Career Development and Exploration
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Deciding what to do after your graduate career is an important process. Here are some resources to assist you on the journey.
Career planning refers to a process that helps explore and evaluate personal interests and abilities. The identification of short and long term career goals is complemented by a detailed action plan that helps focus on defined career goals. An action plan may contain 5 distinct steps:
Assess yourself – your skills, values, interests, and more
Explore Career Options – utilize online resources and informational interview techniques
Make a Decision – discuss your options with family, friends, and mentors and make a decision
Take Action – acquire the necessary skills and competencies, get the job
Reflect on the Process – was it a good decision?
Go back to step one and repeat the process frequently.
Nobody but you has the knowledge to facilitate the development of a career focus. Therefore any career and life planning starts with a thorough assessment of skills and interests.
Some of the following tools are free, but others are not. Check with your career office to see if your institution owns a license.
• Assessment tools can help with career planning and beyond. Read more about a Career Assessment Matrix here.
• It Pays To Plan: Why You Need A Career Map
• Determine your preferred way of interacting with people by completing a free version of a Myers-Briggs personality test at HumanMetrics.
• Compare your interests with those of individuals successfully working in diverse career areas using a Strong Interest Inventory online tool
• A career counseling tool that can help identify career beliefs that might prevent you from achieving your career goals can be found at Career Beliefs Inventory.
• Additional Self-Assessment Resources:
Bolles, R. N. (2013). What Color is your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers. Berkeley, Calif.: Ten Speed Press.
Fiske, P. S. (2001). Put Your Science to Work: Take Charge Career Guide for Scientists. Washington, D.C.: American Geophysical Union.
You Need a Game Plan
Preparing Individual Development Plans
Individual Development Plan for Postdoctoral Fellows
Yale University: Individual Development Planning
Networking, Part 1: Making Most of Your Contacts
Networking, Part 2: More Networking Scenarios
How to Network in Graduate School
Networking on Your Doorstep
Networking to a Biotech Career
Networking Today: A Guide for Business Professionals and College Graduates
Naturejobs: Career Toolkit Networking
It is important to realize that a healthy networking relationship should be mutually beneficial. Before you ask somebody to help, you might want to ask yourself how you could positively contribute to the other person’s development.
Regardless, you can expand your network by actively participating in any kind of local, regional, national, or international event. The opportunities to expand your network are almost endless.
- LinkedIn (professional networking tool)
Read about "6 ways LinkedIn can work for you".
Watch “Using LinkedIn Effectively” (NIH “How to” series)
Join the NSF GRFP Fellows & Alumni Network on LinkedIn.
- Facebook (social networking tool)
If you do not have business cards, you should print some as soon as possible. Do not worry if your contact card does not include your institution’s logo. It is important that this card includes your name, email address, and phone number. Many online print shops offer to print business cards for free.
When receiving a business card from a new contact, use the back of the business card to write down important key words from the conversation with this person. This will help you in crafting a good follow-up email to that person after you meet them. Develop an archive for the business cards. Also, you might want to try connecting with people who gave you a business card via LinkedIn.
An elevator pitch is a short, verbal summary of your professional background and goals. This brief pitch should pique curiosity. An individual might craft several elevator pitches that address different audiences (e.g. other scientists in your field, scientists in other disciplines and even non-scientists.
10 Tips for a Winning Elevator Pitch
The goal of graduate school is to equip you with skills that prepare you for many different careers. Such skills include analytical and critical thinking, tolerance of ambiguity, problem defining and solving, quantitative skills, presentation and writing skills, information gathering and synthesizing, and teamwork. In addition, as a graduate student you acquire deep, discipline-specific and conceptual knowledge. You can continue using the knowledge and skill base to follow an academic career track. However, a graduate degree allows you to follow any career path. To make an informed career decision it is essential to gather and analyze career area specific information that may include:
Put your research and analytical skills to work and find your niche that allows you to become successful and satisfied!
The following list provides an overview of major career sectors and areas for STEM professionals. Click on the areas to reveal more information about these options.
|Career Sectors||Career Areas|
Industrial Research & Development
Additional Resources:Browse Career Clusters
Career Trends: Careers Away from the Bench
Pathways for Students & Recent Graduates To Federal Careers
Career Trends: Exploring Careers Beyond the Bench
Career Trends: Industry or Academia: Where do I fit in?
Step by Step: Your Career from Undergrad to Postdoc
Career Trends: The Informed Job Search
Every career path is unique. Many elements contribute to your career path.
Professional goals, personal goals, timing, identifying or creating opportunities, and perceived expectations from others are only a small selection of such elements.
The following career stories give a sense of how individuals became successful professionals in their career areas.
Informational interviews are conversations between a job-seeker and a specifically selected professional. Typically, the job seeker determines which conversation partner can help accumulate information about a specific job or an employer. The job seeker reaches out to the conversation partner to initiate an informational interview.
Science and Technology Policy Fellowships:
Presidential Management Fellow Program STEM (OPM)