National Postdoctoral Association

Providing a national voice and seeking positive change for postdoctoral scholars

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Defining Your Goals and Interests

"Only you can be in control of your career and nobody cares more than you about your future."- Peter S. Fiske, Putting your Degree to Work

Individual Development Plan for Postdoctoral Fellows
The Individual Development Plan for postdocs was conceptualized by FASEB. Individual Development Plans, or IDPs, can help postdocs and mentors create a successful long-term strategy for postdoctoral training and career advancement.

    • Science Careers hosts an online tool for creating an individual development plan. Follow this link: myIDP

Self-Assessment and Self-Evaluation
When thinking about which career path to take, it is often helpful to conduct a self-assessment to identify skills and interests. The following tools might help:

How Can Taking an Assessment Help Me?

Formal Self-Assessment Tools:


  • Myers-Briggs Test:  a questionnaire that describes your preferred way of interacting; one of many free online tests can be found at HumanMetrics
  • Strong Interest Inventory: another personality test compares your interests with those of individuals successfully working in a range of jobs; the analysis usually incurs a fee (see if your institution's career services might offer it), but you can find free versions online (keep in mind that you often get what you pay for)
  • Career Beliefs Inventory: a career counseling tool that can help identify and overcome attitudes that interfere with choosing a career
  • Core Competencies: The NPA established six core competencies to offer guidance to individual postdoctoral scholars who must seek out relevant training experiences, in collaboration with mentors, institutions, and other advisors who provide this training.
  • SciPhD: SciPhD offers an Online Self Assessment Training course. NPA Affiliate or Individual Members can receive a 25% discount on this course.


Doing Your Homework

After self-assessment you may have a general idea about your interests and what you may enjoy doing. But the difficult question is how will you find a tailor made career to suit your likes? It's time to do your homework and learn about potential careers and the job market  you may be entering.

Career Options for PhDs
This section describes potential career paths for PhDs and provides links related to those careers.

Postdoc Workforce Issues
Career trends and reports that can help you keep informed about the job market.

Consult Guidebooks on Careers
There is an evergrowing list of useful guides to career planning for those with a PhD or research background. Here are a few places to start.


Other lists of useful career books:

Choosing Your Postdoc


Informational Interviewing
Another important tool is informational interviewing, where you set up an informal interview with someone who has a job you find interesting.  Find out about the type of work that they do and what their typical day is like.

    • Mary Mitchell, President of The Mitchell Organization, guides you through the essential skills for how you present yourself during the interview process in the United States. During this online program, "Presenting Yourself to Your Best Advantage," Ms. Mitchell explains the key elements of the interview process, while helping you build your personal "professional presentation style." NPA members receive a discount on this online program.

Networking allows postdocs and professional to cultivate relationships with people who can be helpful to one professionally, especially in finding employment or moving to a higher position.



National Postdoctoral Association * 1200 New York Avenue, NW, Suite 956 * Washington, DC 20005
Phone: 202.326.6424 * Fax: 202.371.9849