Developing Strategic Thinking Skills in Grad School

Developing Strategic Thinking Skills in Grad School

Recognizing and capitalizing on opportunities to hone those skills will allow students to elevate their value as they enter the workforce, writes Dinuka Gunaratne.


August 15, 2022, published on Inside Higher Ed
Illustration of the outline of two heads with gears turning inside, illustrating the concept of strategic thinking.

(iMrSquid/istock/getty images plus)

As a graduate student, you develop distinct skills, knowledge and connections throughout your research program that set you apart as a highly skilled professional. As you develop those skills, you become more marketable and valuable to employers and the workforce. However, many graduate students have told me that, even with such practical skills, they still struggle to find employment.

As we move into the post-pandemic world, organizations are going to look for candidates with complex sets of both technical and transferable skills. One such skill that is universally valued is strategic thinking.

Strategic thinking is often defined as the ability to see the big picture, plan ahead and be action-oriented in achieving one’s own or an organization’s goals. It is showcased through curiosity and connecting the dots across different domains while, at the same time anticipating and mitigating challenges to crafting a path forward in achieving goals. This highly sought-after skill is valued across many sectors and employers. As a graduate student, you can find many opportunities to think strategically and hone this skill throughout your training. Recognizing and capitalizing on those opportunities will allow you to elevate your value as you enter the workforce.

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By Alissa Clark
Alissa Clark Graduate Student Program Director