Positioning Yourself for Your Career Path

Once you've narrowed your career path to one or two choices, it will be time to prepare for the career transition. This means that you will determine the skills you need to be competitive, develop those skills while at UCSF, and find connections and build a community to help you succeed in that career path. Finally, prepare to discuss your career transition decision with your academic advisor or PI. Not sure what skills or experiences you need to transition into a career beyond academia? The resources below will support you in the process of preparing for the transition.


Determine the skills and experiences needed to succeed in a job

  • Read 20 job descriptions for the job title you are interested in or actively seeking. Make a list of the common skills and experiences required and preferred by employers.
  • View LinkedIn profiles of professionals in those careers. What skills do they emphasize in the bullet points for their current positions? Also read their previous positions to see what experiences may be valued for career progression.
  • Talk to people! Ask alumni, connections, and colleagues (or professionals you meet) for informational interviews about the skills and experiences that ideal candidates possess. Read tips for Building Your Professional Network.


Start developing skills and gaining experiences

Demonstrating interest and knowledge is often a first step to preparing yourself for a career transition. Don't stop there! Employers tell us that students and postdocs who gain leadership skills and make an impact in an organization stand out. 


Gain practical experiences at UCSF


Discuss your career transition decision

Consider starting a dialogue with your research mentor or PI about your plans to develop professional skills and prepare for the next step in your career. Did you know that studies have shown that postdocs who dedicated time to gaining other research-related skills were more focused and productive in lab? Communicate that these skills (communication, time management or leadership abilities to name a few!) also help you in the lab by improving aspects of your research activities.

A few tips when planning a meeting with your PI:

  • Make an appointment. Set aside time to talk, not in the lab and not during lab meeting.
  • Prepare an outline. Think about the outcomes you want.
  • Express your commitment to your research. Your research mentor may hear "I'm taking time away from my research project", so make sure you express "I'm working on projects in this timeline AND working on developing skills to be a successful scientist".
  • Be positive. Remember to listen to your mentor or PI's comments and be flexible in order to reach common goals.
  • Plan to meet periodically. Check in at least once a year to continue the conversation on your career development and plans.

Read more about Approaching Your Advisor About Alternative PhD Careers, article by theGradStudentWay

Communicate how you will use your research skills in your new career

You may already have what it takes! Shift your thinking about the skills you've gained in the lab.

Try an internship or fellowship!

Nothing beats spending time in the work environment you think you'd like to inhabit one day. And nothing makes you more attractive to a potential employer than having experience working in that field.

Next Steps

Are you clear on the skills and experiences you'll communicate in your job applications?
If so, go to the next step: Organizing and Preparing for a Job Search: Learn strategies for a success job search and how to represent yourself throughout the application process.