Adapt to Succeed!

By Tomas Kasza

How do doctoral recipients adapt their career interests and career searching techniques to pursue careers outside academic pathways? As a growing percentage of doctoral recipients enter non-academic careers, understanding how they choose or investigate those careers has become more important. In the article The New Normal: Adapting Doctoral Trainee Career Preparation for Broad Career Paths in Science the authors use the Social Cognitive Career Theory, which states that, “an individual’s career choice stems from their background (demographics, family education, etc.), as well as from their learning experiences, which in turn drive their self-efficacy and career outcome expectations.” A doctoral recipient’s effectiveness in investigating new careers and acquiring the needed skills for those careers is termed career search efficacy.

Most people assume that more institutional support for non-academic careers would result in better career outcomes, but does it actually improve the effectiveness of a student’s career search? Interestingly, career search efficacy determined the effectiveness of an advisor’s and graduate program’s support as well as the type of career development strategies those doctoral recipients pursued for a non-academic career. However, if a recipient perceived low levels of support from their advisors and program then this could result in a reduced career search efficacy and therefore limit their career options. In this sense, institutional support for doctoral recipients interested in non-academic careers is essential for higher career search efficacy to occur. With a lack of institutional support, a doctoral recipient could end up spending more time career-searching and acquiring necessary skills. Alternatively, doctoral recipients may end up lowering career expectations or missing out on great non-academic career fits entirely.

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If you feel that your program and institution are not giving you the support you need to identify non-academic careers you should check out these resources to improve your career search efficacy:

Some universities have addressed this problem by introducing programs that assist doctoral students and recipients in their career searches. iJOBS (Interdisciplinary Job Opportunities in the Biomedical Sciences) is a Rutger’s program funded by the NIH’S BEST (Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training) grant. iJOBS was established “To help PhDs discover these non-academic areas of opportunity and to provide the required training so that they are better prepared to work in the professional environment.” iJOBS holds a number of informative seminars that help students learn in-depth knowledge about diverse careers. Additionally, iJOBS runs programs for students interested in developing skills that are needed for non-academic jobs, such as the SciPhD. The iJOBS blog contains numerous resources investigating many different non-academic careers so be sure to check out our blog posts!

US Job Search for International Students: Focus on Informational Interviews

Bench Skills to the Rescue: How Skills Learned on the Bench Aid in Non-academic Career Paths, An Article Review

iJOBS, an overview of the iJOBS program and its services

The AAAS Individual Development Plan is a great tool to explore non-academic careers and for finding a career fit that matches your skill set and personal preferences. You will have to set up an account to access the resources.

Bitesizebio.com; contains several articles and blogposts that can bridge the gap between bench science and soft skills like networking

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