Career Development Process and Planning

Purpose Venn Diagram
                           Taken from

Having an "End in Mind Mentality" is key to developing an intentional career plan based on your values, interests, personality, skills, and goals. Even if you have not determined the career path (s) you are pursuing, it is important to start the career development process early to create action steps for each semester and school year. Early AWARENESS leads to intentional ACTION as you progress through your program. Below are suggested steps to consider during the different stages of your program based on a general hiring cycle. Of course, there are nuances to any process so make sure to develop a plan based on your unique situation. This simply serves as a template to get started. 

Planning Resources and Strategies

  • Imagine Phd: Geared toward (but not exclusive to) Humanities and Social Science graduate students. Includes interests, skills, and values assessments, as well as the ability to connect your results to information with15 relevant job families. Significant resources are also available for learning about each job family. Includes a "My Plan" feature to organize your academic and career goals throughout your time at Notre Dame
  • My IDP: Focused on science and other STEM careers, MyIDP provides exercises to help you examine your skills, interests, and values; a list of 20 scientific career paths with a prediction of which ones best fit your skills and interests; a tool for setting strategic goals for the coming year, with optional reminders to keep you on track; and articles and resources to guide you through the process
COMPREHENSIVE CAREER RESOURCES (Identifying Employers, People, and Jobs of Interest)
  • ♣ Irish Compass: Notre Dame's official online community driving powerful professional connections within the Notre Dame Network. Connect with alumni, discover career fields and jobs, and apply to postings!
  • ♣ Handshake: Discover employers, jobs, events, fellow students, and more!
  • LinkedIn: Discover people, groups, employers, organizations, jobs, events, and more! (User Guide)

Career Development Process

Throughout your time at Notre Dame and beyond, you will consistently DISCERN your values, interests, personality, skills, and goals, DISCOVER career options, and PURSUE opportunities by building connections and applying to grants, fellowships, postdocs, internships, jobs, and more. The career development process is often an organic endeavor, as opposed to a linear process of stages. As you progress through your program, make sure to keep this process in mind as you solidify your goals and action plan:

  • DISCERN (Self) - Consider career assessments and other activities that can help you better understand how you best fit into work environments and job functions. 
  • DISCOVER (Options) - Learn about career options more generally through resources such as the Occupational Handbook and/or take a deeper dive into opportunities by utilizing LinkedIn and Irish Compass and conducting Informational Interviews.
  • PURSUE (Action) - When you are ready to focus your job search and pursue opportunities, it is imperative to set-up email alerts on job sites and employer career pages of interest, build connections with alumni and other professionals, adapt your applications to specific positions, and update your online presence to showcase your current aspirations and goals.

General Hiring Cycle

Every career path, profession, sector, industry, and employer has nuances to hiring cycles depending on a wide range of criteria. However, you can begin to notice general trends that will allow you to practice the process every year until you are ready to apply to jobs. Consider what your top-priority careers are but keep additional options in mind. It is important to prioritize your goals but can be equally beneficial to have some flexibility in what you decide to pursue.

  • Early-Mid Summer - May often be downtime for hiring since the previous year's cycle wrapped up and is moving into onboarding and training. This can be a great time to re-assess your interests and career goals and engage in the process of Career Exploration, reviewing your overall strategies, and determining Successful Start resources for the year.
  • Later Summer-Fall - The new hiring cycle is beginning to start back up, so this will be a good time to get used to conducting an intentional Job Search and preparing your Application Materials.
  • Late Fall-Winter - As you continue to conduct your job search and develop your applications, you may start receiving first and second-round Interview offers. Be prepared to Negotiate and weigh your best options to determine if you need to continue to apply to other jobs.
  • Spring-Early Summer - At this point, you should know whether or not you have secured a position and can determine if you need to take action steps with back-up plans you have developed. 

All Stages

"END IN MIND MENTALITY" - What can you do each semester and school year to intentionally align with your career goals and interests? How can you solidify action steps based on priorities and adjust your approach as priorities solidify or transform over time?

  • Successful Start - Develop goals for each semester and school year. Identify your top resources and support systems based on your career trajectory at each stage of your program. Have a Plan and Pursue your interests to align with your immediate, short-term, and long-term goals.
  • Career Exploration - Continuously reflect on and keep track of your values, interests, personality, skills, goals, and hiring trends to determine your career priorities. Build intentional and meaningful connections with alumni and other professionals to learn about careers of interest through informational interviewingAssess and Investigate your best-fit options.
  • Application Process - Update your CV and/or resume as you gain skills and experiences and develop your voice as an educator, scholar, and overall professional through cover letters, statements, and your online presence. Build and Prepare skills, experiences, and application materials to be competitive when it comes time to apply to different opportunities.
  • Job Search - Build intentional connections with alumni and other professionals at employers of interest and target job search tools that align with your goals and "career criteria". Implement a job search plan and Commit to pursuing best-fit employers and opportunities.
  • Interviewing - Discuss your qualifications with different audiences and through different formats (ex. 3MT, 1-1, in-person vs. online). Continuously reflect on your "career criteria" to compare opportunities and negotiate to Commit to your best-fit option(s).


ASSESS & INVESTIGATE - What resources and opportunities are available to you throughout your time at Notre Dame and beyond (mentors, offices, organizations...)? Which will be the most beneficial immediately, in the short-term, and in the long-term? What careers do you hope to pursue by the end of your program ("End in Mind Mentality")? What will your goals be each semester and school year?

  • Successful Start - Consider how you best stay organized so that you can develop and carry out immediate (days), short-term (weeks), and long-term (months, years) action steps based on your career goals. Utilize resources such as "Workona" (Example Layout) to organize your resources as well as "Calendarpedia" (Example Planner) to organize your time.
  • Career Exploration - Whether you know for certain what career you are pursuing, you are exploring multiple options, or you are uncertain of what you will pursue, it is important to determine how you will continue to explore careers at a general and deep-dive level. There are several tools that you can utilize no matter where you are at in the process:
    • Imagine Ph.D. - Geared toward (but not exclusive to) Humanities and Social Science graduate students, this tool offers interest, skill, and values assessments, as well as the ability to connect your results to information about 15 relevant "job families". Significant resources are also available for career planning (Career Exploration Worksheet).
    • MyIDP - Focused on science and other STEM careers, MyIDP provides exercises to help you examine your skills, interests, and values; a list of 20 scientific career paths with a prediction of which ones best fit your skills and interests; a tool for setting strategic goals for the coming year, with optional reminders to keep you on track; and articles and resources to guide you through the process.
    • Informational Interviewing - Connect with Notre Dame alumni and other professionals based on your interest in a particular career field, occupation, employer, or organization to learn more about job functions and work environments. Irish Compass (ND alumni mentor platform) and LinkedIn are great resources to utilize to find and connect with others.
  • Application Process - Determine if you will be building an academic portfolio, a non-academic portfolio, or both during your time in your program. Update your CV and/or resume to reflect everything you have done up to this point that you feel is relevant. This will become your "Self" reflective document. Begin comparing your documents to those working in career fields of interest so that you can begin to assess what skills, career competencies, and experiences you want to gain during your program. There are so many ways to get involved on campus, so being intentional is key (ex. LASER Program, Leadership role with the Graduate Student Union)
    • Online Presence - Determine which online platforms you want to leverage to explore careers, showcase your interests and qualifications, and build connections. This could include for those interested in academia/research and LinkedIn for all other professions. Make sure your profiles reflect your current interests and goals and consider if developing a professional website would be beneficial.


BUILD & PREPARE - What career paths are becoming the most viable based on your values, interests, personality, skills, current goals, and hiring trends? What are your primary, secondary, and additional career options? Which alumni and other professionals can you connect with to learn more about careers of interest? How can you build experiences and skills to be competitive when it comes time to apply? What experiences can you adjust, enhance, or gain?

  • Career Exploration - Determine if your career interests have remained consistent or if they have adapted. If they have remained consistent, continue to dive into learning more about specific job functions, work environments, and employers of interest to prepare to apply to specific positions. If your interests have adapted, consider exploring more generally to determine which career paths could be a good fit to then dive later on. Resources such as Imagine Ph.D.My IDP, and the Occupational Handbook can be a great start for general research, whereas LinkedIn can be helpful to learn about people, employers, jobs, and more in any career field. Informational interviews can also be helpful as you continue to explore.
  • Application Process - Continue to update your CV and/or resume and use them for grants, fellowships, internships, conferences, and more. You may also want to consider building your overall portfolio by getting an early start on longer application documents such as an initial cover letter and different types of statements (Teaching, Research, Diversity) so that you aren't starting from scratch when you begin actively applying, Preparing these types of documents can help you reflect on yourself as an overall professional, teacher, researcher, and other aspects of your background to different audiences. If you are finishing your Masters, you would want to start this process earlier so that you are ready to "Submit" applications in year 2 or 3 depending on your program.
  • Focus Your Job Search - Determine what your best resources and strategies will be based on what is driving your search. This could be job boards by industry/discipline/profession, location-based tools, employer directories, professional organizations, alumni, and more. Consider comprehensive resources that have multiple functions such as LinkedIn, Irish Compass, and Handshake to help you adjust quickly to your interests and goals.
  • Interviews - Begin identifying interview resources and practice answering questions for specific and general audiences. Will you need to focus on the academic interview process, non-academic process, or both?


IMPLEMENT & COMMIT - What are your main criteria for selecting a best-fit employer and position? Which employers and positions will you pursue by building intentional connections with alumni and other professionals and sending in applications?

  • Application Process - Now that you have been building your application materials and online presence over the course of your program, it is time to "Submit" targeted applications to jobs and postdocs. Make sure each document is targeted to the work environment/culture of the employer as well as the function of the job to show that your values, interests, personality, and skills align. Consider how you can best analyze a job description to effectively adjust your application to fit (Imagine Ph.D example). Also, be ready to reach out to your references to keep them informed of the careers you are pursuing so they can be ready to write targeted letters and speak to your qualifications during reference calls.
  • Focus Your Job Search - Continue to decide what your best resources and strategies will be based on what is driving your search. Will you use the same resources from the mid-stage of your program, or do you need to adjust? Make sure to have a systematic approach to keep track of opportunities. 
  • Interviews - Continue practicing and preparing and be ready for first and second-round interview processes (online and in-person).
  • Negotiation - Be ready to negotiate salary, benefits, and more so that you can select the opportunity that best aligns with your career goals and needs.


When you become alumni, consider how you can best give back to the university. Some of the most meaningful ways involve providing insight and support to students.

  • Success Story - Share your story with Graduate Career Services to be featured on our website.
  • Irish Compass - Serve as a career mentor to students and share jobs you are aware of.
  • Presentations and Workshops - Share your expertise and insight on a specific topic or variety of topics. This could include parts of the career development process, information about your job, employer, and career field, or any other topic of interest.
  • Career Advancement or Change - You can still utilize Graduate Career Services resources and meet with a Career Consultant as alumni.

Note: When you graduate, your NetID will be deactivated approximately 60 days after graduation. This may affect your access to career resources through Notre Dame. Make sure to check the list of overall benefits, along with career resources, available to you as an ND alum. If you have any questions in regard to access to career resources, you can connect with your assigned Graduate Career Consultant based on the academic program/department you graduated from.