What’s Next? Take Time to Explore Your Career Options

 Marketing Director   June 7, 2021  Career Planning

This article is from the National Postdoctoral Network. Mark your calendars for July 12 & 13! HERC is partnering with the National Postdoctoral Network on its 2021 NPA Gender Equity Summit. The summit will explore issues across the full spectrum of gender, delving into obstacles surrounding gender equality in the postdoctoral community. Over the course of two days, the virtual summit presents a series of interactive, roundtable discussions, meant to further discussions on the importance of gender equity. Registration is free – sign up today!

Career development is an iterative multi-stage process of self-assessment, career exploration, career choice refinement, and finally focused job searching. Career exploration allows you to consider aspects to incorporate into your future career and learn about potential career options to start.

Self-assessment tools take inventory of your skills (things you’re good at), your interests (things you like to do), and your values (job attributes that are important to you) to identify satisfying careers that might be a great fit.

You can also explore by talking to people who are in various careers through informational interviewing and networking, researching different career fields, and trying out careers using a job simulations tool or taking on part-time internships.


Self-assessment is important throughout the career process. An initial self-assessment can help you identify and refine your interests, ideal work tasks and environments as well as your work style. Periodic self-assessment can also help guide you in creating your individual development plan and refining your goals as you move through your postdoc.

Some good self-assessment websites oriented toward those with doctoral degrees include myIDP and ImaginePhD. If you are interested in pursuing an academic career, check out the Academic Career Readiness Assessment developed by UCSF.

Informational Interviewing and Networking

Another great strategy is to conduct informational interviews. Informational interviews are informal conversations that help you learn more about what it’s like to work in a particular type of position.

Networking is also a critical part of the career exploration and job search processes. Networking involves creating focused connections within your area of career interests. Networking can serve many purposes, including identifying sources for informational interviews, potential job leads, or potential professional collaborators and mentors. Many people are uncomfortable with the idea of networking, but good networking involves a mutually beneficial connection, and it’s important to remember that you also bring value to the relationship. The Career Center at UC Berkeley has compiled a guide for Informational Interviewing.

Creating and maintaining an up-to-date LinkedIn profile is great way to stay in touch with people you meet. Many recruiters use LinkedIn to search for talent, so having a complete profile is very helpful for the job search.

An important tool during both the networking and interview processes is the elevator pitch. The elevator pitch is a short statement that briefly explains your research and career goals. Developing a succinct and focused statement that can be adapted for different contexts is an art developed with practice. The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) has created a short video that discusses tips for elevator pitches, introductions, and etiquette.

Career Paths and Options, Particularly for Postdocs

There are a variety of career options after the completion of your postdoc. Fortunately, there are resources to help you understand and explore these different paths. Some common paths include research, teaching, administration, policy, communication, consulting, and entrepreneurship. The positions can be in all areas of research enterprise including higher education, other non-profit organizations, industry, government agencies or a business you may start yourself.

Excellent tools include:

You have a huge variety of career options available and this may sometimes feel overwhelming. However, it is important to remember that there are many career resources available to help you with the process. Working with others, whether a career specialist, a mentor, or others via social media, are all great ways to stay focused, receive feedback and feel supported through the process.

This content was adapted with permission from the National Postdoctoral Association’s “A Postdoc’s Guide To Career Development” – access the full guide and other career resources at the NPA’s Postdocs Resource Library.