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Identifying Skills and Gaining Experience


Identify and communicate the skills you already possess. The following list is not exhaustive–but it represents skills most advanced degree holders possess.

Data Knowledge

  • Data Management: Includes both quantitative and qualitative data; could be experimental, secondary data sets, interview data, digital data, cultural artifacts. If you created and distributed a survey, as well as analyzed it, you managed data. Taking large amounts of data of any type and abstracting from it the most important part is a means of analysis–making sense of a great deal of information.
  • Quantitative Skills: In addition to general data management, you may possess statistical analysis, mathematical modeling, or data mining skills. These are needed in numerous non-academic careers and can be transferred to new topics.

Organizational Skills

  • Project Management: The most comprehensive project you have managed is your thesis/dissertation. Describe it in terms of taking it to completion: e.g., collaborating with other lab members or disciplines; training undergraduates to gather interview data; adhering to a timeline; securing independent funding. If you have led the planning for any large campus or community event, that would also be project management.
  • Personal Interaction: This may come from volunteer work, leadership, teaching or mentoring, among other settings. Particularly for careers requiring interpersonal skills, it is important to demonstrate where you have obtained them.


  • Written: writing or contributing to grants, research articles, newsletter articles, technical reports or website content.
  • Verbal: teaching, conference presentations, invited talks, or leading meetings for lab/organization.

Business Knowledge

  • Teamwork: If you work in a collaborative research environment, that is teamwork. If you have been an officer in an organization, that is teamwork.
  • Management: Consider classroom management–organizing and completing a course for undergraduates, evaluating their performance. If you are in charge of a science-based lab, the training you do there would also be management.


Be creative! Think about the skills you want to gain or the career you want to learn more about and watch for or create those opportunities.

  • Internships: Some companies and government agencies do have internships for PhD or master’s level students. They may be called fellowships. Volunteer to help on a project in the summer. Keep the focus on how your knowledge and skill will be a benefit for the organization. Summer projects may not be internships, but your skill might be a welcome addition!
  • Volunteer Work: Offer to write a grant for a non-profit organization. Assist with planning an event. Volunteer to serve on a campus personnel committee.  Volunteer to write a Standard Operating Procedures manual for your place of employment or lab.
  • Campus/Community Leadership: Take on a leadership role of an organization you belong to–lead an event, run for office. Help improve the organization’s functioning. Work with a team to accomplish a task.