How long should each job sim take?

A graduate student recently contacted us with this question. She said she completed the sim in about 3-4 hours, but felt that she could have spent more time to make it better.

I am asked this question (how long should a job sim take) a lot, and I usually give the unsatisfying answer, “it depends”. We designed the job sims to involve separate tasks that can be completed in 1-2 hours each, and each job sim typically comprises 3 tasks, so approximately 3-6 hours in total. However, the time you can spend depends on factors like how much time you have, and your reason for doing the sim (e.g., doing the sim for a class assignment, in preparation for an internship interview, or simply shopping around for a job area to start investing time in). I typically suggest completing the first task in a job sim, so 1-2 hours, and encourage grad students and postdocs to reflect on if they are interested in completing the entire job sim and wanting to learn more. For example, a research associate worked on the business development job sim and wanted to apply the new knowledge to analyze two different companies, so she spent a lot of time creating different slide decks for the deliverables, and said she loved it!

If you find that you want to delve deeper or do more, that’s a great indication that you’re interested in the field. If you find that the exercise didn’t gel for you, or that you lost interest, pay attention to that, too. A postdoc once told me she was bored after reading through the job sim description, and I said, “Great! Which one are you exploring next.” It’s important to consider the tasks you like, and the ones you don’t. Move on and experiment with a different career area.