Albert Chen, an MD/PhD student at the University of Michigan designed the ACE plan. ACE is short for Active Career Exploration. According the Chen and colleagues within their four-part series on Science Careers, “ACE is your protocol for career experimentation, a logical progression of steps designed to overcome common barriers and give visible results after just 10 hours.”
Just 10 hours?
To be clear, the authors note that this means 10 hours within one month. The steps aren’t meant to be drawn out over, say the last year of your postdoc.
Here is how the 10 hours break down:
2 hours = Read and reflect
3 hours = Send cold emails to people you don’t know
3 hours = Meet people for informational interviews
2 hours = Form your career plan
Chen created a guide to help you within your ACE Plan entitled “Cold E-mails and Hot Coffee” which can be downloaded for free. One of authors’ guiding principles was to create limits on how much time a person could spend in one section since it can be so easy to get stuck in an area which feels the most comfortable to you.
Many trainees at the NIH are well-versed on the first step: reading and reflecting. Many times this equates to trying to do their own research on a career field through articles and books; however, they then have a hard time making that leap into the second and third stages – the more active phases – which include sending cold emails and meeting people for informational interviews. The read and reflect phase spans into months instead of a mere two hours.
Why do people get stuck making the leap to the second and third phases within the ACE Plan?
Well, often because sending cold emails to people you don’t know feels awkward and you worry it won’t be well-received. Chen and colleagues understand these challenges, so they devoted a whole article on how you can do this part well. It is extremely important to normalize this networking process because it is so key to your career development. Often the worst that happens is you just don’t hear back.
If you have attended any of our workshops at the OITE, then the ACE Plan will sound very familiar to you. It is a new spin on common recommendations, but perhaps the time-limited approach will resonate with you.
Give it a try and let us know how the 10 hour ACE plan worked for you!