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Planning Your Career Development

Every now and then, it is worth standing back and asking what you want to get from the next year or two in terms of your development and progress. This is particularly the case for postdocs who often have a limited number of years in the role. A postdoc position is usually thought of as a stepping stone to, or preparation for, a more permanent role choice. We strongly encourage postdocs to create a personal development plan (PDP) at the start of their post-doctorate that sets out what they want to get out of doing the role, asking question such as:

  • What experience do you want to gain?
  • What specific skills would you like to learn or sharpen?
  • What contacts would you like to establish and develop during this time?
  • How will you build your network?
  • How will you build your research credibility and profile?
  • What does your CV need to look like by the end of your postdoc to help get you to the next place you want to be?

Having created your personal development plan, re-visit it at six monthly intervals. Are you on track? Are other opportunities presenting themselves that might open new doors and lead to possibilities you hadn’t thought of when you started your postdoc? Postdocs in the USA are encouraged to produce an Individual Development Plan (a personal development plan by a different name). The IDP encourages them to think about their key objectives, identify people who might be able to mentor them, carry out a skills assessment and then produce a plan for the year ahead to develop in specific areas. It also encourages them to think longer term. What do they see as their longer-term goals? There are many examples of IDPs on the internet. This example IDP from UC San Diego is typical.

Don’t keep your plan to yourself. Share it with your PI, and with your mentor or any other supportive colleague. Seek advice, feedback and guidance. And don’t simply create your plan then file it away. Review it, update it and use it to judge your progress. In particular, use it in preparation for your annual PDR review.

If you need guidance in identifying directions for your career, contact  the Careers Service and arrange an appointment to discuss your possibilities.