Whether you are seeking a career in academia, industry, government or the non-profit sector, it is important to communicate your skills to employers. There are skills that almost every employer seeks no matter the sector. These often include: analytical, writing, leadership, communication and problem solving skills. Your work as a trainee has given you many opportunities to develop these skills. As emphasized in a Science Careers article, “The Transferable Postdoc,” don’t underestimate these abilities.
You can identify skills that you have already developed which will transfer to your next professional position. If you think about examples that show when you used these skills, you will be more confident about presenting these skills to potential employers.
In a training position, you may have strengthened your skills in a variety of ways. A postdoc experience is deconstructed as an example in the chart below:
||Application of Skill|
|Designing, planning and trouble-shooting projects|
|Writing Skills||Writing memos, reports and
papers for publication
|Public Speaking Skills|| Presenting your work in a lab
meeting or at a professional conference
|Communication Skills|| Negotiating how to carry out projects/experiments with your
PI and/or colleagues
|Leadership Skills|| Mentoring postbacs, graduate
students and other lab technicians
The National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) has determined six core competencies and they even created a self-assessment checklist to help you rate your current level. This can help you identify any gaps in your skills set. If you haven’t yet taken time to focus on some of these skill areas, particularly the communication and leadership skills, you can find opportunities now to get involved. Organizations like Felcom, your professional associations and NIH Institutes or Centers can provide good opportunities to develop skills.
• Volunteer to work on a committee or group to plan an event or program.
• Volunteer to mentor postbacs or summer students.
• (Professional Development) workshops and events also provide ways to strengthen skills or learn new ones. At the NIH, the OITE offers workshop on topics that include: teaching science, leadership, how to deal with conflict and many others. Check with your institutions to see what services they provide.
There are many other resources available to help you identify your strengths and skills. Start with myIDP*, http://myidp.sciencecareers.org/. This assessment tool will get you started thinking about skills interests and values, and can help you start planning your next career step with more confidence.
As a follow up, then meet with a career counselor, who can help you with goal setting and career planning as well. If you are an intramural trainee, you can make a free individual appointment with a career counselor by going to: https://www.training.nih.gov/career_services.
*Noting this resource does not constitute an endorsement by NIH OITE