It's time to run your career exploration experiments
You have some idea what your next step may be. Let's explore that.
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You've done the reading, you've done the thinking, you've searched the Google. To get a real perspective on what a career is like, however, you need to start talking to people.
One of the best ways to get insider information about a career is to talk with someone currently doing that work. Plus, informational interviewing is a great way to start expanding your professional network and finding supporters who can help you along the way. Before you conduct an informational interview, make sure you're prepared to put your best foot forward. Check out the Events Calendar and find the next informational interviewing workshop or watch the recoded session on our YouTube channel.
One of the easiest ways to start your informational interviewing process is by talking to alumni. Whether graduate or postdoctoral training, alumni have been where you are now. For many alumni, they are more than happy to share their transition lessons learned with you - you just need to reach out. The CDO can make it even easier for you. Take a look through our Alumni Informational Interviewing database to browse our amazing alumni careers and start building out your support network!
As you begin to explore careers and expand your professional network, it's also important to make sure you're highlighting what you offer. Enter LinkedIN. LinkedIn is one of the best tools to help you find jobs, companies, and people of interest. It's also a handy way to ask for informational interviews. As you start this phase of your exploration process, make sure your LinkedIn is on point. Check out the Events Calendar and find the next LinkedIn workshop or watch the recoded session on our YouTube channel.
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Gathering perspectives from professionals can vastly expand your understanding of what a career is like. But that's still second-hand information. To further build confidence this career is for you, find some opportunities to test out these activities for yourself.
Testing out your choice becomes critical to know whether you actually enjoy a career's tasks or if they just sound good. Job simulations are an easy, self-paced, mechanism for you to try out a variety of different career responsibilities. By completing job simulations, you can get a small taste of what your day-to-day life will actually be like in that specific career.
Whether you're interested in an academic career, industry career, government, or not-for-profit, there's likely a campus organization where you can test out that option. Not only can you start building career-relevant skills and gaining real-world experience, but you'll also strengthen your network by connecting with peers who share your interests. And, participating with a campus organization can help you distinguish yourself from other applicants and gives you great stories to talk about your skills during interviews.
There also are often formal ways to test out a career. Many companies offer internships, some of which you can find posted on our Handshake Jobs Board or posted on a company's website. Many more opportunities are available and just not posted - if there's a company that interests you, take the initiative and ask about internships! This is even easier after you've built some connections through your informational interviews. And there's always freelance opportunities for consulting and science communication careers.
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Now that you've talked with professionals and tested out some job activities, it's time to put what you've learned into practice.
An individual development plan (IDP) is a great way to ensure you are on track to meet you goals. Now that you know what your career goal is, it's a great time to complete an IDP with that career goal in mind. Start with your end goal and work backwards to set the short and intermediate goals you need to get you there. There are many different online IDP resources, including the CDO's online IDP tool. Or you can revisit the AAAS myIDP that you used in your self-reflections. Whatever you choose, make a plan for moving forward.
The National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) has identified six core competencies that every postdoctoral fellow should acquire by the end of their training. Graduate students should begin building these competencies now. Additionally, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) has identified eight competencies for career readiness. Along with your career-specific skill preparation, make sure to focus on these broad competencies that will help you regardless of which path you choose.
Now that you have a better sense for the types of skills and experiences desired by your chosen career, ensure that your LinkedIn profile is highlighting them. This is also a time to bring in your personality traits (e.g., StrengthsFinder), so that potential employers can see the full spectrum of skills you offer. Want some help? Check out the CDO LinkedIn workshop for some guidance.
You know what you need to learn, you just don't know where to learn it. Good news, the CDO offers many workshops designed to teach you the skills you need to succeed regardless of your career choice (emotional intelligence, conflict resolution, etc.). In addition to the CDO, the CCTSI, the Health Sciences Library and our Office of Research Development and Education also provide many workshops that can help you gain the skills you need to move on in your career.
Plus, there are now a number of great external organizations that also provide online access to skill building workshops. For example, iBiology offers great, free, online courses that help you build your science skillset, the NIH's OITE provides access to their trainings on their YouTube channel, and the National Postdoc Association has monthly webinars. CU Denver/Anschutz also provides access to Coursera, which provides access to an endless number of free online courses to build the skills you need.
LinkedIn Learning (LL) has over 16,000 expert-Led, online video tutorials. Many of these courses will even result in a badge of completion that will be displayed on your LinkedIn profile. From data analysis to project management to building inclusive environments, LL has a course for you.
Graduate and postdoctoral training can be a very stressful time. In addition to the expectations to develop your research and manage multiple priorities, you also are dealing with the uncertainty of preparing for an unknown career. Learning to manage the stress and worry that is inherent to this stage of life is a key skill to set yourself up for success. Watch an NIH OITE webinar or attend one of our workshops on managing stress and anxiety and learn strategies that can help you unleash your full potential.
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When you have a clear direction and feel like you've gained the right experience, you're ready to put your best foot forward. Still have questions? Schedule a coaching session with the CDO to get some answers.