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Career Center News: Leadership Development for Graduate Students

The Duke Career Center is focusing on leadership development and business skills as major topics of interest for Ph.D.s and Master’s students this spring. The new six-part Leadership Series kicked-off February 16th with Dr. Jon Fjeld, Fuqua Professor of the Practice and Executive Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation speaking to a packed room of Ph.D.’s about his own career transitions between academia and industry. With a Ph.D. in philosophy, Professor Fjeld had moved between the two worlds of academia and industry at different stages in his career, so his point of view was taken to heart. He told everyone that one of the biggest differences between the two sectors is that “industry is not the place for individual success because you depend on other people to get things done. The goal is for us to get things done.” This bit of wisdom, among others, addressed some of the preconceived notions students had about what it meant to work in industry.

The second session featured Professor Sim Sitkin, who spoke about a systematic approach to leadership. One of the most compelling aspects about this session was it’s applicability across contexts,. Dr. Sitkin referenced that the framework applies in teaching, lab management, business, and leading research teams to name a few. According to Dr. Sitkin, “Technical expertise only makes up a very small part of good leadership. People need to know who you are and why anyone should be led by you because people aren’t led by abstractions, they are led by people.”

Dr. Rich Burton spoke most recently about organizational structure and design. He provided context around organizational hierarchy and shared some of his own insight on leadership and team building, which is particularly relevant for the graduate community. According to Dr. Burton, “there are three things one should be able to do as a leader: know how to allocate resources, know how to monitor if things are being done or not, and ensure that communication is viable.”

All three speakers have brought different and useful perspectives, and according to the feedback, this is the kind of programming graduate students want. This series is designed to acquaint Ph.D. students who are considering industry, nonprofit or entrepreneurial endeavors, with the transferable skills needed to successfully manage the diversity of all career options. By equipping students with information that will be helpful in understanding what it means to be a leader in a variety of contexts, the career center intends to continue to introduce students to basic business acumen and vocabulary. These conversations will introduce resources that will be useful to prepare for interviews and successful careers in and outside the academy.

Additional March workshops focused on “Understanding Financial Roles, for-profit and not-for-profit,” with Fuqua School of Business Alum John Hartley; “Making Decisions – Business Ventures, Academics or Both,” with Pratt faculty member and entrepreneur Dr. Larry Boyd; and “Navigating the World of Nonprofit Organizations,” with Fuqua faculty member Dr. J. Gregory Dees.

—Career Center staff