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ImaginePhD: a career exploration and planning tool for the humanities and social sciences.
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Natalia Martin


As a postdoctoral scholar determined to transition into educational administration, I understand firsthand the key importance of continuous self-assessments, exploration and goal setting in career planning. For the past year I have been involved with ImaginePhD at different levels: as a user during my own career planning, as a member of the ImaginePhD User Experience Group and as a workshop facilitator for postdoctoral scholars. Here is an overview of some of what ImaginePhD offers postdoctoral scholars.


NPA Executive Director, Julie Fabsik-Swarts, served on one of the Imagine PhD committees. The committee was made up of Graduate Career Consortium leaders from around the country and it worked to draft recommendations for numerous policies and procedures. A workshop on Imagine PhD was presented at the 2018 NPA Conference.

The history behind IMAGINEPHD

ImaginePhD is a free, confidential online career-exploration and planning tool for the humanities and social sciences launched in October 2017. In just one year, it has gained significant traction, with a growing number of users in multiple institutions around the world taking advantage of the tool for their career exploration and planning.


ImaginePhD was the result of an intensive research, design and refinement process that led to three comprehensive assessments, 16 job families, extensive general and job-specific resources and the planning tool My Plan. Over 80 career professionals came together from 56 universities across the United States and Canada to create this tool, powered by the Graduate Career Consortium, to help bridge the knowledge gap between doctoral education and the realm of career possibilities currently available for PhD holders, without the need for additional degrees. This highly flexible tool meets a wide range of career exploration and planning needs from scholars at different stages in their careers. In addition to its up-to-date in-depth curated content, its beautifully designed interface is an invitation to think deeply about your career.


Careers take time and dedication. Planning is an essential component of this constantly ongoing and iterative process that most people continue to do throughout their lives.


The importance of knowing what you care about, what you enjoy, and what you are good at

Research shows that people who use their strengths at work and care about what they do are happier, which in turns makes them better at their jobs. What do I care about? What kind of work do I enjoy doing? and What are my strengths? are essential questions in searching for an ideal career path. ImaginePhD helps the user find the answer to these questions through the values, interests, and skills assessments. It is a space designed for self-reflection that will provide a starting point in the career decision making process.

“IMAGINEPHD” text overlayed over the shot of the back of a person’s head in the foreground looking to large peaks in the background.

IMAGINEPHD is an online career-exploration and planning tool, for the humanities and social sciences, put together based on the research of 80 career professionals.


A wide range of career options

For postdocs still searching for their ideal career path, the job families resources provides a comprehensive overview of career paths available for social science PhD holders. ImaginePhD offers resources on 16 job families that PhDs in humanities and social sciences have pursued.

  • EXPLORE the different job families while reading about real life stories of PhD holders transitioning to careers beyond research in blogs, podcasts and more;
  • CONNECT and get involved in relevant professional societies and LinkedIn groups
  • BUILD SKILLS required for a particular job family
  • APPLY to currently posted positions using the sample content packages and general tips on how to create a successful application package.


Careers take time and dedication. Planning is an essential component of this constantly ongoing and iterative process that most people continue to do throughout their lives. ImaginePhD was designed to meet users wherever they are in this iterative process and “My Plan” is an example of this flexibility. Postdocs can create and follow-up on a wide range of goals to take charge of their careers and be responsible for their own career planning. But there’s no reason to do it alone! “My Plan” can also be shared with peers, career advisors, or mentors.


It is never too early and never too late to start planning your career! As career paths themselves, ImaginePhD is constantly evolving based on users’ feedback. Let the ImaginePhD team know about your experience and stay tuned for ImaginePhD 2.0!


Natalia Martin, PhD, is a senior research associate at Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, and is a member of the NPA Advocacy Committee.


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