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Blazing a path toward career success

Master's student Ceilidh Bray is the Dal GradPD certificate program's first graduate

Written by Kenneth Conrad

Photo credits: Nick Pearce

The transition to the working world from graduate school is not always easy, whether students are looking for roles in or outside of academia. That’s why engineering master’s student Ceilidh Bray became an early adopter of the Faculty of Graduate Studies’ Dal GradPD program to build her career readiness and an understanding of how to impactfully articulate her academic achievements to prospective employers.

Now Ceilidh is the first graduate of the Dal GradPD certificate program. Launched in January 2021, the program is designed to equip students in advanced studies to make the leap after graduation. With a series of workshops from the program’s four pillars – Communication, Career Intelligence, Health and Wellbeing, and Leadership – under her belt, she says she feels prepared to take the plunge.

“It helped me identify the skills I’ve developed through my past academic and work experiences,” Ceilidh says. “One skill that will be useful in my career is being an effective leader in teamwork. The presentations and self-reflections have helped me understand the importance of being assertive, setting objectives and boundaries, and most importantly, being clear – since clear is kind.”

Getting a head start

The Dal GradPD program provides a centralized hub of professional development opportunities specifically targeted to meet the needs of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Students can attend individual workshops that interest them or sign on to the certificate option that allows them to pursue a set course of professional development opportunities they feel will take them closer to their career goals.

Ceilidh, a Master of Applied Science in Industrial Engineering student, met the certificate program’s requirements by completing two hours of workshops from each of Dal GradPD’s four pillars and four hours of hands-on experiential learning from each pillar, as well as accompanying reflection exercises.

“I treated Dal GradPD like another course and I’m glad I did,” says Ceilidh, who entered her master’s program after the pandemic delayed her plans to start working after the completion of her undergraduate degree in 2020.

“I learned about topics like motivation, time management and mentoring. The experiential learning allowed me to be more autonomous in what I chose to do for my own professional development. I read Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead and followed along with her workbook. I also blocked off time for resume updating, LinkedIn profile development and learning new skills such as Python and JavaScript coding.”

Looking to the future

Ceilidh has a job offer waiting for her after she graduates and intends to pursue her professional engineer (P.Eng) designation while looking at a career in business problem-solving and consulting. "I have applied a lot of what I learned from the course to my personal life," Ceilidh says.

“I now manage my time better to juggle my master’s, play in a band and volunteer with Engineers Nova Scotia’s Women in Engineering committee. I’m more passionate about my professional development and more knowledgeable about my strengths and weaknesses.”

Here to support

Grad students and postdoctoral fellows can visit the Dal GradPD website for a regularly updated list of professional development activities available from partners inside and outside of Dalhousie, including the Writing Centre, Dal Innovates, Student Health and Wellness, and the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL).

“Whether students choose to participate in an occasional workshop in an area of interest or take part in the more in-depth certificate program, Dal GradPD is here to complement the skills gained in the classroom and to set students on a path to a meaningful career,” says Dr. Mabel Ho, the program’s director.

“We look forward to many more certificate graduates now that the program is established and growing.”