Continue Your Journey!

Begin career preparation early in your biomedical training. Transitioning from graduate school to career success can be a long and exciting road. The sooner you start career preparation the easier and less stressful the transition will be.

Traditionally, Ph.D. and postdoctoral scientists focus on

  • Perfecting the application of the scientific method
  • Securing federal and private grant funding
  • Communicating and networking with other scientists
  • Developing proficiency in discipline-dependent technical skills

Mentors have historically taught graduate students and postdocs these very important skills. However, a scientist must ask, “What other skills might I need in the future, and what are all my career options?” BEST consortium institutions are learning that PIs are largely supportive of their trainees asking these question and taking time out of the lab to find the answers. They want you to succeed, but often feel ill-equipped to offer advice about careers outside of academia. Therefore, it is up to you to determine your interests and your goals.

There are a variety of ways you can prepare yourself, regardless of whether your institution has a career office.

  • Explore your interests and create an individual development plan (IDP)
  • Plan your career during training
  • Build professional relationships
  • Explore careers
  • Prepare for the job interview

This content was originally developed and presented as an interactive chalk-talk by the UCSF MIND team, Bill Lindstaedt, Liz Silva, and Gabriela Monsalve for MIND Catalytic Course participants.

If you want to hear this talk in person you can have it brought to your university by requesting it through the NIH BEST Roadshow catalog.


Link to video:

Self-Assistment and Individual Development Plans


To begin the career-exploration process you need to begin the self-assessment process. There are numerous ways you can do this. Some are free and some cost money. Many like The Birkman Method as a tool to find their strengths and weakness. Atlanta BEST has used this approach to help their trainees prepare for their future career. This training session is offered in our Roadshow Catalog, and you can have the workshop presented at your institution.

A popular book, Strength Finder 2.0, has an online test to assess your personality type and then you read the appropriate sections of the book that match your personality type.

Individual Development Plans

A popular free option is myIDP at Science Careers. After you complete a self-assessment, it suggestions jobs that might interest you,  and then helps you fill out an Individual Development Plans (IDPs).

IDPs are a tool that helps you set realistic goals for career and professional development. After completing an IDP, you are encouraged to revisit your goals; myIDP will email you reminders. Regardless of the tool you use to narrow down your career options, creating an IDP is a will help you set goals and achieve results.

If you want to read more about creating an IDP from a students perspective read Be Your Own Cartographer!; it is a great blog post written by one of our BEST Bloggers.

After completing your IDP and narrowing down your career options, it is important to talk to your advisor about the results. It may seem intimidating, but the majority of advisors will be supportive of your all career goals; they just want you to be successful and happy.

Learn more about IDPs and optimizing your career preparation in the recorded webinar from BEST and the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB). View the slides here.

Plan Your Career During Training

Part of preparing for your career after graduate school, or a postdoc, includes career explorations. Taking online assessments may help point you in the right direction, but on the job experience or talking with someone in the field is the only way to know if you are going to like your chosen career.

Don’t wait until your program or fellowship is ending to plan for your career. Kim Petrie, Ph.D. and Ashley Brady, Ph.D. from Vanderbilt’s BEST program wrote an entire book chapter on how to weave career preparations into your training. Check out Chapter Three of the Advancing Postdoc Women Guidebook, and don’t worry if you’re neither a woman nor a postdoc. You will be grateful for the advice.

Build Professional Relationships

Professional relationships can greatly aid in growing your career. Informational interviews help you make career decisions and determine the pathways for attaining your goals. Plus, your contacts will likely assist you when you are on the job market. Check out the recorded webinar by BEST and ASBMB to learn how to build your network and effectively communicate with your contacts. View the slides here.

There are some Roadshows that you can have at your university that will teach you networking skills.

Prepare for the Job Interview

After all the hard work you have put into career planning, it is now time to prepare for the interview.

Here is an article that was written by some of the BEST; it will help you prepare for that dreaded video interview.

Smile, You’re on Camera