The BEST grant afforded the 17 BEST institutions a great opportunity to get the programs up and running. We have learned that providing students and postdocs professional development and career exploration opportunities can be done relatively inexpensive; in most cases with support for just one or two VERY dedicated individuals. This section is designed to help you get your program started and provide tips for how to sustain it.

The First Brick

When creating career development resources for your students and postdocs the limiting resource is usually time. While lack of finical support for staff can be problematic, getting a program started with 0.5 full-time equivalents is feasible. The first step for that half of a person is to form relationships with a variety of people inside and outside of your institution. Find champions to help with cultural change and partners to help be a part of workshops, seminars, and career panels.

Champions

When the members in the consortium were asked what they would recommend to institutions trying to create a career development office they all said to find a champion, someone that would help support the mission and be at the center of cultural change. Faculty that see

Partners

You will also need to have a group of partners; many of which will also be your champions. Partnerships are collaborations between your office and any person or organization that has a mutual interest in biomedical career planning.  Creating partnerships with alumni, local industry, and university faculty will provide talent and subject matter expertise for workshops and other activities.

How to create partnerships

First, identify potential partners. Alumni, faculty, and university organizations are a great starting place, as they are already committed to education. Other contacts can be made through existing connections (your core champions), engaging with local organizations, attending conferences, and even cold calling/emailing people. Each partner will have different motivations. The sooner you identify their goals, the sooner you can find a way to create a mutually beneficial relationship.

Relationship building is an ongoing process. The engaging partners in various activities can strengthen the relationship over time. Repeated interactions, high levels of accommodation, and patience will lead to strong partnerships. You can engage with partners by having an in-person meeting, inviting to them speak at your institution, and coordinating site visits. Never under-estimate the value of the faculty at your institution. Engage faculty as experts in their own careers (e.g., who to give a chalk talk, writing tips).Getting faculty buy-in is essetial to keep your program running.

Another way to obtained partners is to demonstrate the value in what you are doing and the how much engagement your program has obtained. For example, tell faculty when their own alumni participate. This news will build faculty support for career development.

Partners help by doing

Alumni can tell trainees what they wish they had known as early scientists, university staff can teach special professional skills, and corporate partners can provide students and postdocs opportunities to test the waters in a career. Vanderbilt shares ways in which their partners help with programming.

  • Alumni give presentations on their careers and serve on panels
  • Alumni give interviews on camera for a video series (right)
  • Faculty teach courses on oral communication, clinical laboratory medicine, and business
  • University organizations, such as the Writing Studio, Center for Science Outreach, and News & Public Affairs teach workshops and courses on writing, teaching, and research & the media, respectively
  • The NIH Clinical Center teaches a free, online course on clinical research via remote webcast.
  • Businesses and organizations host tours and interns.

Try to make the partner’s commitment light. For example, for an internship program, offer to write the job description, advertise the position, and vet the applicants. For a course instructor, provide them with existing content that they can modify. Professionally edit alumni videos, so that partners can be confident in the final product.

Philanthropy

Partners Help by giving

Not only are partners helpful in reducing costs by giving their time. They also help by investing in the program. In an ideal world, alumni would recognize the benefits of career development and offer to support your programming, but it takes work to build relationships with alumni, identify their passions, and develop the right proposal to address both their philanthropic interests and your students’ needs. The University of Rochester Medical Center has successfully attracted philanthropy and shares the lessons they have learned.

It Starts with Relationships and Insight

The first relationship is internal. The office of career development and the office of advancement/major gifts need to work together. Career development teams know the student experience, including what alumni may relate to and mechanisms for programmatic improvement. The office of advancement knows how to communicate with alumni, help them clarify their goals, and build trust.

The most important relationship is with your alumni. After a demanding 5+ years, they care about their program. Find ways for them to re-engage with a newsletter, career panels, or, in the case of Vanderbilt University, a Ph.D. student reunion (left). Talk to them about their memories, their interests, and how they may want to help the next generation. For Ph.D. alumni, three obvious interests surfaced 1) Professional and Career Development “I wish someone had been there to help me with my career when I was a trainee.”, 2) Pilot Research Funding “When first starting on my project, I would have felt more comfortable knowing there was a small allocation of money for my initial exploratory research.”, and 3) Connections to recent alumni who have successful careers “During my training, I would have liked to have met with people recently out of graduate school, so that I would get some perspective of what it’s like to be a scientist outside of school.”

Work in Stages

Start slowly to build trust and show outcomes. You can begin by creating an unrestricted annual fund for any amount. If alumni give, reach out to them to find out why and what they hope to improve. For example, one Rochester alumna became so engaged in discussing her experience as a Ph.D. student that she decided to give a four-figure gift to her department. As the depth of conversation grew, she talked more about her legacy, which led to a six-figure gift to endow a fund to help recruit international students for graduate studies at the University of Rochester. Communication grew into stewardship. Through letters from students, conversations with the Dean, and intimate salon dinners, her interest in student career development emerged. As the alumna learned more about scientific trainee career development programs, the University of Rochester’s BEST director and the advancement office worked together to create a formal proposal addressing the alumna’s philanthropic goals, including funding opportunities, career development programming, student photos, news articles, and student quotes. She ultimately decided to give a six-figure gift to ensure sustainability and fund the internship program. She is planning a campus visit to deepen her relationship with her alma mater.

Attracting philanthropy takes time, but, if done well, can be beneficial to both your current students and your alumni donors.

Sustaining Your Programs

All BEST consortium members have seen their efforts pay off. Students appreciate these opportunities and since the beginning of the grant there was been a change in cultural (faculty approve of student participation) and as a result, the universities are buying-in and supporting these activities. While the funding has helped the 17 institutions get their programs started, each institution is working hard to ensure that the programming will continue.

In career development, sustainability entails the ability to grow and innovate programmatically and to exceed the needs of trainees. Cornell University and Rutgers University share methods of achieving sustainability, including intra-university integration, lowering costs, and finding steady revenue streams

Intra-University Integration

All BEST consortium members have seen their efforts pay off. Students appreciate these opportunities and since the beginning of the grant there was been a change in cultural (faculty approve of student participation) and as a result, the universities are buying-in and supporting these activities. While the funding has helped the 17 institutions get their programs started, each institution is working hard to ensure that the programming will continue.

In career development, sustainability entails the ability to grow and innovate programmatically and to exceed the needs of trainees. Cornell University and Rutgers University share methods of achieving sustainability, including intra-university integration, lowering costs, and finding steady revenue streams

By integrating with the broader university, career development programming becomes an essential part of graduate education. Ideally, career development is institutionalized so as to be indispensable, yet remains independent enough to flexibly incorporate new ideas and meet trainees’ changing needs. Here are a few ways to integrate career development programing with the larger university.

  • Expand programming to a broader audience, such as non-scientific disciplines, underclassmen, master’s degree students, and postdocs if you’re not currently serving them.
  • Arrange with the central career services office to have staff dedicated to doctoral students.
  • Integrate career development programming with supporting academic curricula and departmental events.
  • Utilize university and local media for a steady stream of current communication.
  • Broadcast trainee professional accomplishments and career outcomes data.
  • Strengthen the faculty commitment. For example, make career goals and Individual Development Plans part of faculty mentoring conversations. Or use surveys to give faculty a voice in career development programing.
  • Allow others to embrace career development successes as their own. For example, encourage deans to share career outcomes with trustees and the Council of Graduate Schools.

Lower Costs

Hand over some responsibilities to others – this will give them a sense of ownership and lower programming costs.

  • Establish peer career groups whereby trainees support one another in their career explorations, freeing up career development staff to work on other projects.
  • Give trainees ownership of symposia, speaker recruitment, media outreach, and advisory board facilitation.
  • Partner with other universities and organizations to share resources.
  • Maintain relationships with alumni and local business, and invite them to help with programming and career panels.

Pursue Steady Revenue Streams

Successful career development relies on university integration and a cost-effective program. But to be sustainable, your program will need steady financial support. Here are some suggestions for building capital.

  • Seek long-standing funding at the dean level.
  • Charge for services. For example, provide fee-based programming for other universities, departments, or even undergraduate and master’s students. Or add a line item to graduate program budgets to cover program expenses.
  • Coordinate faculty mentoring and trainee activities in exchange for % effort on T32 and NSF grants.
  • Cultivate relationships with foundations and corporations for program co-sponsorship.
  • Team with recruiters for program support in exchange for easy identification of talented candidates.
  • Creative a culture of giving among alumni.