Using ImaginePhD to Explore Careers

By Anders Wallace

Imagine PhD

ImaginePhD website by the Graduate Career Consortium

ImaginePhD is a free online career exploration and planning tool that helps PhD students in the humanities and social sciences explore a range of non-academic professions. Humanities and social sciences PhD students have long felt the need for more resources to help them bridge the knowledge gap between doctoral education and the realm of career possibilities beyond the ivory tower. ImaginePhD was created by experts from over 50 universities in the Graduate Career Consortium (GCC), a professional network of administrators from graduate career planning and professional development offices across the United States. It’s similar to MyIDP, the self-assessment tool for scientists.

This post will discuss the different things you can do with your free ImaginePhD account, including exploring different career paths; assessing your skills, interests, and values through a self-assessment questionnaire; building a time-based action plan for your job search; and searching through a variety of career planning resources.

What Can ImaginePhD Do For You?
Starting with Self-Assessment

First things first. To create your account, turn your browser to and click “Create Account.” After you fill in your information and create a password, you’ll be prompted to begin by clicking on what’s most relevant to your situation.

If you click on “Assessments” in the top menu bar, you’ll access the interests, skills, and values self-assessments. Beginning any one of these assessments takes you to a questionnaire that gathers some qualitative information about your likes, dislikes and preferences to give you a customized assessment of what kinds of career paths might be a good fit.

Taking the Interests Assessment, for example, asks you to reflect on what activities you most enjoy doing at work. What gives you the most satisfaction in your working life? After, ImaginePhD gives you a list of job families that match your interests, sorted from most to least aligned. It does this by comparing your highest interests with those of practitioners in each of these professions. This may prompt ideas for careers you may want to learn more about, or give you completely new ideas you haven’t thought of before.

Taking the Skills Assessment starts you off by selecting some jobs that interest you, which will be used to benchmark your suitability based on a self-evaluation of your skills. Then, you’ll drag-and-drop your skills into different categories with labels like “I can do this well,” “I can do this,” “I have never done this,” and so on. After you finish, you’ll see a screen with job families organized from most to least aligned with your self-assessed skills.

Finally, taking the Values Assessment helps you evaluate and reflect on your values in a work environment. This helps you assess your fit with a certain organization. After you finish the values assessment, you’ll receive a set of parameters that will help you narrow the variables in your job search; inform how you choose your next mentor or boss; and decide how to spend your time at work. You’ll also receive a set of tailored questions that you can ask during informational interviews (or hiring interviews) to decide if a job is a good fit for you.

Remember, these are just starting points for you to explore what jobs appeal to you. Whether they fall inside these categories or not may not be the most meaningful information you glean from ImaginePhD. Identifying your interests, skills, and values also helps you articulate and define your professional brand. For example, you may discover transferable skills and abilities that you didn’t even know were skills. You can then use these skills as building blocks for your resume, cover letters, or even your LinkedIn page.

Exploring Job Search Resources

After you’ve done some self-assessment, click on the “Resources” item in the top menu bar. Under “Job Family Resources” you’ll find information about career paths that are relevant to humanities and social science PhDs. By clicking on individual careers, you’ll access a page with more information about that career field; what job titles are associated with it; and additional resources that can help you explore, build skills, network, and even apply for jobs.

For example, let’s say you click on the job family “Research and Analysis,” and then hit “Explore.” You’ll land on a page with a tip sheet on conducting informational interviews; a list of sample job descriptions containing an overview of jobs and their required skills and qualifications; descriptive, detail-driven profiles and interviews with professionals currently working in this field; and a list of active research and analysis job postings that are imported from the job search website

What are some other things you can do? From the “Research and Analysis” homepage you can connect with professionals in the field and identify useful professional associations. You can also build skills by accessing a set of online courses and tutorials that teach you relevant skills. In “Research and Analysis,” for example, you can take an intro course to big data analytics, learn statistics and data visualization, or learn how to write a research proposal. You can also view sample resume’s and cover letters for current working professionals, annotated job descriptions, and tip sheets on interviewing and negotiating salary. Finally, you can also access external job search boards.

If you navigate to “General Resources” (also under the Resources item in the top menu bar), you can access tip sheets on common job search tasks, including: best practices and common pitfalls in interviewing, evaluating job offers, writing cover letters, writing a resume, how to use professional networking sites like LinkedIn, how to build a professional network, how to create an elevator pitch about yourself, and how to negotiate salary and other benefits.

Making a Customized Job Search Plan

The last important feature for you to know about ImaginePhD is “My Plan,” a fully customizable planner that helps you identify and stage your immediate, short-term, and long-term goals—both within your graduate program and for your future career.

Think of this as a portable personal scheduler and career coach built into one. You can use this planner to identify, manage, and plot your self-defined goals along a timeline that is achievable and that makes sense for you. When thinking about your career goals, it’s often helpful to identify goals that are “SMART”—specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based. If your goals are SMART, behavioral psychologists tell us, then they’re more likely to happen.

To use this feature, click My Plan in the top menu bar. From here, you can straightaway start adding individual goals to your timeline. Just click “Add new goal,” type a name and description of your goal, select a goal category and a date range, and ImaginePhD automatically saves your goal to a timeline. Once you save a few different goals, you’ll see a graphical user interface of your timeline with overlapping goals, deadlines, and durations. You can come back to this timeline anytime you’re lacking motivation, feeling aimless, or feeling overwhelmed by multi-tasking.

If you’re struggling to think of helpful goals, or want to see a list of goals that are most often useful for PhD students, there’s even a link to a PDF of suggested goals to consider when building your plan.


Remember that all of your activity on ImaginePhD is saved to your profile page, so don’t worry about losing your info, timetables, or any interesting careers you’ve saved. Navigating here can be a way to consolidate your progress and feel inspired anytime you’re missing that spark of inspiration.

If you want to keep up to date with this evolving service, you can follow @ImaginePhD on Twitter. As always, you can make an appointment with a career adviser in our office if you want to talk through some of these career options, find out how they relate to your academic background, or take more traditional self-assessments like the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI). Here’s hoping you find this service useful on your journey!