The research and training received during your postdoctoral experience sets you on your career path, but you need a clear goals for your future. Knowing what you want to do can help you narrow your focus as you work with your postdoctoral mentor to ensure you acquire the necessary skills. The plan also helps with the job search as your postdoctoral period nears its end.

Reflect on Personal Skills and Experiences

Before you decide where you want to go in your career, reflect on your current strengths and experiences. Your postdoctoral focus may give you some ideas. You may have the option for a research or teaching position related to your emphasis, for example. Write a list of your specific skills and projects you've completed as a postdoc. Write another list of areas where you could use additional experience or areas that interest you even if you haven't given them much attention. This self-assessment gives you direction as you consider career options.

Meet With Mentor

As an expert in the field and a person who has worked closely with you, your mentor is an invaluable source for helping develop your postdoctoral career goals. Present your self-assessment to your mentor to see if she agrees with you. She may have additional insight into your strengths or career options that would be good fits. Your mentor can also help you identify additional skills or experiences you need to gain during your postdoctoral period to achieve your career goals.

Explore Career Options

Once you have some options, find out what those careers are really like. Reach out to experts working in positions that interest you. Ask what they find most rewarding about their positions and what they dislike about the careers they chose. If possible, job-shadow the experts you contact to see what their work life is like. This gives you a real-world perspective of your career options.

Make Adjustments

The goals you create aren't set in stone. As you do your postdoctoral work, you may discover your original goals no longer fit what you want to do. Research you conduct might draw your interest into a different specialty than you originally planned, for example. Refer back to your career goals as you work through your postdoctoral experience. Modify your plan, adjust the timeline or change your goals as your interests shift.