No matter where you are in your graduate student career, it is never too early to start thinking about your next step. Whatever that may be can change over time, but while you are here, you should take advantage of all of the resources at UW-Madison!
There are an ever increasing number of fields graduates from the Biophysics Graduate Degree program enter into. For example, we have had graduates go on to postdoctoral positions, consulting positions, industry jobs, and medical residency jobs.
Thinking about what you like to do will help you identify areas you may be interested in working in. What interests you about your current job? What do you wish you had more time for? What is important to you?
Once you have completed some self-assessment, you can start to think about possible careers. With any career, you should gather information about the career, talk to people currently in that role, and if possible, find a way to try some typical tasks of the career (either through job shadowing, an internship, etc).
Every part of information gathering should be followed by a period of reflection. Were you intrigued by what you found out? Did the people you talked to seem happy about their roles? Did you like the tasks you were assigned to do?
Once you have completed all of your reflections and made a decision about the type of job you are interested in, you need to make yourself marketable. Think about your translatable skills from your graduate work. What other sorts of skills would be useful in this role and can I develop any of them while completing my PhD?
And finally, while we all have dreams of the perfect job, there is most likely going to be an element of any career that is not your favorite (it is called “work” after all). You want to focus on finding the best fit you can for your skills, goals, interests and personality and realize that your career is going to be ever-evolving and you are in the driver’s seat!
Individual Development Plans
An Individual Development Plan (IDP) is required of all students of the Biophysics Graduate Degree Program. An IDP helps students be intentional about setting goals and planning for a career while in graduate school. It also supports students in assessing their values and individual skill sets relative to goals and helps to document achievements made towards those goals. In essence, an IDP is a list of goals, ideas for how to achieve those goals, and a record of goal completion. They can be short term (e.g. I really need to read and understand this paper by next Tuesday), or long term goals (e.g. I want to apply for and receive a AAAS Science and Policy Fellowship). You are not required to share your IDP with the program, however, you should revisit your IDP at least once annually and we do encourage students to discuss their professional goals with their advisors.
There are multiple tools out there to help you create and use an IDP, including:
Resumes, CVs and Cover Letters
Your resume is an introduction to your skills, experiences, and professional history. It is not comprehensive. Employers will often spend less than a minute reviewing your resume, so the information presented must be clear and well-organized.
Curriculum Vitae (CV)
A CV is a comprehensive work history for an individual. CV’s are required for many academic jobs; however, they are typically not asked for in an industry setting. When in doubt, send a resume, but include a line saying additional information available upon request.
Cover letters are designed to convey why you want the job, how you are skilled for the job, and how you can grow the position. Cover Letters are your chance to showcase more of your personality and uniqueness through your writing style and communication skills. You will need to write a tailored letter each time you apply for a position.
Self Assessment Tools
The Keirsey Temperament Theory divides people into four temperaments and measures how people communicate and what their actions tend to be.
This tool helps pinpoint your motivations and what is important to you in a career.
This assessment divides people into 5 personality types and can be useful when identifying learning styles as well as work preferences.
This assessment starts with the Myer-Briggs dichotomies, but adds archetypes from Jungian theory as well as some from the Big Five Personality Traits.
This is a quick survey that lets you rate and describe activities you like and describe yourself and matches your answers with career clusters.
MyNextMove uses information from O*Net, a U.S. Department of Labor tool, to determine your interests as they relate to work.
And finally, the Holland Code assessment examines how well you’d be suited to certain careers based on six occupational themes.