Monday, September 10, 2012

Online career path guidance for science PhD's

I saw a link to myIDP this morning from the Condensed Concepts blog. myIDP (IDP is short for individual development plan) is a free service for assisting individuals who have science PhD's with finding careers that fit their skills and interests. The service presents and discusses a list of possible career routes, including many that lie outside of academia.

I am quickly approaching graduation, so I took a look at the site and filled out a few of the questionnaires. The three primary questionnaires for evaluating my career options considered my interests, skills sets, and values. I was pleased to see that many skills that I consider myself to be strong in (writing, communicating, and presenting, for example) were included in the survey. I was also pleased that "traditional" graduate student and scientific skills (performing experiments, processing data, etc.) filled only a small fraction of the possible skill sets that might be considered important.

myIDP goes further than simply displaying a percentage for how well a career field correlates with my responses to the questionnaires. It listed several questions that were based on my responses that I am to ask myself concerning these fields and my values. The questions relate to my highest rated values and serve as a guide while establishing my goals. For example, I responded that a good work location was very important to me. The questions I need to consider are whether there are geographic clusters for a specific field and whether these  areas would fulfill my lifestyle requirements.

The inclusion of many different career possibilities in myIDP has been very reassuring. I became concerned about two years ago that my original choice of career path, a faculty research and teaching position, did not correlate well with my values. I also realized that my institution and advisor are poorly equipped to place students into non-traditional science jobs. All of this led to some anxiety on my part because I was beginning to suspect that I had taken a wrong career path. Fortunately, I've learned that there are many options for me and that I shouldn't necessarily compromise on my interests and values just to maintain a sort of status quo for scientific careers.