Webinar On Demand: How to Develop a Career Exit Strategy

In case you missed it, my Bio Careers webinar “How to Develop a Career Exit Strategy” is now available on demand. You can find the archived video and a description of the webinar below. Feel free to reach out to me with any follow-up questions on the topic or if you need help in brainstorming exit strategy options.

Description: Do you know what you would do if your research or teaching position ended in a few months? With the volatile nature of science funding, early-career scientists need to plan ahead for unexpected career transitions.

In order to avoid panicking and taking the first position that comes your way, an exit strategy can be deployed, while refocusing efforts on your ultimate career goals. This strategy can be a short-term position, volunteer work or other activity to stay active in your field and maintain a professional image.

In this webinar, we will discuss exit strategy options, how to use an exit strategy to enhance your skill sets and ways to keep moving forward during career transitions. For more information on the concept of a career exit strategy, read the Bio Careers blog post “What’s Your Career Exit Strategy?” by Donna Kridelbaugh in advance of the webinar.

Join me for Bio Careers Webinar on Thursday 10/9, 1 pm ET

Please join me this Thursday, October 9th from 1-2 pm ET when I present a live Bio Careers Webinar on the topic of “How to Develop a Career Exit Strategy”. Details on the focus of the webinar can be found below. Registration is at the Bio Careers events page.

Do you know what you would do if your research or teaching position ended in a few months? With the volatile nature of science funding, early-career scientists need to plan ahead for unexpected career transitions.

In order to avoid panicking and taking the first position that comes your way, an exit strategy can be deployed, while refocusing efforts on your ultimate career goals. This strategy can be a short-term position, volunteer work or other activity to stay active in your field and maintain a professional image.

In this webinar, we will discuss exit strategy options, how to use an exit strategy to enhance your skill sets and ways to keep moving forward during career transitions. For more information on the concept of a career exit strategy, read this Bio Careers blog post “What’s Your Career Exit Strategy?” by Donna Kridelbaugh in advance of the webinar.

Recap: #ECRchat on How to Develop a Career Exit Strategy

Twitter_logo_blueAs host of a recent live Twitter chat via #ECRchat on “How to Develop a Career Exit Strategy”, I challenged early-career researchers to think about the question, “What you would do if your research position would unexpectedly end in a few months?” In order to avoid panicking and taking the first position that comes your way, an exit career strategy can be deployed while refocusing efforts on your ultimate career goals.

A career exit strategy is defined as short-term career plan (one to two years) to maintain one’s professional life during a transition period. Most of the chat participants were interested in developing an exit strategy because their temporary research position was ending soon or their career goals were focused on academia where the number of open positions is limited.

We discussed a wide range of exit strategy options, including adjunct teaching, writing and consulting gigs. We further brainstormed on activities (e.g., taking online courses and volunteering) that could be done during transition periods to build skills and maintain a professional presence. Financial responsibility in keeping some savings tucked away as a buffer was also emphasized.

In the end, the take-home message was to always be prepared for a career transition, stay focused and keep moving forward. A summary of the Twitter chat can found in the Storify “How to Develop a Career Exit Strategy”. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter (@science_mentor) or contact me if you are interested in further chatting about this topic.

Congratulations on graduating from college…now what do you do with that STEM degree?

graduationMaybe you are graduating from college but feeling a little uncertain about the future? Some of your friends may be headed to graduate or medical school and others may be starting jobs with pharmaceutical or biotech companies. It may seem that everyone else has a career plan, but you are not alone, and you have plenty of time to explore career options to put your science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) degree to use. Actually, taking a little time off to get some real world experience and help define your career goals can be more beneficial in the long run than jumping into grad school or a job that puts you on the wrong path… So, here’s your post-graduation homework: ten career development activities that will help you find a STEM career path that’s just right for you.

1.  Postbachelor/postbaccalaureate positions – consider a postgraduate research position or internship to test out different career fields, expand your skill sets and enhance your resume. Here is a short list of programs offering positions to recent college graduates (performing an internet search for “postbaccalaureate research programs” will yield even more results):

Oak Ridge Institute of Science Education

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Postbac IRTA program

NIH Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP)

Pathways Program at USAJobs.gov 

2. Certificate programs – some STEM careers (e.g., medical technology) require an additional degree program beyond the bachelor’s degree, so read up on education qualifications for any career paths of interest.

3. Professional science master’s programs – check out these graduate degree programs that teach students business skills along with advanced science courses to prepare students for careers in science management areas. There are also degree programs specific to entering engineering management.

4. Online professional communities – join an online community for career prep information, posting your resume and viewing job postings. Most professional societies maintain a career portal accessible from their main web page (e.g., MySciNet from Science Careers).

5. LinkedIn.com – create a free profile and start building a professional network, join professional and science groups and search job postings. (See “How to Build a Professional Network, Part III: LinkedIn” for more information.)

6. Career counseling center – check out your school’s career center and make an appointment with a career counselor to discuss career options in your field.

7. Career fairs – ask your local career center about ongoing career fairs and look up resources for resume and interview preparation from online career centers (e.g., University of California-San Francisco and NIH).

8. Faculty mentor – make an appointment to speak with a close faculty member that can point out your positive skills sets and offer career advice.

9. Informational interviews – conduct short interviews with professionals working in careers that interest you to learn more about entering that career path. (See “How to Build a Professional Network, Part II: Informational Interviews” for tips.)

10. Job search engines – make a list of job search engines and check the sites on a regular basis or set up alerts for keywords. Even if you are not looking for a job right now, you can gain a lot of information about jobs open in your field and see what qualifications are needed to land that dream job. I like to keep a text file of website addresses to periodically check out jobs in my field. Here’s a few STEM-specific job sites to add to your list:

Science Careers

Nature Jobs

BioCareers

Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB)

Medzilla

BioMed Central Career Network

**Discussion Point: Do you have any other useful tips and resources to share with recent college graduates?**

myIDP from Science Careers: New (and Free) Online Tool Gives Early Career Scientists the Power to Define Career Goals and Plan for the Future

Copyright © 2011,2012 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Copyright © 2011,2012 American Association for the Advancement of Science

It is finally here… the free, online myIDP tool from Science Careers has been released! I am very excited about the online application because this individual development plan (IDP) tool is a great way to streamline the process of defining your career goals and provides an excellent step-by-step method with built-in ways to track your professional development progress. The myIDP tool is finely sectioned into areas of assessment, career exploration, setting goals and implementing a plan. Developing an IDP is not a quick and dirty process but requires due diligence and continual reevaluation of skills, interests and career goals. The myIDP tool is a comprehensive application that can help science professionals stay on task and stay organized in all aspects of professional development (and may put my blog out of business… :))

I ran across an evaluation of the myIDP tool in the blogging world by an early career researcher who gave the site “a test run and quick evaluation.” However, the individual’s opinions are quite unfair and highlight how not to use the tool. You will not get any value from the myIDP tool with an attitude of plowing through the assessments to reveal your destined career paths. The myIDP project team does not claim to be psychics or “fairy godmother scientists”, and the career fit results simply provide a starting ground for any early career scientist who desires to align their skills, interests and values in finding a purposeful science career path.

Thus, I would like to provide a fair assessment and overview of the first two sections of the myIDP tool to highlight some of the features and point out how beneficial this tool can be for your personal career development toolkit. Please note that myIDP provides copious amounts of useful career development resources and tips on each page; often, some of this information is embedded as links, so please be sure to read each section carefully and follow these links.

**If you don’t do anything else for your career development in the near future then at least take some time this week (1-2 hours) to visit the website, create a free account and work through these first two sections of the myIDP.**

1. Assessment

There are three different personal assessments (skills, interests and values) to complete. As a reminder, the myIDP developers encourage the use of the entire range of scores (1 [low] – 5 [high]) when filling out the assessments for the most accurate results. Also, there is an option to download the skills assessment to ask others to rate you. (I plan on giving this sheet to at least two supervisors this week and then modifying my skills assessment with the average scores including mine.)

For the skills assessment, there is not an option to put ‘not applicable’ for some areas that do not apply to your field of study, so I just entered the lowest score (1 = highly deficient) for these skills. I also just want to point out that it is okay to have low scores because no one can be a master of all science skills domains. These assessments can help you to recognize where you might have deficiencies and then take actions to enhance these skill sets in later sections. Likewise, it is okay if you don’t like doing certain tasks listed in the interests assessment. It is just important to be honest with yourself to ensure an accurate personal evaluation.

Example Results from Scientific Skills Assessment

2.  Career Exploration

The results of the skills and interests assessment will tabulate a list of potential “career fits” for you to consider out of around 60 common career paths for scientists. (Your values are not included because they are too subjective for quantitative analysis.) This personalized career path list then provides you links to additional resources on related science career information. To reiterate, myIDP is not telling you that these are the only career choices for you; it is simply applying a specialized algorithm to match your skills and interests with those skills/interests of professionals working in various science careers. This list is also not limiting you because you can always gain the skills that would be needed for other jobs.

And then take a break to breathe…. the process of career exploration can be an overwhelming process, as there are so many options and so much information to take in at one time. After working through the first two sections, take the next week or two to seriously consider your Plan A and Plan B career goal choices. Read through the suggested resources for each career option and decide which careers are the best for you. (These career choices can always be modified at any time as you learn more about yourself and other career routes.) Then you can revisit the myIDP tool to finish the “set goals” and “implement plan” sections.

Example Career Paths List – My Personal Results

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Personal note: The myIDP tool is primarily being marketed to the postdoc community. As sales/marketing is one of my potential career fits ;), I understand that it is being targeted to a specific demographic based on multiple factors. I am slightly jaded by this fact, as I have been looking forward to the release of the tool, and there are 3X the amount of MS degrees awarded vs. PhDs in the science and engineering disciplines. Therefore, I would like to stress that this tool is definitely applicable to any early career scientist, regardless of education degree level (BS, MS or PhD), and I hope to be the living proof!

Comments section: How useful did you find the myIDP tool in assessing yourself and exploring different science careers?