Today's Ph.D. scientists pursue a variety of career paths. Yet graduate and postdoctoral training continue to focus on preparing scientists for academic careers. To ensure a strong biomedical workforce, we need a new approach to graduate and postdoctoral training. This proposal applies a comprehensive, multi-layered approach to preparing graduate students and postdocs for their future careers by placing stronger emphasis on professional skills development and by integrating career planning and preparation into the standard graduate and postdoctoral training. Our novel two-pronged approach to career development is informed by the well- established model Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT), which links self-efficacy, outcomes expectations, contextual influences, and goal formation and follow-through to career decision-making and career-related outcomes. First, we propose a new co-curriculum that aligns professional skills development with our graduate students'standard curriculum. Elements of this co-curriculum are timed to teach students key professional skills that are both critical to success in their graduate training and transferable to multiple career paths beyond academic research. The co-curriculum includes a key focus on career planning, including increasing student awareness of scientific career options, teaching strategies for career exploration, and supporting all students as they create and implement their first annual Individual Development Plan (IDP). The second stage of the program focuses on career preparation by engaging all students in small learning communities themed within Career Pathways. These student-centered, discussion-based learning communities will leverage peer-to-peer mentoring, student leadership, and career mentoring to deepen students'understanding of their career paths of choice. The Career Pathways will also offer opportunities for students to expand their professional network, gain additional training, and get practical experience through projects or internships to prepare them for their next-step career goal. Professional skills development and career planning will also be integrated into standard postdoctoral training at UMMS, by adding a career planning component to the Orientation Course required of all postdocs and offering an Advanced Professional Skills series to assist them in developing key communication, writing, presentation, and leadership skills. Postdocs will be encouraged to complete annual IDPs, and to participate in the Career Pathways program. We will rigorously assess the short- and long-term impacts of these new training programs, including improved knowledge of scientific career options, increased confidence in career choice, informed and strategic planning for career preparation, and improved career preparation and career outcomes. Evaluation reports and successful program elements will be disseminated via conference presentations, publications, and informal networks to administrators, faculty, and career counselors. Resources and lesson plans will be posted online for use by trainees and educators at other institutions.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
NIH Director’s Workforce Innovation Award (DP7)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
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Labosky, Patricia
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University of Massachusetts Medical School Worcester
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United States
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