Assess Yourself - Identifying your career development stage


Our mission is to help every UCSF student and postdoc 'manage their career effectively',  and we work collaboratively with the four schools and the Graduate Division to teach you the professional skills and knowledge to navigate your career successfully. From our perspective, when you are "managing your career" well, it means that you have the ability to do four things:


  1. Identify what career/professional development stage you're in,
  2. Determine which competencies you need to acquire and develop a plan to achieve their short and long term professional goals,
  3. Access the specific resources, experiences, and opportunities at UCSF & in their personal and professional community that will help you develop, and
  4. Assess if you have effectively gained relevant information and skills, integrate this new knowledge and these experiences into your overall path and plan, and continue to move forward towards your definition of professional success.


Why is it important to identify what career stage you're in?

UCSF and the San Francisco Bay Area offers students and postdoctoral scholars an incredible number of on- and off-campus career and professional development opportunities, and it is easy to become overwhelmed unless you focus your energy on achieving a defined career goal. (The OCPD alone offers and co-sponsors over 180 programs, workshops and courses each year). While managing your career by first identifying your career stage may feel like a foreign concept, the approach mirrors a fundamental lesson from your training as a clinician and/or researcher: A proper diagnosis means effective treatment; formulate your research question before you begin your work. Identifying your career stage, and focusing your attention, your efforts and your support system towards articulated short and/or long terms goals, is the first step to effectively managing your career.


The OCPD has organized our resources, programs and services to help you identify your stage. In addition to 1:1 counseling, we offer a monthly 'kickoff your career' workshop - Take Charge of Your Career: Getting Started - to help you identify what stage you're in, developed career guides tailored by population where we've curated known career and professional events across the campus by stage, and have begun to redesign our website with this framework as our model. Our goal is that you not only find and access opportunities by stage, but you find community and support by seeing familiar faces of fellow students and postdocs at the same development stage at career and professional development events.


In short - think "focused effort" when it comes to your career. The goal is to stay in your stage, and "focused effort" means only engaging in career development activities that will help you in the achieve your goal. For example, if you're in career exploration stage, then your goal over the next three-six months is to attend workshops like our 'How to Explore Careers', 'Networking to Explore Careers' and 'Conducting an Informational Interview', and career exploration events offered by your school, department, your alumni association, professional association or registered campus organization you belong to.  You can skip career development activities in different stages - say - negotiating or interviewing effectively (job search stage) for now, if you aren't actually interviewing in the next year. Most of our sessions are repeated several times throughout the year, and you have access to 1:1 appointments, so you don't have to be concerned that you will somehow miss a useful workshop.  


The Four Career and Professional Development Stages

We encourage every student and postdoc to take a few minutes to review this career development framework and identify what stage they think they are in. As you can see when you click on the model to your left, each stage involves competencies that you're ready to develop to achieve your career goals. Briefly, the four stages are:


  • Self Assessment: This stage is for you, if you're interested in exploring your values, your interests, your skills and your personality. When you have developed competencies in this stage, you're able to articulate what is meaningful to you, the activities and tasks you find rewarding, your current strengths and their growth areas, and how their preferences influences with work behavior. This insight is valuable as you develop skills in other career stages; for example,  explore career options that are a good fit for you, interviewing effectively, and developing your professional identity and professional brand. 
  • Career Exploration & Decision Making: If you're at this stage, you're interested in learning more about your career options for individuals with your interests, skills and training. Career exploration includes both the ability to identify and research potential career paths, and to thoroughly investigate specific positions. It  also includes the ability to network to explore careers, meeting individuals in your professional community, conducting informational interviews, and maintaining professional relationships. Effective career decision making is the ability to make a free and informed decision, where you're aware of the internal and external factors affecting your decision,  are aware of your options, and have an understanding of your decision making style. The knowledge and skills gained in this stage helps you feel confident that you've chosen not just the right field (the sciences, nursing, pharmacy, etc), but the career path and particular types of positions that are right for you as well. 
  • Internship, Job, Postdoc, Residency & Fellowship Search: The ability to position and present yourself and your qualifications successfully for any opportunity is the goal of this stage. When you've mastered this stage you understand how to use your time a UCSF effectively to develop the skills, experience and relationship to be competitive for positions of your choice. You also also know how to organize an effective search for an internship, job, postdoc, residency or fellowship, how to write persuasive application materials, to interview successfully, to evaluate and negotiate a compensation office and to accept or decline an offer professionally. 
  • Professional Success Skills: If you're in this stage, you can identify and develop the skills required to excel in your field of choice. In particular, the professional skills the OCPD focuses on are the skills required to successfully transition into a new position, including how to establish yourself in your position in the first 6 months, how to determine, meet and exceed work expectations, and how to assess your supervisor's work style (e.g.: management, communication and conflict management styles). This also includes managerial and leadership skills, including the ability to manage resources, to communicate effectively in different mediums (oral, written, visual communication, etc), to articulate your professional identity and brand, to establish and manage professional relationships, to lead a team and supervise others, and to mentor and be mentored successfully. Finally, it is a professional skill to define your version of a successful model work/life integration in your world. 



Great! I know what stage I'm at in my career and professional Development. Now What? Next...

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