Month: November 2016

Workshops in Preparing Future Professionals: A Model in Postdoc Career Development

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We were joined by Nathan Vanderford from the University of Kentucky on the second part of his seminar series, this time demonstrating valuable tools and lessons to develop a course or workshop on professional development for PhDs!





Realities of today’s workforce with PhD degrees

2% unemployment

52% within academic
48% outside academia

26% for profit
9% non-profit
8% federal employment
3% self-employed
2% state employment

Graduate students interest in moving into the tenure track declines over time:
41.7% First Year
21%Third Year
(Fuhmann et al CBE Life Sci Ed 2011)

But, there is no concerted training for alternative careers!

Goals of the course:
– Understand the realities of the job market
– Realise what skills are required to transition
– Identify resources
– Take action to prepare for their chosen career

Five Major Didactic Requirements:

Career Exploration
– Explore the career paths that are of interest to them
– Written paper on necessary skills

Transferrable Skills
– Perform a self assessment and create action plans for improving identified weaknesses

Informational Interviews
– Students contact an individual in their ideal career and conduct an informational interview to develop networking skills
– How did the interviewee obtain their workplace skills?
– How did graduate skill prepare you for this career?
– Expand student’s network by asking for additional points of contact

Career Development
– Students obtain experiences in critical components of the job search process including résumé and cover letter writing
– Practice interviewing and job search execution

Student Engagement
– Students interact with guest speakers as well as present their finding from each assignment to promote student-driven discussions

Demographics:
6% Postdocs
55% PhD trainees
32% Master’s students
6% Other (undergraduates, non-degree seekers)

Course Strengths:
– Safe environment to explore their career options and work through options in a positive way
– Self-assessment
– Identification of career options
– Student engagement
– Student-driven discussion
– Diversity of disciplines
– Development of work readiness skills

Course Challenges:
– Diversity of disciplines (which guest speakers, from which disciplines)
– Tuition (who pays?)
– Permission to attend (scheduling of the class versus time spend for research)
– Course versus workshop format

Course versus Workshop Format

Course:
Positives:
– Sustained engagement
– Incentives (grade) to participate
– Effective platform for exercises

Challenges:
– Costly
– Limited reach
– PI resistance

Workshop:
Positives:
– Free
– Reach a larger audience

Challenges:
– Interrupted engagement
– No incentive to participate in exercises
– Non-effective platform for exercises

Future Plans:
Certificate Program:
– Work hours component (4 hours)
– Course hours (2 hours)

Tips for trainees:

Goal setting tips:
– Write out goals and map out a strategy
– Post your goals where you can easily see them

Career Exploration and Networking:
– LinkedIn
– Alumni network
– Informational interviews
– Work Experience

Transferrable skills:
– Functional skills
– Knowledge-based skills
– Personal traits and attitudes

– A realistic assessment helps with your placement and career success

Tools to assess transferrable skills:
– Science Careers myIDP
– Gallup StrengthsFinder
– SkillScan
– MN Career Pathways
– Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

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