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Employ Thyself: Step 2 – Learn Your Options

Before beginning this step, please complete step 1 as described in, “Employ Thyself: Step 1- Know Yourself”. With your writing exercises nearby, continue to explore your career options.

First, let me start by addressing the concept of the “dream job”. Ambitious young job seekers are particularly vulnerable to the allure of that one dream job which will make us feel successful and happy. As though all our education and hard-work has given us a need for a position within a perfect environment that meets all our needs. This job does not exist. Let us reframe this concept as many paths to success. In this, we see many choices for success and happiness and recognize that none of these possible jobs can meet all our needs. Thus, we must prioritize our needs and see this next position as one of many within the context of a career plan.
In the previous article, we focused on developing a clear sense of self. Keep this frame of mind as you extend your reach for resources and knowledge.

Evidence-based Approach

Historical data – where your predecessors found employment
Whatever your education level, you can find relevant career outcome and workforce data. Use career outcome data to educate yourself on paths explored by your predecessors. In this article, I will continue through the perspective of biomedical doctorates. Thanks to the heroic efforts of several science advocacy groups, career outcome date for biomedical doctorates is becoming more transparent. As you can see from the data in Xu et al. 2018, University of Chicago’s career outcomes data, and UCSF’s Graduate Program Statistics; there are many paths available to biomedical doctorates.

Current data – employment outlook

National agencies, such as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, provide a broad overview of workforce data and trends. If you are already trained in a particular field, you may want to look at more specific data such as the BU’s BEST Biomedical Workforce Reports (supported by NIH grant – OD020322-04). These data are based on job postings within the United States. In browsing the data, you will find information on the top job titles, employers, and skills. You will also find demand maps indicating the geographic locations with the United States where jobs are prevalent. Lastly, you can look at the trends reflected in the “job posting per year” as an indicator of job growth or recession.

Local Resources

Explore locally available resources such as city or regional workforce centers and university career centers (see also offices of career development or professional development). These offices exist to help you explore career options and chart a path to success.

Online Resources

Use online tools to learn more about job families. The Imagine Ph.D. tool was designed for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the humanities and social sciences, but I find this tool to be more broadly applicable to all researchers. Look at the job families and complete assessments of your interests, skills, and values. The Science Careers myIDP may be helpful to biomedical scientists.

Informational Interviews

Long before you start applying, start learning more about the work culture and the daily responsibilities of jobs. The best way to do this is to set up a time to chat with a current employee in a job that interests you. LinkedIn is a great way of identifying people to speak with from your primary and secondary connections. If you have not built up your network sufficiently, explore your alumni network or formal mentor networks in your area. A college, nonprofit, or volunteer group may organize mentor networks or interest groups. Before each informational interview, learn about the person’s career trajectory and prepare 3-5 questions.

Career Coach

When you are feeling lost or overwhelmed by the process of career exploration, turn to a trusted career coach for assistance. Career coaches not only help job seekers perfect resumes and prepare for interviews but can also help you learn about possible options that you may not have considered or known about.

Knowing Your Options Exercise

As you explore your career options through the resources indicated above, you are sure to feel overwhelmed and lost. Use the worksheet below to keep notes and make informed decisions. I suggest listing 3-5 job titles under at least 3 different career tracks.

Career track ______________
Job title ___________________
Notes:____________________________________________________________________________________________
Pros: ___________, ____________, _____________
Cons: ___________, ____________, _____________

Last modified: June 26, 2018

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