Univ. Admin: Develop & Market a Program

Plan a career development workshop with an external speaker


Career development professionals work to support graduate students, postdocs and recent alumni with their career exploration and job search process.

One of the responsibilities of a university administrator, particularly a career development professional, is to plan events. Students often have common interests or face similar obstacles that can be explored or addressed in a shared space. Every event should meet a specific need (or needs) of the population who will be invited, so the planning process should be guided by the established goals. Considerations include: Should it be a passive or active experience for the attendees? Does there need to be room to move around or will everyone stay seated? Will there be one speaker or a panel? Will the presentation include audio/visual components? Food? Should the number of attendees be limited to a small group? Do you need to know who will be attending in advance? Will attendees need materials in advance or during the event? These decisions are not arbitrary. The answers should emerge from what you want you want the attendees to learn or experience.

The Process

The process below includes information that is necessary to conduct and move through a career counseling session.

  1. Identify common need within a specific population
  2. Establish goal(s) for the event
  3. Identify and invite presenter(s). Determine travel and honorarium needs. (Note: Honorarium rates can vary significantly by field. It is acceptable to ask the speaker what they typically request for an honorarium or offer up front what works into your budget. If you are inviting an alum, work with Alumni Affairs to determine appropriate costs to cover. Often alumni will visit campus in an effort to give back and do not expect payment).
  4. Set dates
  5. Secure location
  6. Establish learning objectives
  7. Write brief event description
  8. Create flyer
  9. Advertise event
  10. Make all necessary arrangements for food, a/v, chairs/tables, etc.
  11. Ask to review presentation slides in advance. Give feedback.
  12. Develop or obtain any materials needed to distribute to attendees

The Exercise

Imagine you have met with a handful of graduate students and noticed that many of them talk about an interest in non-profit organizations, but very few seem to know very much about what goes on in them. Develop ideas for a workshop to meet this common need. The workshop should serve students in a range of disciplines.

For this exercise, you are a career development professional working with graduate students at a large research university.

Task 1: Establish goals for the event

Steps 1-3 of the Process above. Identify a hypothetical speaker(s) and compose a brief email invitation to an alumni speaker. Your email should include:

    • An introduction, if you have not previously met, and your connection to the speaker (if any).
    • The ask – what you are requesting. A presentation, participation in a panel, etc.
    • Clearly outline your goals for the event and why you have chose this person to help you fulfill these goals as a presenter

Task 2: Create event description and flyer

Steps 7-8. Create a one-page flyer that includes a title for the workshop, a short description (3-4 sentences), and three learning objectives.

Event marketing

Step 9. Write two Tweets you could use to advertise the event. Write 1 Email subject line you could use to get people interested in your event.

The Deliverable

The outcome of the email is to reach out to potential speakers and outline requests and expectations for their participation, in writing. Be courteous, concise, and clear in your invitation. Provide as much information up front as you can about time commitment and event details.

Flyers are intended to provide essential but basic information about an event. It should be visually stimulating, informative, and easy to read. Be clear and concise. Event flyers are often distributed by email and seen on a computer screen, or posted on social media platforms. They may also be printed and hung in common spaces viewable by a range of audiences.

Sample Deliverable #1

Dear Dr. Chan,

My name is Julia Green and I am a fourth year doctoral student in Comparative Literature at the University of NC. I recently met with Jess Smith from Alumni Relations to discuss my interest in learning more about working for a non-profit organization. She suggested I put together an alumni panel on the topic and recommended you as someone who would be a fantastic speaker. In my discussion with Jess, I learned that PhDs often find fulfilling work in nonprofit organizations and I know many graduate students are interested in learning more about careers beyond the academy. In particular, I think graduate students do not know very much about how non-profit organizations operate and the differences between very small and larger organizations. Additionally, we are always wondering about the skills we need to be successful in non-academic careers and how we can acquire those skills during graduate school. Are these topics you might be interested and willing to visit campus to discuss? If so, I think that an afternoon (between 3-6 pm) in February would be an excellent time to hold the event. Please let me know your availability. Thank you for considering this invitation. I look forward to hearing from you soon.



Sample Deliverable #2

Tweet 1

Hear three alumni share stories about why non-profits need your writing, thinking, and organization skills.

Tweet 2

Ever wondered how the non-profit world compares to the academic one? Join us tomorrow to learn more.

Email Subject Line 1

Do you feel more successful when motivated by a mission?

Email Subject Line 2

Invitation to Hear Alumni Stories



For this task:

  • Strategic planning
  • Organizational skills
  • Clear writing

Needed in this career:

  • Time management
  • Organizational skills
  • Written and verbal communication skills
  • Public speaking
  • Detail oriented

To view detailed lists of skills in job descriptions for policy careers, please see workforce data generated by Boston University’s BEST program.

Additional Responsibilities

A career advisor, counselor, or coach may also perform these activities:

You are viewing a job simulation. To get started, set up SMART Goals to perform this simulation in a reasonable timeline. If you have completed the task, fill out the Self-Reflection Sheet.

Simulation authors: Sarah Peterson, PhD

Simulation vetted by professionals from public and private universities serving graduate students and postdocs.