In academia, it is easy to get caught up in the day to day tasks and lose sight of where you are going and why. Every year we (Ethan and Morgan) reassess our scientific and career goals and take stock of what we accomplished that year, what we had hoped to accomplish, and what we need to be doing to reach our goals. This has been enormously useful for us as it helps us to keep our eye on the ball and think strategically about how we are spending our time. We would like to encourage everyone to conduct their own yearly self assessment so that you can evaluate your progress and keep us informed about your career goals so we can help you to reach them.
How do you go about doing this?
We recommend including the following components:
- For students/postdocs: When do you think you will be completing this phase of your training? (This puts in perspective how much time you have to complete your tasks to achieve your goals)
- What are your long-term career plans? (This helps focus in on what kind of things you should be doing)? Include at least two possible career paths. (It’s good to consider multiple paths, you’ll be happier knowing you have multiple options, and it helps us understand what’s most important to you)
- What parts of your current job do you like and not like and how does this relate to your career plans? (This helps make sure your career plans fit with your interests)
- Given your long-term plans, what do you think you need to do to be successful? (These are what we will call your goals)
- What did you accomplish this year towards accomplishing your goals?
- What are your plans for next year for working towards your goals? (Be as specific as you can be. Are there particular projects you plan to start/finish? Is there specific training or experiences you think you need to succeed in reaching your goals?)
It should be written down. This gives you a record next year of what you thought you needed to be doing so you can compare what you did with what you wanted to do.
Share it with us. This is totally voluntary, but we know a little bit about succeeding in academia and we know a lot of people who work in other areas of science (and software engineering). Our goal is to help you be successful in whatever career path you choose. Knowing what you want to do, what you think you need in order to do it, and what you want to accomplish helps us advise you better during your weekly meetings.
In order to facilitate this process we designate one week each year, typically during the Spring Semester, where we will plan to look over your self-assessments and discuss them with you during your weekly meeting. We will give you a few weeks notice on when that week will be and encourage you to send us your self-assessments one week in advance of your meeting so that we have time to look it over and think about it. If you don’t want to participate, just let us know.
Also, a note for more permanent staff: we think you’re awesome, and we’d love for you to stick around forever, but we know that you may have bigger plans, and you know that these kinds of positions are always dependent on sufficient funding being maintained in the labs. We want you to get where you want to go, so you shouldn’t worry about sharing goals with us that involve you leaving at some point. Of course it’s totally understandable if you don’t want to tell us about this (or if you never want to leave), but just know that we’ll be supportive of whatever you’re trying to do.