GPS for Grad School and Beyond

​​​​Helping graduate students navigate their future

Lily Yee-Sloan


GPS—that stands for Graduate Professional Skills.​

As graduate students and postdoctoral fellows navigate a changing job landscape, increasingly they are being diverted—maybe jolted—from the traditional university professor track to explore a more diverse set of careers. This change in course means they need help finding their way.


Students are finding they need to develop professional skills beyond what they pick up in the classroom or lab on their way to a graduate degree. In a growing knowledge economy, they require critical skills that both support their study and open doors. And they need to be exposed to career paths off their radar.

Online and free, MyGradSkills launched in September. At its core is a series of learning modules that allows students to acquire professional skills on their own time, at their pace, and anywhere they can access the Internet.

The 18 module topics are varied: academic and research integrity, converting a CV to a resumé​, entrepreneurship and new venture creation, understanding mental health and well-being, exploring diverse career paths for PhDs, and teaching online. 

If you are an Ontario graduate student or postdoc with an institutional email address, you can access this training. Within a week of its launch, MyGradSkills attracted over 4,400 site visitors, resulting in more than 26,000 page views.

U of T’s Megan McIntosh, a PhD student in the Curriculum Studies and Teacher Development program, tested one of the modules before it was finalized.

"The online Teaching Dossier module is an informative and accessible resource for students. The module…illuminates the importance of a well-prepared teaching dossier for their future faculty careers,” says McIntosh. “The online nature of the module allows students to review the material throughout their academic journey, and also reaches students who cannot traditionally attend professional development workshops in person on campus." 

MyGradSkills modules complement U of T School of Graduate Studies’ existing Graduate Professional Skills (GPS) Program where students can interact with each other in a workshop environment. The program offers resources on graduate and professional skills for teaching, research, effective communication, and personal effectiveness. The U of T GPS program currently offers over 70 courses and workshops and has already trained over 2,500 graduate students since it began in 2009. 

Locke Rowe, dean of graduate studies, announces, “Graduate professional skills development is now such a priority at the School that we have recruited Professor Reinhart Reithmeier as the Dean’s Special Advisor on Graduate Professional Development and Engagement.” 

“Reithmeier is a former chair of the Department of Biochemistry, where he and Dr. Nana Lee developed a new graduate course in professional development featured in Science Careers​. Reithmeier is deeply committed to ensuring that our graduates develop the skill set and network to take advantage of the diverse job opportunities available to them in today’s and tomorrow’s world,” says Rowe.

Reithmeier adds, “The School of Graduate Studies, building on initiatives like its GPS program, can play a major role in preparing our graduates for successful careers inside, and increasingly, outside academia.”

Posted Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Photo credit: Lily Yee-Sloan