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Career Planning Resources
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"Only you can be in control of your career and nobody cares more than you about your future."

- Peter S. Fiske, Put Your Science to Work


Career Planning

Graduate Student Resource for Choosing a Postdoc


Individual Development Plan for Postdoctoral Fellows
The Individual Development Plan for postdocs was conceptualized by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (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:

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 that 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.

International Postdoc Survival Guide

The Current State of the Postdoc Experience

An interview with the NPA's former executive director about seeking a postdoc.

Finding the Perfect Postdoc Position

An elegant article written by one of the NPA's founding members, Carol Manahan.

From geek to chic by Peter Fiske.


Career Exploration

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 doctoral recipients and provides links related to those careers.


Searchable Funding Database

Career Path Videos

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

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.

    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," 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.

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

    Other lists of useful career books:

    Skill Development

    Writing a Letter of Recommendation
    A letter of recommendation provides support for an individual who is under consideration for an award, employment, graduate study or other opportunity.  The letter of recommendation should present a well-documented evaluation, providing evidence and information to help a selection committee make a decision.

    As a young professional you might not only need career support from others, you might have to actively support junior and senior colleagues.  You might be asked to submit a letter of recommendation on behalf of an individual being considered for a local, regional, national or international award/promotion, or for employment, graduate study or other opportunities.

    Postdoctoral researchers often find it challenging to write a compelling letter of recommendation, so the NPA Resource Development Committee has compiled a list of free resources.




    Responsible Conduct of Research Toolkit

    Teaching Resources for Postdoctoral Scholars

    Institutional Resources

    With the increasing flow of postdocs into diverse careers, including both research in the academic, government and industrial sectors, and non-research careers, it is important to ensure that postdocs are aware of the various career paths open to them, and how to acquire the skill sets necessary to succeed. For any institution with a significant number of postdoctoral scholars, providing career development resources is a valuable way of enriching their postdocs’ long-term career prospects.


    All of the options covered in this section need considering from the point of view of the institutional budget. Many career resources will require some financial support, and if these resources are provided on a regular basis, allowances should be made in the institution’s operating budget.