GRADFair helps students and postdocs make career connections

David Ferguson quickly learned the value of UChicagoGRAD’s annual GRADFair.

As a graduate student, he attended the unique cross-disciplinary career fair searching for job opportunities, and within months of meeting with recruiters, he accepted a position with the search firm Isaacson, Miller in its Boston office.

“Two of the associates from the firm who attended GRADFair also have PhDs, and they were able to talk about their experiences in a very compelling way, showing me how I could take some of the skills I’d learned during a long graduate career and provide value to the firm,” said Ferguson, PhD’17, who returned to GRADFair last year as an employer representing Isaacson, Miller. “It was a great opportunity to hear their stories in person and listen to the pitch from people who eventually became my colleagues.”

This year’s fourth annual GRADFair on Oct. 18 will feature nearly 50 companies representing various industries that are interested in recruiting UChicago graduate students and postdocs. Last year, more than 600 UChicago students and postdocs participated in the event, and UChicagoGRAD expects an even bigger turnout this year.

“GRADFair began as a way to highlight for employers the wide range of skills that come from graduate training,” said Michael A. Tessel, senior director of graduate career development and employer relations at UChicagoGRAD. “The event is a great opportunity for recruiters from academia, industry, nonprofit and government to connect with students from all disciplines at a single event. Over the last three years, GRADFair has grown in size and popularity to become our largest career event of the year.”

A unique aspect of the event is dedicated time for faculty to meet with and learn about what employers are looking for in graduate student candidates. It also allows faculty to answer employers’ questions about graduate education and the important role faculty can play in diverse career preparation for graduate students.

“We believe that connecting two distinct groups that are invested in graduate education but rarely speak to each other—faculty and employers—provides a much-needed service to everyone depending on the next generation of highly educated professionals,” Tessel said.

Ferguson thinks GRADFair is extremely valuable for employers as well as students, and he credits UChicagoGRAD for helping him identify career options outside the academy.

“It’s an opportunity for employers to have access to some of the nation’s brightest minds and most critical thinkers,” he said. “It’s also so important to prepare students, even those at the doctoral level, for how to serve the world in a great many capacities, not just in the academic space. That’s exactly what GRADFair accomplishes.”

Learn more about the upcoming GRADFair and register to attend by visiting the UChicagoGRAD website.