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Career Development

Monthly BLP Learning Lunches

Each month, the BLP cohort gets together for a learning lunch. These have involved lightning talks given by the trainees on their research and on challenges they have faced and overcome, as well as planning sessions for BLP site visits to biotechnology companies. Most learning lunches are on topics related to professional development, chosen by the trainees. Invited guests give short presentations followed by open discussion. Examples of recent learning lunches include:

  • Identifying and Applying for Postdoctoral Fellowships – Andrew Buller (Frances Arnold) and Sujit Datta (Rustem Ismagilov), who were both postdoctoral scholars at the time, joined the BLP cohort to provide advice for identifying postdoctoral fellowship opportunities. Both also shared their best practices for preparing competitive proposals for advanced fellowships, including the NIH K99/R00 and Burroughs Wellcome Career Awards at the Scientific Interface. Trainees received handouts summarizing key details about both of these programs, as well as the NIH F32 program.
  • Managing Your Professional Brand – Guest speaker Kim Mayer (Executive Director of the Rosen Bioengineering Center at Caltech) gave a PowerPoint presentation and led a discussion on several of the tools used to disseminate skills and capabilities, including the differences between CVs and resumes, how to effectively utilize LinkedIn, and how to prepare NIH/NSF biosketches.
  • Intellectual Property from a Graduate Student Perspective – Guest Hannah Dvorak Carbone (Director for Innovation, Patents & Licensing at Caltech) led an educational discussion about what constitutes intellectual property and how it is protected, then fielded questions from the trainees about how IP impacts and influences their own research.
  • Career Paths Outside the Lab – Three Caltech guests with PhDs who have followed career paths outside of the laboratory joined the cohort to discuss careers that have spanned federal-level policy work and corporate partnerships (Mary Beth Campbell, Director of Corporate Partnerships), technology transfer and management consulting (Hannah Dvorak Carbone, Director for Innovation, Patents & Licensing), and patent law and law clerk service (Chantal D’Apuzzo, Associate General Counsel). 

Individual Development Plan

BLP Trainees are required to complete an Individual Development Plan (IDP). The IDP is an online, personal, confidential record of assessments of skills and interests. The IDP also provides a repository to track career goals and related professional development activities. New trainees are instructed to register with AAAS Science Careers to begin the process of creating an IDP before the BLP orientation. 

The IDP can help clarify research and career goals, as well as provide a repository for information about your training, teaching and mentoring experience, and presentation/communication skills. The IDP can also help you focus your plan to develop transferable skills that will enhance your competitiveness regardless of whether you ultimately select a career in academia, industry, management, or other area. We recommend you use the information in your IDP as a conversation starter with your career mentor(s).

These and other expectations regarding the use of the IDP will be discussed during BLP orientation and annual progress update meetings.

Caltech Career Development Center Resources

Additional Career Resources

  • The Naturejobs blog aims to be the leading online resource for scientists in academia and industry who seek guidance in developing their careers. The blog delivers a mix of expert advice and personal stories to help readers review, set and achieve their career goals. 
  • NIH Best - Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training - has a section advising PhDs on how to Make a Plan for your career.
  • The Graduate Career Consortium provides national leadership and serves as a national voice for graduate-level career and professional development. GCC has a number of useful resources for graduate students.
  • Explore options for your next step after grad school at NIH's Office of Intramural Training & Education website
  • Discover a career at NIH - visit the Jobs@NIH website
  • Read about the varied careers of other PhDs in life science at iBiology
  • Use Glassdoor to look up company reviews, salary information, job postings, and interview questions and questions from over 300,000 companies in all industries. 
  • Leverage LinkedIn - the world’s largest professional network - to build relationships and connect with opportunity. LinkedIn Job Search helps you uncover insights such as whom you know at a company, providing you an edge in your job search.
  • BeyondAcademia, a student-run organization with the goal of empowering graduate students and post-docs to expand their careers beyond the traditional academic track, has compiled a list of professional profile resources.

Helpful Reading Material

Always check with your library to see if free access to physical or ebook versions might be available.

ReSearch: A Career Guide for Scientists (Evans et al., 2017) 
Provides step-by-step processes for the assessment of career goals and the actions that can be taken in order to achieve them. Includes chapters on the basics of career planning, determining unique selling points, and navigating work-life concerns. Includes narratives from a number of perspectives to showcase the variety of career options available. From the authors' introduction: "Throughout the book our readers will find activities to catalyze their career planning, expert insights from STEM professionals in a variety of careers, and key chapter takeaways designed to ensure that ReSearch is a valuable resource that our readers return to throughout their careers."

A Ph.D. Is Not Enough! A Guide to Survival in Science. Peter J. Feibelman

In A Ph.D. Is Not Enough!, physicist Peter J. Feibelman lays out a rational path to a fulfilling long-term research career. He offers sound advice on selecting a thesis or postdoctoral adviser; choosing among research jobs in academia, government laboratories, and industry; preparing for an employment interview; and defining a research program. The guidance offered in A Ph.D. Is Not Enough! will help you make your oral presentations more effective, your journal articles more compelling, and your grant proposals more successful. (Amazon 4.4/5 stars)

Getting What You Came For: The Smart Student's Guide to Earning an M.A. or a Ph.D. Robert L. Peters, Ph.D.

Based on interviews with career counselors, graduate students, and professors, Getting What You Came For is packed with real-life experiences. It has all the advice a student will need not only to survive but to thrive in graduate school, including: instructions on applying to school and for financial aid; how to excel on qualifying exams; how to manage academic politics―including hostile professors; and how to write and defend a top-notch thesis. Most important, it shows you how to land a job when you graduate. (Amazon 4.3/5 stars)

The Art of Being a Scientist: A Guide for Graduate Students and their Mentors. Roel Snieder.

This book is an outgrowth of the notes for the graduate course, "The Art of Science," taught by the authors at Colorado School of Mines. Topics covered in the book include: choosing a research topic, department, and advisor; making workplans; the ethics of research; using scientific literature; perfecting oral and written communication; publishing papers; writing proposals; managing time effectively; and planning a scientific career and applying for jobs in research and industry. The wealth of advice is invaluable to students, junior researchers and mentors in all fields of science, engineering, and the humanities. (Amazon 4.1/5 stars)

Don't Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style. Randy Olsen

Olson, with a Harvard Ph.D. and formerly a tenured professor of marine biology at the University of New Hampshire, recounts the lessons from his own hilarious-and at times humiliating-evolution from science professor to Hollywood filmmaker.  In Don't Be Such a Scientist, he shares the secrets of talking substance in an age of style. The key, he argues, is to stay true to the facts while tapping into something more primordial, more irrational, and ultimately more human. (Amazon 4.2/5 stars)

slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations. Nancy Duarte

This book is full of practical approaches to visual story development that can be applied by anyone. The book combines conceptual thinking and inspirational design, with insightful case studies from the world's leading brands. (Amazon 4.3/5 stars)

Am I Making Myself Clear?: A Scientist's Guide to Talking to the Public. Cornelia Dean

This book shows scientists how to speak to the public, handle the media, and describe their work to a lay audience on paper, online, and over the airwaves. (Amazon 4.0/5 stars)

Navigating the Path to Industry: A Hiring Manager’s Advice for Academics Looking for a Job in Industry. M.R. Nelson

This book provides a hiring manager’s advice on networking, conducting informational interviews, converting your curriculum vitae into a resume, writing a cover letter, interviewing, and maintaining your self-confidence throughout the job search process. This concise collection of job searching advice provides a framework for finding the way out of academia and into a new job for academics at all levels who have realized that they want an alternative career. (Amazon 4.7/5 stars)

Turning Science Into Things People Need: Voices of Scientists Working in Industry. David Giltner

In this book, ten respected scientists who have built successful careers in industry reveal new insights into how they made the transition from research scientist to industrial scientist or successful entrepreneur, serving as a guide to other scientists seeking to pursue a similar path. (Amazon 4.7/5 stars)