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 a lot and I usually give the unsatisfying answer, “it depends”. We designed the job sims so the tasks can be completed in approximately 3-8 hours. However, depending on factors like how much time you have, and your reason for doing the sim (whether you’re 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 spending 3-4 hours, but encourage grad students and postdocs to spend as much time as they want. One research associate created two different slide decks for deliverables, because she wanted to apply the knowledge to different analyses.

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, that’s okay, too. It’s important to consider which tasks you like and which ones you don’t. Move on and experiment with a different career area.

InterSECT Success Stories

When I’m introducing the idea of job sims to grad students or postdocs, I share stories about different ways grad students or postdocs have used and benefitted from the experience. One of my favorite stories is about a postdoc who completed a job simulation and found it useful, so she developed one for this online collection. To develop the sim, she talked with industry professionals, synthesized the informational interviews and wrote a draft. We worked with her to edit the final version, and published it on the website. She had a product to share, a concrete example to add to her resume, and co-copyright for her contribution. She updated us later that she talked about the experience in an interview to demonstrate how she can quickly gather knowledge in a new field, and explained that she is confident she can pivot in her career from an academic postdoc to an industry position. She got the job. I love this story because it demonstrates how InterSECT job sims can be a place to explore career options, and also a place to gain experience to in preparation for your career transition.

To read more stories from graduate students, a postdoc, and a research associate, check out the Science article about InterSECT: “Like virtual reality for careers: A new online resource helps scientists explore job options.


Thanks for visiting InterSECT Job Sims! We are excited to share this resource and the process to help PhDs reflect on careers that fit. For me, this blog is a place to share tips and guidance for ways that grad students and postdocs can use the job sims.

As someone who completed graduate school, did a postdoc, and navigated dual career searches in both academic and non-academic sectors, I deeply understand the journey of seeking new career paths. Now, as a career advisor and higher ed administrator I share strategies and advise graduate students and postdocs as they make career transitions. I’ve loved creating the InterSECT library with collaborators, and seeing how the community is coming together to create and share job sims.

You’ll hear from other InterSECT developers, PhDs and graduate students from all over the U.S. about their experiences. I hope it will provide some inspiration and concrete advice as you search for the next step.  Please let us know if there is a question you’d like answered or a story you’d like to share. We love hearing from graduate students and postdocs about they ways they’ve used job sims to explore careers and make career decisions.