Making a Career Decision? Use the CASVE Cycle

August 22, 2016

Florida State University has a world-renowned career center which pioneered the Cognitive Information Processing theory.  According to Wikipedia, this “theory asserts that the major components involved in determining career decision-making and problem-solving effectiveness are the content and the process of career decisions. The importance of the content and process in career decision making can be described by using a metaphor of a recipe. To make a good dish (decision) one must have all necessary ingredients (content), and know how to follow cooking instructions (process).”

Today, we are going to focus on the instructions or the process.  This process is something that everyone will continually navigate through their own career development. CIP theory has put forth a CASVE decision-making cycle to help understand this process. The CASVE Cycle is a good career decision-making model which focuses on action-oriented steps detailing what you need to do. In this cycle, the process is broken down into five stages.

Communication – Analysis – Synthesis – Valuing – Execution (CASVE)

Image of the CASVE Cycle

“Identifying the problem or the gap”

This could be anything from “I need to find a new job” or “I have to choose a major”. It is important to be as specific as possible when identifying the presenting issue. According to the model, communication often boils down to external cues (events, significant others) and internal cues (emotions, physiological responses, and avoidance behavior).

“Understanding myself and my options”

This section focuses on self-knowledge like utilizing reflection, structured exercises, or even assessment instruments to gain more insights into your skills, values, and interests in order to gain more self-awareness. Knowledge about options can be gained by looking into more specifics about the options you have at hand. It might also be necessary to explore occupations, programs of study, and employers based on your skills, values, and interests which will help you understand the wide array of options available to you through your own personal filters/preferences.

“Expanding and then narrowing my list of options”

In this stage, you are trying to elaborate on your options in order to then crystallize them into a manageable set of options.  You are essentially checking for alternatives to see if there are other areas to explore.  You can generate occupational, educational, and employment options by doing interest inventories like the Strong Interest Inventory, or other informal assessments online, as well as by doing informational interviews.

In the narrowing phase of this stage, you are tasked with identifying no more than three alternatives, occupational or otherwise.

“Prioritizing alternatives”

Your prioritization of your educational, occupational, and employment alternatives conclude with an identification of your tentative primary and secondary choices.

This is accomplished by valuing the costs and benefits to: yourself, your significant others, your cultural group, your community and/or society at large.

“Implementing my choice”

This stage is about making a plan for implementing your tentative primary choice. Three key factors in beginning the execution of your choice include: 1. Reality testing 2. Preparation program and 3. Employment/Education Seeking.


Florida State University has put many of its resources and handouts about the CASVE cycle online and they are free for the public to utilize. Take advantage of this handout which allows you to describe your own career problem solving and decision-making process using the CASVE Cycle.

Another helpful resource is this exercise entitled “Guide to Good Decision-Making“.  It goes into more depth about each stage and even gives examples so you have a sense of how to complete this on your own.

Remember, that every decision will have its pros and cons. Very rarely is there a perfect decision to me made; however, hopefully this model will make you feel like you have taken the time to make a fully informed and well-contemplated career decision.


Science Careers in Industry: Top Ten Myths

May 9, 2016

Post written by Brad Fackler, MBAImage of a list with checked items. A pencil is to the right of the list.

When you have primarily worked in an academic setting, any other work path can seem like a confusing and scary venture. Many scientists consider career options in industry; however they often worry about what this transition will be like. Here are the top ten myths I often hear about an industry career in science.

1. I will have my project “yanked away.”

This thought is often repeatedly shared, but most of the industry scientists I have talked to have categorically denied this! In industry, projects often change for two basic reasons: 1. Your research was successful and the compound has moved on to a clinical trial.  2. Your project was unsuccessful and no further work is warranted at that time.  In both of these scenarios, an individual is generally given months advance notice for future planning. Moreover, you will likely be moved to a project where your skills and expertise can best be leveraged because most companies and bosses want employees who are scientifically engaged and happy.  After all, that helps with productivity in the end.

2. It is all about the money.

Funding is needed to make science happen, whether in the private or public sector and the total budgets between the two are pretty comparable. The fiscal year 2016 NIH research budget is $32,300,000,000, with this total accounting for extramural  (grants awarded to more than 300,000 researchers at more than 2,500 universities, medical schools, and other research institutions)  as well as intramural research spending.  In comparison, the sum of the top four pharma company’s R&D budgets in 2015 was $35,600,000,000. The breakdown is: Roche at $10.2B, Novartis at $9.3B, Merck at $8.2B, and Pfizer at $7.9B.

3. Industry conducts “bad” science.

Companies have to meet clear regulatory requirements by the FDA that academic labs generally aren’t held to. Development of drug therapy has virtually eliminated once common diseases like plague, polio, smallpox, tuberculosis, measles, and chicken pox. The average life expectancy after a cancer diagnosis is now greater than ten years.  With all of these advances, the average life expectancy in the US in 2015 is 80.6 for females and 75.9 for males. Compare that to the average US life expectancy 100 years prior in 1915 which was 56.8 for females and 52.5 for males. This increase in life expectancy has been attributed to better nutrition and the development of drug therapy.

4. I will no longer be able to publish.

Companies still publish findings. 5,585 science companies published 34,287 papers and 6,793 technology companies published 29,554 papers.  For example, in the first quarter of 2016, MedImmune had 40 publications. Industry scientists also report that the pressure to publish is diminished from academia and that is often viewed as a positive.

5. The work is not as satisfying.

Well, if you transition from an NIH lab to an industry bench science position, then you will be doing exactly the same things whether that is satisfying to you or not.  In industry positions, more emphasis is placed on meeting timelines and accomplishments, and most companies prioritize team work in a collegial work environment. If for whatever reason that doesn’t sound like a good fit for you personally and professionally, then it is might be necessary to question if industry is a good fit for you.

6. There is more career change and I’ll probably lose my job.

Most careers are full of change and even PI jobs change too (ex. Assistant – Associate – Full). Industry does offer multiple career tracks, including level and salary increases within the lab or the option to progress into management. You can also transition to other company functions.  Should you lose your job, most often companies offer placement services and severance options. Also, if working in industry, then it is likely that you are living in an area where there are other opportunities as well since most pharma and biotech companies are often clustered together geographically.

7. What if I hate it?

Many career decisions are fraught with worry. Remember that the choice you are making at the end of your training fellowship is for the next step in your career, not necessarily for the rest of your life. Pursuing an industry postdoc can help make you feel more comfortable about your decision to move into industry. Industry experience and pursuing new skill sets may help open doors to new opportunities and additional career choices, including returning to academia, which brings us to number eight…

8. I can never go back to academia.

In today’s environment, there is growing pressure to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of product discovery and development which often leads to public-private partnerships (PPP’s) and Industry-Academic partnerships like NCATS or Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP).  This has increased the flow of technology, capital, and human resources among the public, private, and academic sectors and has helped blur the lines of what used to be a bigger divide.

9. I will disappoint my PI and my graduate school mentors.

Even if it might not always feel this way, the environment is beginning to change. Faculty review panels are starting to give “credit” for non-faculty career outcomes. Similarly, PIs are starting to understand the shortage of academic PI opportunities and the benefits of multiple career options for trainees. Always remember, it is you career/life to live – not theirs. If you need help having this discussion with your boss, read this post on “How to Talk to Your Mentor about a Career Change.”

10. Not becoming a PI means I’m a failure.

It can be incredibly hard to reframe one’s internal thoughts about this; however, from an external perspective, this most definitely does not mean you are a failure. In fact, most employment statistics reveal you are in the majority. According to Sauermann and Roach (2012), more than half of entering biology PhD students had the career goal of becoming a research professor, but less than 10% of them went on to become a research professor.

Remember, that the best career advice often comes from people who are working within your aspired field/company/role, so if you are interested in industry, then talk to people doing that work. You might even find some of your own personal myths dispelled by these conversations.

Are you a multipotentialite?

April 20, 2016

“The notion of the narrowly-focused life is highly romanticized in our culture. It’s this idea of destiny or the one true calling. The idea that we each have one great thing that we are meant to do during our time on this earth… but what if you’re someone who isn’t wired this way?”

This is what Emilie Wapnick asked in her TED talk entitled “Why Some of Us Don’t Have One True Calling.” She coined the term “multipotentialite” and explores this topic on her website, Puttylike.

From a young age, we are asked what we want to be when we grow up and there is an expectation of a single answer. However, this often discounts an individual who has many varied interests and it doesn’t take into consideration that people often have many jobs (and careers!) throughout their lifetime now.

This lack of a singular passion often causes stress for multipotentialites, especially when it seems others (PIs, fellow med school applicants, etc.) appear to have extreme focus and drive.

If you have ever felt anxious about not having one true calling, then this video is a must watch.

3 Decision-Making Tips

March 21, 2016

Image of a person on a road that diverges in two different directions.We often talk about decision-making within this blog because so many decision points come up within a career.  We have discussed how people can drift into decisions and how one can use a prioritizing grid in order to help make a decision.  Making a decision is a highly personal experience, but if you are facing your next leap into the unknown, it can often help to do the following:

  1. Try it on for a while.
    Imagine yourself in both scenarios. Really try to adopt your decision, even if just for a day or for a whole week. How do you feel? Anxious? Well, try to remember that all change triggers anxiety. Even positive, exciting life changes are stressful.  So, if you feel anxious, try to tune in to that emotion. Is it an expansive almost energetic anxiety or is it one that feels constrictive to you?Still unsure? Flip a coin! Seriously, it has helped many people make a decision and not because they simply went with the outcome associated with heads or tails, but because in that instant as the coin was falling to the ground, they had a flash of a feeling. A gut feeling which helped them realize what result they were hoping for and thus helped them to make a decision.
  1. Become a thinking decider versus a feeling decider.
    Decision making is inextricably linked to emotions. Researchers discovered this when they found that patients who suffered damage to their orbitofrontal cortex, the part of the brain involved in processing emotions, also often lost their decision-making abilities. It will be almost impossible to make a decision without even subconsciously factoring in your own emotions and feelings. Remember though that emotions ebb and flow. You can feel fantastic about work in the morning and leave at night thinking I have to find a new job.  Remember the often fleeting nature of feelings when you are making a decision.  You will feel much more confident in your decision if you look beyond your emotions to the actual facts.  Thinking deciders often sit down and makes pros and cons lists. Try this out as an activity, but make sure you only list facts.
  2. Remember this doesn’t have to be your last decision.
    There is a bit of a gamble in every decision. You can weigh your options carefully; however, there will always be an element of risk when you choose one thing over another.  And, sometimes the only way to know is to actually take the risk and decide once and for all. Many people relentlessly worry though. What if I make the wrong decision?  Be kind to yourself as you go through this process.  If it’s the right decision, fantastic! If it turned out to be the wrong decision, then remember this. You can always make a new decision later on and change the once decided trajectory. Sometimes remembering that every decision doesn’t have to be final can help alleviate the burden of making that initial choice.

Career choice and decision-making will be an ongoing process throughout your life, so try to find peace in the ambiguity and continually work to find an approach that works best for you.

4 More Questions To Overcome Blocks to Action

February 10, 2016

Image of a stick figure laying on a red question markIn an earlier blog post, we discussed John Krumboltz’s Happenstance Learning Theory and we offered four powerful questions for you to ponder. Questions aimed at individuals who feel stuck and need some help moving forward with their career goals.  If you haven’t read that post yet, then take a look here.

Krumboltz recognized that career paths are often formulated through a mix of small decisions, big decisions, and happenstance or luck. He didn’t believe that people should make one plan and stick to it. Especially, if that meant staying in an unsatisfactory occupation just because it was declared to be your goal at one point in time.

According to Krumboltz in the Journal of Career Assessment:
“In a nutshell, the HLT posits that human behavior is the product of countless numbers of learning experiences made available by both planned and unplanned situations in which individuals find themselves. The learning outcomes include skills, interests, knowledge, beliefs, preferences, sensitivities, emotions, and future actions.

The situations in which individuals find themselves are partly a function of factors over which they have no control and partly a function of actions that the individuals have initiated themselves.”

He encouraged individuals to initiate and engage in exploratory actions as a way of creating happenstance – these unplanned yet often beneficial events which can dictate our lives.  People often get stuck in doing this, so he created questions aimed at overcoming blocks to action.

Here are four more powerful questions for you to consider:

  • What do you believe is stopping you from doing what you really want to do?
  • What do you believe is a first step you could take now to move closer to what you want?
  • What do you believe is stopping you from taking that first step?
  • How would your life become more satisfying if you were to take appropriate action?


If you are a fellow in training at the NIH and would like to have more help to support your progress, we invite you to make an appointment  with an OITE career counselor.