Graduate and Professional Students: Exploring your Summer

There are many opportunities you can pursue this summer and we encourage you to take a bit of time to think strategically about how to make the most out of your summer. Caveat: We know that as graduate or professional school students you may have narrower or more niche needs than some of what we have here, and that your schools are providing similar, more targeted resources.  However, know that the entire Duke University family is here to support you and we are happy that you are considering all the University can offer you.

Step One: Reflect on Your Goals

  • If your summer plans fell through, what skills or knowledge were you hoping to gain through those plans?
  • What professional development skills or experiences have you been hoping to gain over the next two to three years?
    • Consult this list from the Duke Career Center for ideas on how to build skills and explore career interests online.
  • Are there any skills you’d like to develop that respond to the changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic? (e.g., online pedagogy, science communication, influencing policy)
  • How will you share your skills and knowledge with potential employers—through your LinkedIn profile, an online teaching portfolio, a GitHub Page, blog posts, a podcast? Consider building skills to communicate your professional presence.

Step Two: Identify Possibilities

  • Which skills could you reasonably work on this summer, given the constraints of remote work and limited access to physical resources?
  • Visit the Duke CareerConnections portal for jobs and internships specifically for Duke students (new positions will be added on a rolling basis), or the job listings provided by your school or program.
  • Explore Duke’s list of co-curricular and experiential learning opportunities. What are the top three to five offerings of interest?
  • Are there online courses or learning experiences (such as LinkedIn Learning or MOOCs) that could help you build useful skills? Explore a list of online resources offered through Duke
  • Consult this list from Duke Libraries with suggestions for self-directed research projects and online skill development resources.

Step Three: Reach Out for Advice

  • If your summer plans included archival research or access to other physical resources, reach out to your subject specialist librarian at Duke Libraries to see if there are other ways to accomplish your goals.
  • Graduate School students can reach out to many people on campus for advice, in addition to your DGS, DGSA and faculty advisor: the Career Center Graduate Services team (login to Career Connections to make an appointment), Maria LaMonaca Wisdom (for humanities PhD students), or Melissa Bostrom and Hugh Crumley in The Graduate School.
  • Professional students can reach out to the career services office and advisors within their school.

Step Four: Write Down Your Plan

  • People who write down their goals in a SMART format are more likely to accomplish them. A written plan will be especially important in providing structure for your time and energy.
  • Identify an accountability partner—a person who can help you hold yourself accountable for making progress toward your goals. This can be a friend, a family member or a faculty or staff member. Define how often you will check in with this person—daily or weekly—to report on your activities. It can be as simple as sending a weekly email to your accountability partner listing what you’ve done.
  • Put your plans on your calendar. Consider color-coding your activities on your calendar to reflect their alignment with your goals. This will help you track how much time you are dedicating to each goal.
  • Include a mid-summer review as part of your plan so you can assess your progress toward your goals and change course if needed. This can also be a good time to reach out for advice again if your interests or goals have changed.

Step Five: Document Your Learning

  • Writing about your experiences, both successful and unsuccessful, will help you define your learning for yourself and articulate it for others. This writing can be personal, such as journaling, or produced for a broader audience as part of crafting your professional online presence. Consider taking advantage of the Graduate Writing Lab or individual consultations at the TWP Writing Studio this summer to find support for this writing. Just as with your other goals, you’ll be most successful if you create a schedule and accountability plan for your writing.
  • Reflective writing models can deepen and document the learning in your experience. Duke Service-Learning recommended the DEAL Model which is often used in experiential education courses and provides students with a method to dig deeper into the critical learning of an experience. The Thompson Writing Program offers reflection questions for internships and a handout on autobiographical reflective writing, both of which provide written prompts and suggested creative activities to document learning and growth.