Conference seeks to help students expand their professional horizons

Horizons by Hopkins virtual conference takes place Thursday, Nov. 12 and is open to all Johns Hopkins students

To help keep students on track for achieving their academic and professional goals despite the challenges posed by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and a constricting economy, Johns Hopkins is hosting a first-of-its-kind virtual conference for professional development. The event will bring together speakers from diverse career paths and offer students the chance to build their social and professional networks.

Horizons by Hopkins, held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 12, has been designed with the needs of PhD students and postdoctoral fellows in mind, although the event itself is open to all Johns Hopkins students. Registration is now open for the conference.

The conference includes keynote addresses by Valerie Young, who is widely considered to be the leading expert on imposter syndrome, and former astronaut Leroy Chiao, founder and CEO of the training and education company OneOrbit. Participants can join 12 breakout panel discussions, workshops, and after-hours networking opportunities.

"We envisioned this conference as an authentic gathering place," says Roshni Rao, director of PHutures and a co-organizer of the event. "We felt like we needed a little bit of hope and inspiration. And because it's virtual, we could get speakers from all over—Germany, the West Coast, and so on. The vision really was to be different and to showcase to students that there isn't just one thing that you can be with a PhD, there are innumerable pathways to pursue."

"We really believe that if you hear stories and valuable advice from people outside of your discipline and maybe outside of your career path, it may spark something that you wouldn't have never thought of that you can do with your career."
Kate Bradford
Associate director, Professional Development and Career Office

The programming has been designed to include speakers that represent diverse career paths spanning academia, the public sector, consulting, and industry. The goal is for student participants to learn about the various career pathways that are open to them.

"One aspect of the conference that's really cool is that we're not just grouping the consultants with the consultants or the faculty members with faculty members on the panels. We've really tried to mix it up so students can hear from speakers they might not normally hear from," says Kate Bradford, associate director of Johns Hopkins Medicine's Professional Development and Career Office, which is a co-sponsor of the event. "We really believe that if you hear stories and valuable advice from people outside of your discipline and maybe outside of your career path, it may spark something that you wouldn't have never thought of that you can do with your career."

For Gian Molina-Castro, a graduate student in the Department of Neuroscience, the conference is an opportunity to create the kind of intellectual and personal exchange between students that he hopes to see more of in academia. He is one of eight students on the conference planning committee.

"Often when we think about careers, we are taught to think we need to stick to one career and work tirelessly in the pursuit of a single career goal, and I think we need to embrace the idea that we are more than our careers, more than our academic research," Molina-Castro says. "We should be thinking about how we can impact society through our professional and academic spheres, and how to best enjoy the work we do."

That spirit of finding enrichment through work and study is central to the theory of life design touted by JHU's vice provost for integrative learning and life design, Farouk Dey. It is a vision of career services that encourages students to pursue the passions that inspire them and to be unafraid of finding alternative paths to rewarding careers.

"Part of the goal of this conference is making sure students don't limit their vision for their professional futures," Molina-Castro says.

The breakout panels scheduled for the conference are:

  • How do I explore careers during grad school?
  • How do I pivot my career beyond academia?
  • How do I design my personal brand for any career?
  • How do I communicate my academic story?
  • How do I manage my health and wellness?
  • How do I network and find mentors?
  • How do I adapt to a new environment after grad school?
  • How do I build my academic portfolio?
  • What can I do with a PhD?
  • What does research look like beyond academia?
  • What can I do to establish a global career?
  • What can I do to keep growing as an academic?

The scheduled workshops are:

  • Preparing for an academic career in STEM
  • Academic job search 101: Humanities and social sciences
  • Acing the interview
  • Using LinkedIn to virtually network
  • Using Twitter to advance your career
  • Growth mindsets, self-care, and productivity
  • Design your career: Using life design principles to find your true north

Networking conversations will be hosted for people who identify as women; Black, Indigenous, and people of color; LGBTQ; people with disabilities; international students; and caregivers. There will also be open discussion networking opportunities and a question and answer session with career office representatives.