would have to do a few things: identify their strengths, values, interests and skills; discover what industries and occupations they are interested in; ensure they have the skills and experience necessary for their chosen career path (and/or find a way to acquire them); and take active steps toward their goals by creating a resume, networking and conducting a job search.

    While doing all of this, a post-COVID student will also have to navigate the practical realities of remote work and the temporary prospect of fewer jobs, and they will be required to not only translate their skills from an academic lens to a career lens, but also be required to adapt their skills to an entirely different medium. For example, collaboration and teamwork were highly valued employability skills before and during the pandemic and will continue to be valued afterwards.  What collaboration looks like in a shared workspace versus a remote home office, however, is what makes the translation of “post-COVID skills” different. Similarly, the ways in which an employer can remotely assess work ethic, emotional intelligence and creativity must also shift when team members are isolated and instruction, feedback and communication are virtual.

    Articulate, translate and adapt

    We know that in-demand skills have remained largely consistent, despite the disruption of the pandemic. We also know that graduating postsecondary students possess the necessary career-ready skills and competencies. What remains is the challenge of helping them, many of whom spent the last year and a half learning and working remotely, to understand and articulate their skills and competencies in a way that will reflect the needs of their future employers, virtual or otherwise.

    What can we do?

    To help students understand and adapt their skills in a post-COVID world, career centres at postsecondary institutions can:

    • Ensure students have continued access to career services and regularly updated information about navigating the changing labour market. Local Workforce Planning Boards and regional economic development offices are great resources.

    • Help students understand the value of their education from both an academic and an industry perspective. Consider, for example, the widely transferable skills developed by researching and writing a major paper, such as critical thinking and analysis, effective communication and time management.
    • Empower students to create their own career and skill narratives by coaching them to identify and strengthen their skills, describe how they developed their skills and understand why their skills are important.

    What did I tell my graduate students? You have what it takes to succeed in a post-COVID world. Do your research, reflect on your skills and don’t believe everything you read!

    This article was first published in University Affairs  

    About the Author:

    Laura Fyfe is the skills translation coordinator with co-op, career and experiential education at Brock University, where she has been at the forefront of developing Brock’s campus-wide career competencies framework.

    • 16 Jul 2021 5:37 PM | Manager GPDN (Administrator)

      I felt stuck in my job search. But networking, conducting informational interviews and revamping my CV helped me not only find a great job, but get it.

      The year was 2017 and I had just defended my PhD thesis. I was ready to be a responsible adult and join the workforce. There was just one catch: I had no idea what I wanted to do. During my graduate studies I had created a list of jobs knew I didn’t want (professor, science salesperson, science writer, etc.), but I really had no idea what career path was right for me. So I applied for every other kind of job I could find, had a few interviews (the good, the bad and the downright ugly), and realized that I wasn’t going to be able to convince an employer that I was the right fit for a job when I didn’t even know what job I wanted.  

      So began my journey to “find myself.” I moved to Denver, Colorado to start fresh as a postdoctoral fellow. I changed how I worked; instead of keeping my head down at the bench, I got heavily involved with local organizations and used the resources at the career development office. About a year into my postdoc, I realized that I did not want to do bench research anymore. While I still loved science, I was finding much more pleasure and satisfaction in my volunteer roles. I realized that although I had always felt uncomfortable networking at scientific conferences, I actually loved networking when I wasn’t talking about my own research. So I made a plan. I was going to gain more leadership and management experience as well as build my network in my volunteer roles so I could get a job outside of research.  

      By early 2020 I had acquired new skills and built a new CV; I had been the president of the postdoctoral association, chaired events on campus and participated in outreach and communications for several organizations. I met so many people in these roles, listened to their stories, struggles and dreams; and I knew I was making the right decision for myself. I started applying for administrative jobs at universities and non-profits in Canada but had no luck. Then the pandemic hit and there were fewer job postings and more people out of work.  

      By the fall of 2020, I began to panic. My network was all U.S.-based, there were no conferences to attend and I had not received a single interview request. I met (virtually) with my mentor at the career development office and he told me I needed to build a Canadian network (outside of research and with people who held the type of job I wanted). The best way to do that, he said, was to conduct informational interviews.  

      I was terrified to call up strangers and ask them for advice during a pandemic, but I bit the bullet and reached out to my mentor’s Canadian friend at the University of Toronto: Nana Lee. It was the turning point in my job hunt. Dr. Lee described the professional development networks she was a part of and what steps in her career path played the biggest role in her success, and, most importantly, she introduced me to more contacts.  

      Through her contacts, I made more contacts, and through them even more. Along the way, I learned job titles I had never heard of, courses I could take online, the lingo being used in the field and what keywords/search engines to use in my job search. Through the chain of contacts, I met Dinuka Gunaratne, who became the most important person in my job search. He introduced me to other grad students and postdocs who were looking for jobs and students who had recently found work. He also helped me to create an unofficial job search support group. Learning that I wasn’t alone and meeting people who had recently succeeded gave me the energy to keep going. But I still wasn’t getting interviews, despite the fact that I was smart, capable and qualified.  

      When Dinuka asked to see my resume in January 2021 I showed it to him assuming he would tell me to make a few tweaks. Instead, he bluntly said it was “crap” and there was no way I would get a job with it. More importantly, he told me how to tailor it for an academic position in administration, which was incredibly different from the industry type CV I was working with. Without this insider information (from someone who was hiring in the field) I never would have made the appropriate changes and would have definitely continued to struggle. 

      I ended up having seven interviews and two offers over the next four months. When I wasn’t sure what to do, I used my new support network, met more people in the areas that I had offers at and asked to meet more of my potential colleagues at the prospective positions. The dreaded informational interviews continued to help me even after getting job offers!  

      After talking to people from Memorial University, I knew the university in St. John’s was the right fit for me and am now working there as a grants facilitation officer. I couldn’t be happier or more excited about my job, and I know that the networking skills I learned will continue to help me as I advance in my career journey.  

      The bottom line

      • To get a job you need to be prepared to step out of your comfort zone and put yourself out there! 
      • Networking may seem scary, but when you are networking with the right people and in the right field it can be fun and enlightening.  
      • Networking can occur in places beyond conferences – friends, colleagues, committee members, your career development office, your alumni office can all introduce you to people you can learn from.  
      • Create a job search support group with newly hired grads and other job seekers. 
      • If someone accepts an informational interview it means they want to help you! 

      This article was first published in University Affairs  

      About the Author:

      Jennifer Major, PhD, recently completed her CIHR postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus and is now a grants facilitation officer for the faculty of science at Memorial University.

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