Career Planning for STEM Postdocs and PhD Students
"Advancing your Career Plan for STEM Postdocs and PhD Students" This workshop was given at the University of California, Irvine in June 2015. We used the myIDP website to help attendees in their career planning.
remember to start with the group discussion of the case study, to help attendees to connect with each other ask who’s in the audience: postdocs vs grad students biosciences, physical sciences, engineering, math/CS, etc
I arranged for them to eat pizza and discuss the case study for the first 15 minutes or so ask for their disciplines and roles (postdocs or grad students)
I purposely chose a career path outside of most STEM careers watch the video how would you characterize their career development and job search? they were persistent, working long and hard they were often told no, but persisted they led interesting lives outside of their jobs; they didn’t just do their work in their current job, what skills are similar or relevant to your own work (current or anticipated)?
Most UC doctoral alumni are in higher ed, and the rate is much higher than the national average This table is for all disciplines Emma has the full report and can provide more details if people are interested
From: The missing piece to changing the university culture. Maximiliaan Schillebeeckx, Brett Maricque & Cory Lewis. Nature Biotechnology 31, 938–941 (2013) Since 1982, almost 800,000 PhDs were awarded in science and engineering (S&E) fields, whereas only about 100,000 academic faculty positions were created in those fields within the same time frame. The number of S&E PhDs awarded annually has also increased over this time frame, from ~19,000 in 1982 to ~36,000 in 2011. The number of faculty positions created each year, however, has not changed, with roughly 3,000 new positions created annually.
Keith R. Yamamoto, Ph.D. is Vice Chancellor for Research at UCSF, Executive Vice Dean of the School of Medicine, and Professor of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology. A PhD provides a “hub” with many career option spokes possibly ask this; I didn’t ask this during this session for ChemE, because they weren’t very talkative As you see this, does this overwhelm you, or excite you with all the options? there was a mix of responses, but many seemed to be excited, as opposed to feeling overwhelmed
You may initially feel overwhelmed The next step of focusing will help define some preferences and boundaries in your options
Comparative Analysis of Soft Skills: What is important for new graduates? Perceptions of Employers, Alum, Faculty and Students Michigan State University, College of Agriculture & Natural Resources, 2011 A joint study with the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the University Industry Consortium (UIC) Pat Crawford, Suzanne Lang, Wendy Fink, Robert Dalton, Laura Fielitz a study of over 30 universities and over 280 employers, mostly from the sciences, esp those in the agricultural sciences Employers (those who will be hiring you) consider professional soft skills to be the most important. Alumni (those with whom you’ll be working and who sit on search committees) also think the same Faculty probably think that discipline knowledge is the most important, because they do research and teach their disciplines. But students probably follow faculty because they are strongly influenced by faculty from sitting in their classes and doing research under them. In the same study, employers ranked new graduates low in their soft skills, and high in their discipline knowledge But students ranked themselves high in soft skills and lower in discipline knowledge So you may need to address this difference of perceptions in your interactions with potential employers
Kruger, Justin, and David Dunning. "Unskilled and unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one's own incompetence lead to inflated self assessments." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 77 (1999): 1121-1134. Their observations were confirmed with a similar experiment in their psychology class (Dunning, Kruger, et al; Curr Directions Psychol Sci, 2003, 12, 83–87) where students guessed their scores right after taking a course exam. Much literature in education and learning, and in psychology points to our lack of self-awareness
Sigma Xi (Xi is pronounced with a "Z" sound-"Zi"-as in "xylophone") was founded in 1886 to honor excellence in scientific investigation and encourage a sense of companionship and cooperation among researchers in all fields of science and engineering. The Greek letters "sigma" and "xi" form the acronym of the Society's motto, "Spoudon Xynones," which translates as "Companions in Zealous Research.“ I looked closer at the survey: The survey refers to postdocs with “structured oversight” and not with structured plans They had greater satisfaction, were more productive (# papers), had reported fewer conflicts with the PI, and rated their PI as higher
ask them to open their laptops or tablets and start
ask them to open their laptops or tablets and start
as scientists, you are probably aware and thinking about your skills and interests, but probably less about values but there was a recent study that showed that grad students and postdocs used their values to guide their career planning than they originally thought
Fiske has a PhD, is a writer for Science Careers, and an author and speaker his model is similar to other models on career planning we’ll just focus on self-assessment for today I’ll email or post Fiske’s pdf file if they want to see more this isn’t meant to be a simple 4-step process; you often go back and forth between the steps, and even cycle through it multiple times; as you get rejection notices, you have to re-assess your skills, your connections, etc
Unplanned events more often determine life and career choices than all the careful planning we do. A chance meeting, a broken appointment, a hobby — can lead to unexpected career choices. Krumboltz and Levin actively encourage readers to anticipate frequent changes, to take advantage of chance events, and to make the most of what life offers.
share my career story, and/or have Emma share her story
My journey was broad but driven by things I was passionate about.
Even the types of jobs I interviewed were broad…common theme Science Communication?
UCI-GPS a great resource that provides professional soft skill training year round
UCI’s BEST (GPS-BIOMED) is program moving toward providing more career-specific information, programming and opportunities
I finished at 1:15, but wanted to see what they wanted to do they didn’t seem very talkative, so I left it open a couple of students asked questions
Some might ask: shouldn’t we know ourselves really well? I’ll be the first to admit: this isn’t a brand new idea, and this should be obvious, but there’s evidence to show that this isn’t trivial. Ask students: do you think that you use your strengths most days now?
from Council of Grad Schools – CGS flyer called “Open Doors with a Doctorate” 2014
https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/09/15/nsf-data-find-very-low-unemployment-rates-science-engineering-and-health-phds Unemployment among Doctoral Scientists and Engineers Remained Below the National Average in 2013 NSF 14-317 | September 2014 by Lance A. Selfa and Steven Proudfoot
from Phil Clifford’s presentation at TWD 2013, slide 12
Career Planning for STEM Postdocs and PhD Students
Advancing your Career Plan
for STEM Postdocs & PhD Students
June 4, 2015 at UC Irvine
Steve Lee, PhD
Graduate Diversity Officer for the STEM Disciplines
Introductory Case Study for Group Discussion:
Mary and her husband John were feeling squeezed by their financial situation. Both are almost done with
their postdoc appointments, and want to start a family soon, but they are worried that they would not
have enough money to live comfortably with children in the LA area (where their extended families
reside). Recently, a sales rep visiting Mary’s lab told her about a newly available Field Applications and
Sales Scientist position at his company (a major microscope vendor). In their discussion, he happened to
mention that she could double her current salary in that role, so she was naturally intrigued. Mary applied
for the job, got an interview, and was offered the position. With strong encouragement from her
husband, she was about to accept the offer when she began to have second thoughts:
• “Sure the money is going to be nice but how will I balance future childcare issues with the extensive
travel required in that job?”
• “I initially chose scientific research to make an impact on my field, work on cutting edge questions,
and maybe even make a real difference in peoples’ lives. Will I be able to realize those goals in this
• “If I were to work in this position temporarily to get some experience and earn some money, will I be
able to transition into my ideal job later? How would this temporary job look on my resume?”
• “This Field Apps/Sales position has a base‐salary‐plus‐commission salary structure. The people I met
during my interviews all seemed money motivated. I mean, they all seemed really happy with their
jobs and everything, but they sure talked a lot about the extra hours they spent working to meet their
sales goals. Money is important, but I don’t think I want to work SO many hours, away from my family,
in order to make a higher level of sales and get that extra commission.”
Mary realized that she might not find this position so satisfying after all.
Discuss these questions within your group:
• What would you do in this situation?
• How would you go about making your decision? What would be your decision-making process?
• Who would you ask for help, advice, support, etc?
(adapted from “Work-Related Values: What is Important to You?” by B. Lindstaedt, P. Clifford, C.
Fuhrmann, and J. Hobin; http://myIDP.sciencecareers.org)
References, and other Career Planning and Self-Assessment Resources:
● Bolles, Richard “What Color is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters & Career-
○ Many consider this to be the “bible” of career planning. A new edition is published every year.
● Ibarra, Herminia “Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career”
○ A valuable book for those contemplating a significant career transition
● Krumboltz, John and Levin, Al “Luck is No Accident: Making the Most of Happenstance in Your Life
and Career”; 2nd
○ This is the first career planning book that actively encourages readers to create their own
unplanned events, to anticipate changing their plans frequently, to take advantage of chance
events, and to make the most of what life offers. Krumboltz is faculty at Stanford is one of the
most honored and highly respected psychologists in the career development field.
● Schillebeeckx, M.; Maricque, B.; Lewis, C. Nature Biotechnology, 2013, 31, 938–941.
○ Graph of new faculty positions vs new PhDs came from this paper.
● Toor, Rachel “The Art of the Ask”; Chronicle of Higher Ed, Nov 28, 2011
● Keith Yamamoto (UCSF) talks about careers in the biomedical sciences for grad students and
● Videos of informational interviews
● Videos from Paths to Pixar
● The Seven Success Stories and Your Forty-Year Vision Exercises
○ The seven stories help you to reflect on past patterns of success, and to see if you can replicate
those patterns or circumstances.
○ The 40-year vision helps you to dream of your ideal future, and develop specific goals for you to
achieve your dreams
● Myers-Briggs Type Indicators (MBTI)
○ The MBTI instrument assesses your preferences within four areas: how you relate to people,
gather information, make decisions, and interact with the outside world.
○ a free, unofficial version is at: http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp
○ a book to help understand and apply the MBTI: “Please Understand Me II”, by David Keirsey
○ The Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment identifies your strengths from among 34 themes and
within four domains. Purchasing the “Strengths Based Leadership” book will provide background
and an access code to take the online assessment.