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  • Goal-Setting Strategies for Scientific and Career Success | Science | AAAS

    http://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2013/12/goal-setting-strategies-scientific-and-career-success[2/3/2017 3:38:35 PM]

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    Goal-Setting Strategies for Scientific and Career SuccessBy Cynthia N. Fuhrmann, Jennifer A. Hobin, Philip S. Clifford, Bill Lindstaedt Dec. 3, 2013 , 12:15 PM

    This is the 10th article* in a series designed to help you create an Individual Development Plan (IDP) usingmyIDP, a new Web-based career-planning tool created to help graduate students and postdocs in thesciences define and pursue their career goals. To learn more about myIDP and begin the career-planningprocess, please visit: http://myIDP.sciencecareers.org

    During graduate school, Xiao began to realize that a career in science writing could be the best fit for herbut how to get there? In every discussion she had with science writers, she was struck by how much

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  • Goal-Setting Strategies for Scientific and Career Success | Science | AAAS

    http://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2013/12/goal-setting-strategies-scientific-and-career-success[2/3/2017 3:38:35 PM]

    writing experience theyd had before getting their first job. Xiao realized that she would need to publishmore and further refine her writing skills if she wanted to be competitive in her future job search.

    With 2 years left in her Ph.D. training, Xiao had time to gain more experience before she would have to goout onto the job market. But how would she fit anything more into her already heavy schedule?

    An obvious first step is to create an IDP, which will help her chart a course that will allow her to meet thesecritical career advancement and skills development goals while also making progress on her researchprojects.

    What will you do in the next 6 to12 months to promote your own career advancement? What will you do todevelop your skills? What research projects do you need to work on during this time? Together, these threetypes of short-term goalscareer advancement, skills development, and project goalsconstitute the coreof your IDP. In this article, well share strategies for creating a 6-month or 12-month calendar of goals thatis realistic, prioritizes your most important goals, and holds you accountable.

    Use the "SMART" principle

    Every time you revise a goal, learn something from the process. This self-reflection will improve your ability to set realistic goals and manage yourtimean important skill in itself that will serve you well throughout yourcareer.

  • Goal-Setting Strategies for Scientific and Career Success | Science | AAAS

    http://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2013/12/goal-setting-strategies-scientific-and-career-success[2/3/2017 3:38:35 PM]

    Have you ever told yourself, "I need to finish writing that manuscript," but months later you still don't have adraft? Such large goals can often feeland therefore becomeinsurmountable. As one student puts it, "Ittook me 2 months to write the first draft of my first paper. Some delay was procrastination, because theinitial blank sheet of paper felt so daunting. When I set goals that were more specifically defined, withrealistic deadlines, I could approach each goal more confidently. As a result, my writing progressed muchmore efficiently overall."

    As you set goals, we recommend following the SMART principle:

    S Specific Is it focused and unambiguous?

    M Measureable Could someone determine whether or not you achieved it?

    A Action-oriented Did you specify the action you will take?

    R Realistic Considering difficulty and timeframe, is it attainable?

    T Time-bound Did you specify a deadline?

    Use this strategy: First identify an overarching goal, and then create an action plan to achieve it. Forexample, if you want to build your professional network, then you may have three SMART goals for theyear: (1) attend one event per month (for example, your departmental social hour or an industry networkingevent) and talk with at least two people at each; (2) present a poster at a conference in your field; and (3)do four informational interviews.

    http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/2013_07_16/caredit.a1300146http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/2013_08_14/caredit.a1300173

  • Goal-Setting Strategies for Scientific and Career Success | Science | AAAS

    http://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2013/12/goal-setting-strategies-scientific-and-career-success[2/3/2017 3:38:35 PM]

    Develop your skills: train, practice, get feedbackImproving your skills is a key part of your professional development. The skills you choose to work on maybe skills that you need to build now for future success (presentation skills for future job talks, for example),or skills necessary for success in your current training (such as particular research skills, writing skills, andso on). If you focus on improving one to three specific skills this year, and then do the same during eachyear of your training, then you will be much better prepared for your next career move (and likely moresuccessful during your training).

    Setting skill-development goals is like creating your own curriculum. In a course, an instructor decides whatmaterial to cover, provides training, gives students an opportunity to practice, and then assesses theirlearning. Similarly, for each skill that you want to improve, you can set SMART goals for how you will gettraining, practice the skill, and get feedback. To become a more engaging speaker, for example, you maywant to attend a workshop on how to give a strong research talk. Then, to maximize your development ofthis skill, you can practice the techniques you learn in the workshop by giving practice talks, studentseminars, conference presentations, and presentations in group meetings. You can then get feedback fromtrusted colleagues, your adviser, or whoever is available and willing.

    To achieve long-term improvement of a skill, it's a good idea to move through this cycle of training-practice-feedback several times over several months. You may be able to take advantage of existing opportunitiesto practice, or you can carve out small amounts of time on a regular basis. It need not take a lot of timefrom your research.

    As you develop your own IDP, you can set skill development goals that fit within your time and budget. Box1 lists some creative ways to get training, practice, and feedback in a time- and resource-efficient manner.

    Strategies for developing skills1. Get training.

    Participate in a course or workshop (local or online).

    Watch a recorded workshop or seminar. (The NIH Office of Intramural Training and Educationand the Khan Academy have posted many skills seminars online.)

    Read an article, chapter, or book focused on the skill.

    Observe others who excel at the skill.

    Discuss strategies with a mentor or peer who excels at the skill.

    2. Practice.

    Do assignments in the context of a course.

    Be aware of when you use the skill in your day-to-day schedule and consciously practice particular

    https://www.training.nih.gov/for_trainees_outside_the_nihhttps://www.khanacademy.org/

  • Goal-Setting Strategies for Scientific and Career Success | Science | AAAS

    http://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2013/12/goal-setting-strategies-scientific-and-career-success[2/3/2017 3:38:35 PM]

    techniques in each instance.

    Schedule protected time to practice (for example, you could practice your writing skills by free-writing every Friday morning for 15 minutes after breakfast, or practice assay measurements usinga set of standards.)

    Volunteer for additional activities (for example, you could offer to make an extra journal clubpresentation).

    3. Get feedback.

    Complete an assessment in the context of a course.

    Ask anyone who excels at the skill to give you feedback; it could be an outside source, your mentor,or a peer.

    Define criteria for success and then assess your own improvement. (For example, watch a video ofyourself giving a talk.)

    Have a strategy for staying accountableIt can be very difficult to protect time to work toward goals that are important but not urgent. Careeradvancement and skills development goals often fall into this category. It can be helpful to have someoneto keep you accountable, perhaps a peer mentoring group (in which you hold each other accountable togoals), or a "project buddy" that you identify for a particular goal: Share your goal with your buddy and askthem to meet with you so you can demonstrate your progress toward that goal. Choosing someone youhold in high esteem is a good idea; you'll be more likely to do whatever it takes to reach your goal in orderto make a good impression. Choose someone who is not invested in your other goals; even if your principalinvestigator (PI) is a fantastic mentor, she or he is unlikely to push you to work to meet a skill-developmentgoal when there is a pressing grant or manuscript deadline.

    Write them downThinking about your goals is not enough. You need to write them on paper (or type them into myIDP). LeeIacocca, a well-known business guru from the 1980s, said,

    The discipline of writing something down is the first step toward making it happen. In conversation you canget away with all kinds of vagueness and nonsense, often without even realizing it. But theres somethingabout putting your thoughts on paper that forces you to get down to specifics. That way, its harder todeceive yourself or anybody else.

    The strategy Iacocca proposes has been shown to help research trainees. A 2006 study identified astructured plan as one of the few factors that significantly improved the postdoc participants trainingexperience. Postdocs who had a structured plan and discussed it with their mentors were more satisfied

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    http://myidp.sciencecareers.org/CareerAdvancementGoals/QuickTipshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Iacoccahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Iacoccahttp://users.nber.org/~sewp/Davis_SurveyAnalysis20060201.pdf

  • Goal-Setting Strategies for Scientific and Career Success | Science | AAAS

    http://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2013/12/goal-setting-strategies-scientific-and-career-success[2/3/2017 3:38:35 PM]

    with their postdoctoral experience, more satisfied with their relationships with their PIs, and moreproductive (30% more first-author papers and 25% more grant proposals) than those without a plan.

    Evaluate your planAs you look over your IDP, make sure your goals for this year are not biased toward urgent projects. Asdiscussed above, career-advancement and skill-development goals may not feel urgent, but they areimportant and should be a part of your overall plan.

    Next, merge your goals for the year onto a single timeline. myIDP does this automatically, in the printedsummary at the end of the process. Take a look at the goals you have set for each month; is your planfeasible? You may want to shift start or completion dates for some goals so that your expectations for any1 month are realistic.

    Translate your goals to a daily calendarWhen creating your IDP, dont let perfection and detail stall the process. The short-term goals in your IDPshould give you a big-picture plan for the coming year. If you want to break these SMART goals intosmaller subgoals, consider doing so as part of your weekly planning process. Once Xiao created her IDP,she considered how she could coordinate her IDP with her daily calendar, which she managedelectronically using Google Calendar. She wanted to have a constant reminder of her overall, big-picturegoals. To do this, she printed her myIDP Goals Summary and taped it on the wall next to her desk. Thenshe entered each SMART goal from her IDP into her Google Calendar. As she approached the start toeach month, she looked ahead to see what IDP goals shed set for that month. Then she thought abouthow to break that SMART goal into subtasks and blocked out time for those subtasks on her dailycalendar. When she was finished, her to-dos for each day were listed on her daily calendar 1 to 4 weeks inadvance. This gave her a sense of how long it would take to complete each task and empowered her tosay "no" to additional requests that arose.

    Revise your plan as you move forwardAs you progress through your plan, celebrate each goal you achieve. In science, where rewards aresometimes few and far between, the simple act of checking off a SMART goal from your list should providea sense of progress. Experiments can be unpredictable, but when it comes to your career advancementand skill development goals, you are in control. Use these goals, and the satisfaction of meeting them, as amechanism to enhance your wellbeing (and career development) during times of scientific struggle.

    Though there will be celebrations, you will also have to revise some goals. Things happen. Experimentsdont work; a new critical deadline arises; your goals change. If you do need to revise a goal, ask yourself:Why am I changing this goal? Was the original goal unrealistic? Am I managing my time effectivelyenough? Am I prioritizing my goals and projects appropriately? Are urgent tasks overwhelming myprofessional development goals? If so, what can I do to ensure that my professional development remains

    http://myidp.sciencecareers.org/Plan/QuickTips

  • Goal-Setting Strategies for Scientific and Career Success | Science | AAAS

    http://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2013/12/goal-setting-strategies-scientific-and-career-success[2/3/2017 3:38:35 PM]

    on track?

    Every time you revise a goal, learn something from the process. This self-reflection will improve your abilityto set realistic goals and manage your timean important skill in itself that will serve you well throughoutyour career.

    Setting goals in an IDP structures your dreams and guides your development as a professional. It may notbe easy at first, because setting goals effectively is itself a skill. As you move ahead, though, your ability toset and achieve goals will improve. Your time management will improve, too. As a result, you are likely toachieve more of your own career development goals, and also become more productive in your science.

    L. Iacocca, W. Novak, An Autobiography (Bantam Books, New York, 1984).

    G. Davis, "Improving the Postdoctoral Experience: An Empirical Approach", in The Science andEngineering Workforce in the United States, R. Freeman, D. Goroff, Eds. (NBER/Univ. of Chicago Press,Chicago, IL, 2006).

    Posted in: myIDPIssues and PerspectivesAdviceUnited StatesDOI: 10.1126/science.caredit.a1300263

    Cynthia N. FuhrmannCynthia Fuhrmann is assistant dean of career and professional development in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at the Universityof Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester

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    Jennifer A. HobinJennifer Hobin is director of science policy at the American Association for Cancer Research in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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    Philip S. CliffordPhilip Clifford is the associate dean for research in the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois, Chicago.

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    Bill LindstaedtBill Lindstaedt serves as director of the Office of Career and Professional Development at the University of California, San Francisco.

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  • Goal-Setting Strategies for Scientific and Career Success | Science | AAAS

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    Editorial: Planning Career Paths for Ph.D.s

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