University of California San Francisco

Program Title: MIND. Motivating INformed Decisions

Key People: Jennie Dorman, Bill Lindstaedt, Gabriela Monsalve, Theresa O’Brien, Keith Yamamoto

Program Summary

UCSF exclusively educates graduate and professional students in the health and biomedical sciences, and the Office of Career and Professional Development, which houses the MIND Program, has served biomedical graduate students and postdocs for over 10 years. The MIND Program centers on efforts to understand and facilitate the decision process itself, with concepts outlined in the book Working Identity by Herminia Ibarra.

  • Short-term goal: To create, deliver, and evaluate the effectiveness of a comprehensive career development intervention for early-stage graduate students, postdocs, and their mentors, intentionally targeting specific knowledge gaps and motivational gaps that impede the career decision-making process.
  • Long-term goal: To change the culture at UCSF, so that graduate students and postdocs can more openly and effectively pursue the career trajectories of their choice.

The Scientist Experience
The PhD and postdoctoral scientist experience centers on an 8 month program, running September to May of each academic year; importantly, scheduling of the PHD and postdoc experience is designed so as to minimize the impact on the trainees’ research responsibilities. Graduate students who passed their qualifying exams within the previous year, and all postdocs holding an official postdoctoral title code are eligible to apply. The experience takes place in two phases:

  • Phase 1. Catalytic Coursework: Over three, 8 hour Saturdays in September and October, students and postdocs develop the skills and tools needed to launch their career exploration. The course includes: 1) a self-assessment and analysis using myIDP and MBTI; 2) an overview of career exploration and “working identity” theory; 3) an overview of the tools needed to gather information about careers of interest, and; 4) a workshop to prepare for informational interviews and job shadows.
  • Phase 2. Career Exploration in Peer Teams: From November through May, doctoral students and postdocs use the skills and information from the catalytic course to explore different career paths through informational interviews and guided shadowing experiences via MINDbank (below). Students and postdocs share what they learn about career paths with members of their peer team (6 trainees per team, plus 2 facilitators), and in MINDbank. Peer teams help maintain motivation as students and postdocs work through repeated iterations of a propose-and-test model of exploration. At the conclusion of the Peer Team phase, participants will have concrete plans for undertaking deeper exploration and/or transitional experiences for careers of interest.

MINDbank is a crowd-sourced curated databank of career information. MIND trainees identify appropriate MINDbank partners, who are PhD level-professionals in the biomedical workforce, to conduct informational interviews and submit takeaways from their conversations with MINDbank partners. Eventually, the information provided by the MINDbank partners and MIND students/postdocs will be aggregated for the public interface, at which point doctoral students and trainees nationwide will be able to explore MINDbank for information in a wide range of career paths and jobs. Aggregate information for particular careers will include the skills and tasks required for those jobs, which will assist biomedical graduate students and postdocs to navigate a transition into a new career path.

The Faculty Experience
The faculty experience aims to augment the knowledge and motivation of faculty to mentor their students and postdocs through career exploration. Therefore, in collaboration with the faculty and senior campus leaders, we aim to design, implement and evaluate interventions to change UCSF culture that addresses both the needs and concerns of faculty.

  • Needs Assessment with Faculty: We will conduct focus groups and one-on-one interviews to identify the perspectives of faculty, both in their roles both as researchers, as well as mentors of students and postdocs who are considering their career options. This information will inform the development of a baseline survey for faculty.
  • Implementing resources and rewards: Using information from the needs assessment, we will work with campus leadership and faculty to design and implement interventions that provide the resources faculty need to effectively mentor their trainees’ career development.

Beginning Strategies

Graduate students and postdocs spend years cultivating their identities as a scientists, and a revisioning of their professional image can be daunting and overwhelming, leading to paralysis. UCSF’s Motivating INformed Decisions (MIND) Program is structured around the Career Identity model proposed by Prof. Herminia Ibarra1. This model emphasizes the need to develop new stories about a career path and to assimilate into a new professional group, in order to successfully move through the periods of self-doubt and uncertainty that are a normal part of the career exploration process. We target this motivational gap with resources and strategies that include: (1) the telling of career stories, as posters and through written narrative; (2) resources that emphasize the synthesis of job data with personal reflection on skills, interests and values; (3) moving away from career panels that focus on the career destination, and towards discussing the transition process; (4) peer support in small groups to maintain motivation. As facilitators, we continually seek to learn more about the nature of the barriers that hinder the career exploration process, and to develop new strategies and tools to help our PhD and postdoctoral scientists overcome these. For more information, please refer to: Working Identity, Herminia Ibarra, Harvard Business School Press, 2003