Career and Professional Development
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Career and Professional Development Heading link
The US federal government put forward important policy clarifications in 2014, which permits postdoctoral trainees to take time for professional development while on federal research grants. This policy creates an obligation for release time to allow for appropriate career development opportunities as part of the “dual role” of the postdoc as both an employee and a trainee. “This dual role is critical in order to provide Post-Docs with sufficient experience and mentoring for them to successfully pursue independent careers in research and related fields.”
As such, the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPA) and the Postdoctoral Association (PDA), along with our campus partners, have created a robust and systematic career and professional development training program for UIC postdocs, consisting of a variety of seminars, workshops, courses, facilitated small groups, opportunities for self-directed professional development, and the Annual Postdoc Career Development Symposium. Click here for upcoming events and see a summary of our professional development calendar, here!
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Seminars and Short Workshops
- PDA Seminar Series: Focuses on topics of interest to postdocs, varies on a month-to-month basis.
- Your Future in Science (sponsored by CCTS and OPA): Monthly seminar series for postdocs and graduate students. YFIS covers topics about different career options as well as professional skills needed for career success. Held the third Thursday of every month from 12-1 pm.
- RCR training for postdocs (sponsored by OVCR): All trainees and scholars who receive support from Federal Grants must obtain training in RCR. In addition to NIH and NSF, other agencies may require RCR training. The type of training required may differ for various stages of training and among funding agencies. 1-hour seminars offered monthly.
- New Postdoc Orientation: One-hour orientation hosted bimonthly to introduce new postdocs to OPA, the PDA, and resources available on campus.
Career and Professional Development Tracks
The Career and Professional Development Tracks are designed to increase your knowledge of the career exploration and job search processes and build fundamental professional skills through a variety of mini-courses, courses, and facilitated small peer groups.
- Career Development Track:
- Career Development Mini-Courses: Examples of career development mini-courses include topics such as Fundamentals of Career Exploration, Job Search Fundamentals, Industry Job Search, and Academic Job Search. Each mini-course consists of approximately 4-6 one-hour sessions. Rotating topics are offered each semester.
- Annual PDA Career Development Symposium: This unique annual symposium hosted in September in conjunction with National Postdoc Appreciation week gathers postdocs and grad students from across the greater Chicago area to connect, network, collaborate and learn about different PhD career paths. The goal of this event is to educate postdocs and grad students about careers in academia, industry, communications, business, and beyond. We bring in outstanding speakers and panelists to come share their experience to inspire budding postdocs and graduate students into fulfilling careers.
- Postdoc Power Job Search Team: Weekly facilitated peer-to-peer support group for postdocs who are actively searching for jobs.
- Professional Competencies Track:
- English and Scientific Writing for Postdocs (sponsored by OPA and CCTS): A 2-semester course (12-weeks of instruction per semester, 2-3 hours of instruction per week, running September to March) for postdocs of all English proficiency levels focusing on improvement in written proficiency and preparation for submitting research manuscripts for publication.
- Professional Skills Mini-Courses: Each mini-course consists of approximately 4-6 one-hour sessions. Rotating topics are offered each semester. Examples of professional skills mini-courses include topics such as Communications Bootcamp, Navigating your Postdoctoral Training, Leadership and Management, and Mentor Training.
- Writing Groups:
- Grant Writing for NIH K or Career Development Awards (hosted by CCTS): Weekly facilitated peer-to-peer support group for postdocs and junior faculty who plan to submit NIH career (K) or other career development award grants. Each group forms approximately 4 months prior to the following NIH K deadline (June/October/February).
- Writing Accountability Groups (WAGS, hosted by CCTS): Weekly peer-to-peer writing support groups for postdocs and junior faculty who are looking to focus on their writing. Groups form biannually during the fall and spring semesters.
Opportunities for Self-Directed Professional Development @UIC
- Postdoc Travel & Small Scholarship Awards:
- Postdocs Plugged-In: Weekly newsletter digest from OPA with announcements, funding opportunities, and upcoming career and professional training events at UIC, in Chicago, and around the country. Sent via the postdoc listserv.
- Career Advising:
- UIC Career Services
- Postdocs can make an account in Handshake, which can be used to make appointments with career services and browse employment listings (choose “register an account” after clicking the Sign On button).
- You can also make an appointment with a career counselor by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org directly
- OPA is available for individual appointments at any time
- Data Science Training:
- The Advanced Cyberinfrastructure for Education and Research (ACER) offers training series for individuals with varying levels of expertise that will focus on key topics and tools, such as tutorials in R and Python, that are used in computational research and data science. ACER also offers open office hours to address any research computing and data science questions you may have.
- The UIC Research Informatics Core (RIC) regularly offers bioinformatics training courses for researchers. Visit the RIC webpage to learn more.
- Teaching: Center for the Advancement of Teaching Excellence (CATE) and the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning@UIC (CIRTL@UIC) are committed to training scholars from ALL disciplines to be excellent evidence-based instructors and researchers. Postdocs in any discipline who are interested in improving their teaching skills and employing evidence-based, equity-minded teaching practices in their classrooms will benefit from engagement with the CIRTL@UIC program. Check out upcoming events, here!
- University Courses: Postdoc Research Associates are eligible for a tuition waiver if you are interested in taking any courses at the university. Learn more here. Postdocs may also audit university courses at the discretion of the course instructor.
- Postdocs interested in science writing may be interested in taking CHEM 501: Researching and Writing for Chemistry and Biochemistry Journals
- UIC Library: Hosts various tutorials to help you advance your research and scholarship. The library also offers a variety of services, including help for your research. Make an appointment with a librarian in your subject area to get started!
- UIC Institutional Memberships: UIC is an institutional member of several professional groups and societies. This means that UIC postdocs can take advantage of resources and events offered by these groups for FREE!
- The National Postdoctoral Association (NPA): The mission of the NPA is to improve the postdoctoral experience by supporting a culture of enhanced professional growth. At the individual, organizational, and national levels, the NPA facilitates connections, raises awareness, and collaborates with stakeholders in the postdoctoral community. Join here!
- Center for the Integration of Teaching and Learning (CIRTL): The National CIRTL Network seeks to enhance excellence in undergraduate education through development of a national faculty committed to implementing and advancing evidence-based teaching practices for diverse learners. Join here!
- National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD): NCFDD is an independent professional development, training, and mentoring community for faculty members, postdocs, and graduate students. NCFDD is 100% dedicated to supporting academics in making successful transitions throughout their careers. Join here!
- The Versatile PhD: The Versatile PhD mission is to help graduate students, ABDs and PhDs identify, prepare for and excel in professional careers. Join here!
- Pivot-RP: Pivot-RP accelerates the research process by providing access to the most comprehensive global source of funding opportunities, facilitating collaborator discovery, and offering insights and short-cuts to help research organizations win a larger share of available funding. Register here (note: use the email address/create password option)
- Use this link for a curated Pivot search for postdoctoral researchers in ALL fields
Opportunities for Networking in Chicago
A key part of the career exploration and job search processes is networking, which includes making connections with others in your field of interest. Networking is important for identifying people to serve as mentors, collaborators, or to ask for informational interviews. There are many opportunities for networking in the Chicago-area! Some examples include:
- Illinois Science Council
- Chicago Council on Science and Technology (C2ST)
- Chicago incubators (e.g 1871, MATTER, mHUB)
- Chicago Women in STEM Initiative
- Association for Women in Science (AWIS)-Chicago
- Society of Women Engineers Chicago
- Women In Bio Chicago
- 500 Women Scientists Chicago POD
- American Association of University Women Chicago Branch
- Opportunities for networking through Chicago-area alumni groups, volunteering, or interest-focused groups
- Make sure you have a LinkedIn profile and check out this guide to informational interviewing by UC Berkeley
Part-time internships are a great way to gain real-world hands-on experience in a career field of your choice. Internship opportunities for postdocs are advertised via the Postdocs Plugged-In newsletter. The myCHOICE program at the University of Chicago includes a quarterly internship program that is open to ALL postdocs in the community. Learn more about the program and apply here! It is also possible to create your own internship. For more information, see this guide to creating your own internship, compiled by the University of Washington.
Other Career Development Resources
- NPA Postdoc’s Guide to The Postdoc Timeline: The postdoctoral training experience is meant to be a relatively short, focused time of work, typically two to five years. To ensure you progress at the rate you choose, it is important to develop a plan early in your postdoctoral experience to keep yourself on track to achieve your professional and career goals. The NPA has developed this guide to help postdocs prepare the future and utilize training time wisely.
- NPA Postdoc’s Guide to Career Development: Career development is an iterative multi-stage process of self-assessment, career exploration, career choice refinement and finally focused job searching. This guide provides an overview of the process and key resources for each stage.
- Academic Career Readiness Assessment, developed by UCSF
- Career Exploration Roadmap, developed by UCSF
- Individual Development Plans:
- Chicago Options in Career Empowerment (myCHOICE at University of Chicago)
- InterSECT Job Simulations
- Postdoc Academy
- Nature Careers Podcast
- Science Careers
- Career Development Toolkit for Researchers
- Free the PhD
- Beyond the Professoriate
- There is a great deal of free content available online to continue your research, career, and professional development. Check out videos available from the Center for Leading Innovation and Collaboration Educational Clearinghouse and free courses online from LinkedIn Learning, Coursera and edX.
- Your professional society will have resources dedicated to career and professional development, so be sure to check out those resources as well!
NPA Core Competencies
The National Postdoc Association (NPA) has established six core competencies to offer guidance to individual postdoctoral scholars who must seek out relevant training experiences, in collaboration with mentors, institutions, and other advisors who provide this training. These competencies are meant to serve primarily as: (1) a basis for self-evaluation by postdoctoral scholars, and (2) a basis for developing training opportunities that can be evaluated by mentors, institutions, and other advisors.
These six core competencies are:
- Discipline-specific conceptual knowledge
- Research skill development
- Communication skills
- Leadership and management skills
- Responsible conduct of research (RCR)
Competencies 1, 2, and 6 are key aspects of your research training. Competencies 3, 4, and 5 are key aspects of your professional development training.