Jessica Lao: UCSF

Topic: Postdoctoral Training
Comments by Jessica Lao
University of California, San Francisco

Proposed Actions

The vast majority of postdocs are not trained for the career path that they inevitably take. The postdoc is meant to be an advanced training period to develop skills and research independence to help them pursue their chosen career path. The expected career path is that of an academic tenure-track faculty position. However, data from the 2012 NIH Workforce report estimates that less than 25% of postdocs go onto tenure-track faculty positions (this number includes non-research faculty positions). The other >75% go onto careers in industry or government, or onto non-science or non-research careers.

Therefore, training must encompass a broader definition to fit the current needs of postdocs. We propose that postdocs have access to structured career development and exploration tools, currently available to graduate students at many institutions. Postdocs (and the ir mentors) should be prepared for more than one career outcome. Making myIDP, my Individual Development Plan, an official requirement for postdocs would facilitate this goal. Furthermore, postdocs should be given protected time to pursue career exploration and professional development, whether it be taking courses outside of their area of research or pursuing internship opportunities to help them succeed in their chosen career.