Joel Tolson

Graduate Student Career Advisor

My role at UC San Diego

I assist doctoral and masters students in navigating both academic and post-academic career paths. This includes helping them explore career options, create development plans, strategize job searches, prepare for job applications inside and outside of academia, and enhance their interviewing techniques. In addition to meeting with students one-on-one, I develop and implement a variety of other services aimed towards preparing graduate students for life beyond the university.

My career path

After earning my Master’s degree, I worked for the UT Southwestern where I advised medical doctors transitioning into clinical research. During my off-time, I helped biomedical graduate students (which included my spouse) conduct experiments and refine their presentations/research papers. 

I moved to the University of Oregon to earn my own doctorate, after my spouse had earned hers. There I studied the effects of professionalization on medieval societies, and in particular its tendency to harm marginalized groups. However, I soon realized that neither the career prospects for a Medievalist, nor the role of a professor at a large university, meshed with my life goals. I chose to leave the program and move to Southern California, where I helped UC San Diego start a new Post Baccalaureate Premedical Program.

As I helped and advised undergraduates regarding medical schools, I also interacted with Postdoctoral Researchers, many of whom were incredibly successful and yet were still struggling to find their place in academia and the professional world. Having advised practicing clinicians and medical students, graduate students and postdocs, and having myself been a graduate student who wrestled with dual career issues, I determined that moving into student advising was a logical leveraging of my skills.

The rewards in doing what I do

Having experienced the vagaries of graduate life first-hand, it is rewarding to give others direction so that they may navigate these treacherous waters. It is also absolutely wonderful to be working with such brilliant students and intelligent colleagues, and it’s a privilege to be contributing to one of the greatest developments of Western civilization: the university.

My words of wisdom to students

Give yourself permission to not get things right the first time. You have to do something poorly so that you can learn to do it well: that’s called practice, and everyone needs it.
You are not alone in this: think of your favorite author, actor, scientist, etc. They all had to write, act, and research horribly in order to get the experience they needed to be as great as they are now. So make time for that deliberate practice!

In my free time...

I like to spend time with my family (which usually involves a myriad of geeky pursuits), playing with my pets (including training my rescued corgi how to be a real dog), reading (fantasy, science fiction, history, and other genres), writing (particularly in parentheticals), and doing various and sundry creative activities.