By Courtney Kurtyka, PhD
What to do after your postdoctoral fellowship ends is a difficult decision. The job market is competitive, and you may feel as though career options are limited. To help ease this transition, numerous tools are available. On November 16, 2015, Dr. Yvette Pittman, associate director of the NICHD Office of Education, led a workshop covering one of these tools: the Individual Development Plan (IDP).
An IDP helps identify your best career matches and offers guidance and structure in how to pursue these paths. The Science Careers myIDP website is a convenient way to develop your own IDP. After creating a free and confidential account, you can complete several skills, interests, and value assessments that will point you to fitting career choices. As long as you answer these questions honestly, the site can present helpful job suggestions—including some that you might not have considered, or even heard about before.
Once you have your ranked list of career options, you can find links to articles, books, and professional societies related to each position in the “Career Exploration” section. There are twenty careers described on this website (including science policy, science writing, research administration, and intellectual property), so it is an excellent resource for finding information about a variety of positions.
Once you know which careers you want to pursue, Dr. Pittman recommends looking at your resume or curriculum vitae (CV) every four to six months to spot any “holes” needing attention. To help you obtain missing skills or experience, you can use the SMART goals section of the myIDP website.
SMART stands for:
(and additionally should include holding yourself accountable)
Setting SMART goals through the website can help you accomplish tasks necessary for your career development. For an added benefit, going through the IDP process will help you communicate your career goals to your PI. You can sign up for optional reminders on myIDP to ensure that you are sticking to your timeline.
Overall, it is never too early to start thinking about the next step for your career, and IDPs can help you stay on track. The sooner you can identify your career goals, the easier it will be to finish any activities and training that will make you a better job candidate. Since myIDP is flexible, you can always go back into your account to adjust your answers to the assessments and create new goals that suit your future career aspirations. Also, if you ever want further career advice, Dr. Pittman (firstname.lastname@example.org) is happy to help.