Action packed career planning

Actions posted at the end of a recent career development workshop

Actions speak louder than words, so the saying goes. In other words, saying that you’re going to do something is one thing, but then actually doing it is quite another. Spend too long thinking about what you want to do and it could be called procrastination.

Sometimes, when you have too much to do, you can feel completely overwhelmed and ‘paralysed into inaction’. And of course, there’s always those ‘displacement activities’, such as cleaning the house, that keep you busy when you know you should be getting on with more important things.  

So how can you help yourself to stick to your plans and take action to realise your goals? Well, according to several studies, if you write down your goals, it’s more likely that you’ll act on them. For example, Professor Gail Matthews found that those people who wrote down their goals were 42% more likely to achieve them.

Being conscious of the fact that many PhD and postdoctoral researchers are time poor and have a lot to do (to say the least), it’s clear that those who sign up for my career workshops, or individual coaching sessions, need to make the most of these out-of-the-lab trainings, so that they can justify their attendance to themselves, as well as to their supervisor. They will also need to feel that the coaching and trainings will be of value to them, with plenty of insights and information to help them with their career development and planning.

With this in mind, I always ask participants of my career workshops and coaching sessions to write down some short- or longer-term actions, or what I call, ‘Good Intentions’, that will help them with their career planning. Sometimes, I even ask them to place their action(s) into a self-addressed envelope that I post back to them after a few weeks to remind them of these intentions.

So what kinds of action do PhD and postdoctoral researchers identify as being productive towards their career development and planning at the end of my sessions? The above infographic picks out some of the recent actions identified at the end of one of my workshops and, of course, there are many more.

  • Update my CV [many PhD and postdoctoral researchers still have the CV that they used to apply for their current position];
  • Investigate the job market and look for opportunities beyond academia;
  • Contact people associated with careers of interest;
  • Update or set up a LinkedIn profile to assist in visibility and networking;
  • Consider the kinds of questions that may be asked at interview and how to answer them.

Following on from these ‘Good Intentions’, I also use evaluation forms to assess the efficacy of my trainings, which I send out a few weeks later, including the important question, “What action have you taken since attending the workshop?”. The results are always very interesting and satisfying, when I see that participants have been taking action, sometimes with some really positive results.

So, I leave you with the question: What actions will you write down to ensure that you’ll carry them through and achieve your career goals? Over to you …..

Leave a Reply