GRADUCon - Frequently Asked Questions

Who is GRADUCon For?

GRADUCon is the annual career conference for graduate students (master’s and doctoral), and postdocs at the University of Chicago. Recent alumni of graduate programs may also attend. Please contact Mike Tessel ( for more information and questions.

What should I wear?

If you feel like wearing a suit, do it. PLEASE NOTE: At GRADUCon, you will have the opportunity to take professional LinkedIn photos. For these, we recommend that you dress in a suit.

If you feel like going business-casual, you’re free to do so. Our philosophy is: when it comes to professional settings like this, you should dress the way you would dress for an interview in your field. That said, you should also feel comfortable in your skin. You don’t want to be distracted by anxiety about what you’re wearing.

Where does GRADUCon take place?

GRADUCon 2020 takes place at Ida Noyes Hall, located at 1212 E. 59th St., Chicago, IL 60637.

What should I bring?

  • Bring something to write with and something to write on, for starters. Whether that means a laptop or a notebook/pen, we leave to your discretion.

  • Bring job applications that you’ve been considering. It helps to have them around.

  • Bring questions for the panels that you plan on attending. Read up on the panelists and come with an idea of what you want to get out of each discussion.

  • Bring a resume or CV to write on and mark up with comments

  • Bring business cards if you have them.

  • It’s always helpful to bring a bottle of water and some gum too!

Should I bring a copy of my resume or CV?

Yes. In fact, bring a few copies. This is definitely true if you have a scheduled Coffee Chat. It’s always smart to bring the most recent version of your resume or CV (and even some recent cover letters). Regardless, taking notes directly on your job documents during panel discussions will serve you well when you  go back to edit it.

What topics should I think about before I arrive?

  • What kind of careers are you interested in? How have your career goals been changed, reaffirmed, shuffled while in your graduate program?

  • How do you articulate the importance of your field to yourself? What relationship does professional life have to academic life?

  • What are your academic strengths? Where do you really feel at home in your work?

  • What are you most intimidated about when it comes to a job search?

  • What worries you least about finding a career trajectory?

  • What are three of your goals for your academic life this year? How about for your career goals?

What should I expect from the panels?

Panel discussions at GRADUCon are meant to give you concrete takeaways. They will hopefully give you tangible advice about your academic and professional trajectory. They will also point you in the direction of events and resources that you can go to later in the year.

At the same time, keep in mind that you’ll likely leave the conference with questions and a to-do list. That’s okay. We don’t intend this to be the only day of the year that you think about careers and their relationship to your work. Rather, we want you to leave with a clearer sense of the resources at your disposal at UChicagoGRAD and at the University of Chicago, as well as with more confidence about how to use them on a regular basis.

What should I expect from coffee chats with guests?

GRADUCon Coffee Chats are informational interviews, an informal opportunity for you to get to know an alum or guest speaker. Don’t panic about them, but do prepare. Coffee Chats are scheduled through an online platform, on a first-come, first-served basis, typically a few weeks prior to the event. You must be registered for GRADUCon first, and then you will receive a link with details.

Once you’ve selected your Chats, you should look up the people you’re talking to. Get a sense of their career on LinkedIn if possible. In the conversations, you’ll have a brief amount of time to ask a few questions about their trajectory, about their background, and about their story. Come ready with informed questions about their organization! They are here to help.

How can I talk to alumni throughout the day? I hate networking!

  • Networking is something you already do in your everyday life with friends and family. That is, you share interests and curiosity with each other about a range of topics.

  • Focus on discovering what’s important to others and how your skills and abilities can help them achieve it.

  • Consider this the first step in establishing long-term, mutually beneficial relationships.

  • Make sure you feel and show genuine interest in others.

Graduate alumni and panelists are at the conference because they are excited to talk about your work and your aspirations. They’ve also been through a very similar experience. Many of our guests made it out of UChicago in one piece and have found careers in a variety of fields inside and outside the academy. Talk to them about it!

What are some things that I can ask alumni or even other graduate students from other divisions?

  • “Tell me about your graduate work at the University of Chicago.”

  • “What were there skills/abilities you gained as a result of your graduate education that have proven useful in your career?”

  • “Tell me about your current position.”

  • “What do you enjoy most about what you do? What do you enjoy least?”

  • “If you were to go back to your time at UChicago, what would you do differently that would better prepare you for the job market?”

Should I do anything about that long-dormant LinkedIn account?

You should take a look at your social networks in general. What does your online presence say about your professional identity? Keep in mind that employers at universities, corporations, and non-profits will very likely look you up on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. before they interview you. Make sure that you’re putting a professional foot forward.

If there’s a question that you want answered, feel free to contact the GRADUCon Planning Committee. We’ll do our best to respond quickly.