Defining Your Career Goals, Part I: Get to Know Yourself


The ability to effectively self-mentor is dependent on getting to know one’s self through self-reflection of strengths and weaknesses, career goals and interests. This insight will prove useful in defining your career goals and identifying ways to achieve these goals. (And no, I am not advocating that you spend hours in meditation, see a shrink or scoop every self-help book off the shelf at Barnes and Noble.) However, I have found it useful to do the following structured exercises to focus on career objectives.

1. Personality and career assessment tests.

Consider spending a couple of hours to determine your personality traits, career interests/values and skills inventory. If you are associated with a university then schedule an appointment with a campus career center, which will have resources freely available. Keep in mind that if you are an alumnus of a university then often you can take advantage of resources through the career centers. For non-university affiliates, contact your company’s human resources department (or postdoc support office) to see what testing options would be available. Below is a list of web resources for testing that can be done on your own time; most of these are free resources but some may require a fee.

The Keirsey Temperament Sorter®-II – Free personality tests

HumanMetrics Inc. – Free personality tests

MBTI® personality assessment instrument – MTBI is fee based

StrengthsFinder 2.0 – Requires minimal purchase of a book with online access code

Personality Assessment Instruments and Feedback – Info on interpretation of tests

University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) Career Center – Multiple free resources

National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) Core Competencies Self-Assessment Checklist – Free skills assessment checklist

(Note: I do not endorse any of these companies or products and cannot attest to their validity.)

2. Explore different science careers.

If you are lucky and already know your definite career choice then you can focus on specific activities to get you to that end goal (see next week’s post). However, if you are still uncertain about your future career path then spend some time exploring the diverse career options available in the sciences. Even if you are dead set on a particular job title, you may have to be flexible in the current job market and it would be valuable to investigate positions related to your final career destination.

Nonacademic Careers for BioScientists

National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) Career Planning Resources

Science Careers Online Booklets

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