Career Planning

Planning your career is a bit like planning a relationship: hard to do and not always advisable. When looking back over a career, most people describe an organic process of personal growth and openness to opportunity. The world of work is constantly evolving, making it difficult to predict how your career will change over time. Additionally, your needs and interests will change.

Because there is so much that is unknown, it is difficult to make a long term plan. Short term planning however, is easier. Below is a timeline for postdocs that will help you plan your career while at Yale: 

Identifying Goals

Broadly speaking the question you are attempting to answer when seeking a career is “what would make me happy?”  Often the best place to start is by answering some fundamental questions about your happiness:

  • What has made you happy in the past?
  • What do you enjoy in your life right now?
  • What would you like to change?

The answers that you come up with will likely touch upon the 3 main elements of self assessment: 

  • values
  • interests
  • skills

Understanding what you are looking for in each of these areas will help you when you start researching career options to determine the best sector, field, and job for you. This diagram puts it all together: 

The ideal job is at the intersection of the elements. It is important to remember that it is very unlikely that one job will have everything you want. Additionally, you may not want to have all of your needs fulfilled by your career.

Resources: provides descriptions for hundreds of jobs at every level, and also has online assessment tests that will try to match you to career options. The values questionnaire is free and the others cost $10-20. You can create a free account that will allow you to save your searches and the results of your assessments.

See also Researching Careers -Getting Started for additional resources.

Researching Career Options

Although it is tempting to start your career planning here, researching options can be overwhelming if you have not identified your goals. It is hard to find what you are looking for if you don't know what you are looking for!

Once you know what you are looking for, there are 3 main areas to consider when researching your options:

A. What sector do you want to work in?

Broadly speaking, the world of work can be broken down into 4 sectors: 1) Academic, 2) Industry, 3) Non Profit and 4) Government. Each of these sectors has a different mission and as a result their values will be different:

  • Academic (knowledge, freedom, focus/expertise, independence)
  • Industry (influence, ambition, fast pace, team work)
  • Non Profit (positive impact, variety, initiative, team work)
  • Government (planning, balance, security, structure)

B. What field do you want to work in?

Within each of these sectors there are many fields. These fields are frequently multi-disciplinary, and it is important not to limit your options by focusing only on fields that obviously match your area of research. (ie biochemistry cancer research = pharmaceutical). There are probably other fields to which you can apply your interests and expertise (ie biochemistry = cosmetics research)

Once you have identified fields of interest, you will want to research specific organizations within each one. Every organization has a different culture and mission.

Knowing your workplace needs (i.e. security versus advancement) is extremely important at this stage, as it can have a tremendous impact on your career satisfaction. Targeting companies that share your values will help you to be more successful in the long run.

C. What role (job) do you want to have?

Because every organization is structured differently, the set of responsibilities associated with a particular role can vary tremendously.  A "Project Manager" can be defined differently depending on the specific organization or even on the department. Job titles are rarely consistent across companies. Every position should be thought of as unique. As a result, it is often easier to start your career planning by identifying potential employers and then researching what specific role at that organization would be a good fit for you. Typical job functions include:

  • Research & Development : these are the people who create the stuff.
  • Testing & compliance: these are the people who test it and make sure it is legal
  • Professional & Support Services: these are the people who build it and deliver it
  • Communications Sales & Marketing: these are the people who tell people about it
  • Policy: these are the people who think about and plan it
  • Administration: these are the people who run the place

Getting Started

Career Guides

The sites listed below each provide helpful descriptions of the different fields, industries, and types of careers that you may be interested in, along with links to further resources in that area.

Yale Career Network

Yale Career Network Alumni Login

This directory allows current students and postdocs to connect with Yale alumni (both student and postdoc alumni) to find out about career paths and ask for valuable career advice. You will need to log in with your Yale NetId  to access this database.  To access the database after you have left Yale, you will need to complete the Postdoc Exit Survey ( to become a member of the Association of Yale Alumni.

Occupational Outlook Handbook

Bureau of Labor Statistics - Occupational Outlook Handbook link

Compiled by the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, this site contains industry and salary information and the projected growth of various jobs.



This site will try to match you to  career options based on your interests and skills. For each suggested career option there are linked resources where you can learn more about that career path. The matching tool doesn’t work for everyone, but the resources can still be very helpful.

Career Profiles

Read about the wide variety of career paths taken by sciences PhDs, and gain insight on how they found their position.

Humanities and Social Sciences

Versatile PhD
This site provides excellent examples of the career paths taken by people with a PhD in a wide variety of disciplines. Premium content available to Yale affiliates. Register with your Yale email. Once you have registered you will receive a link to activate your account, which will take you to the main mage. You will need to login again to access the premium content, which can be found in the “PhD Career Finder” section

Beyond Academe
Written by a History PhD, this site is an excellent source of information on non-academic options, with a focus on arts and humanities



All Fields
Specific fields


LinkedIn Company Directory

There are many ways to use LinkedIn to research career options and companies, this link will take you to a page where you can browse for companies by industry sector. 

Office of Career Strategy

Yale’s Office of Career Strategy has a search tool for finding job sites by industry.

Other Links


Think Tanks, ​Non Profit & Government


Yale Library Databases



Salary Information

Knowing typical salary ranges is essential when negotiating a job offer. Be clear about what else is important to you (flex time, vacation days, health benefits, etc.) The sites below will provide general information on salaries for a wide range of careers. 

Professional Development

The National Postdoctoral Association has identified six core competencies to guide your career and professional development:

  1. Discipline-specific conceptual knowledge
  2. Research skill development
  3. Communication skills
  4. Professionalism
  5. Leadership and management skills
  6. Responsible conduct of research

While your research experience and your mentor will help you to advance in the first two areas, we strongly recommend that you also invest time developing the remaining competencies. Our office and many others at Yale organize events throughout the year to assist you in your professional development. Explore the links below, and read our weekly email newsletter for a compendium of upcoming events.

Training & Getting Involved at Yale

The variety of training opportunities available at Yale is extensive, and we use our weekly newsletter to summarize all upcoming events.  Other resources are listed below.


yale postdoctoral association

poorvu center for teaching and learning

Training and Certification website


Grant Writing

We strongly urge you to take advantage of the workshops offered by the Funding Resource Center within the Office of Sponsored Projects. These workshops for faculty and trainees will help you to identify funding opportunities for your research and prepare successful, well-targeted grant applications.

The programs listed below are presented regularly. 

  • How To Write A Successful R01
  • Developing A Funded Research Program
  • Science Writing for Grants (and Manuscripts)
  • How to Write A Compelling Grant Abstract:  A Hands-On, Skill-Building Workshop
  • All About Career Awards: Applications, Review, and Stepping Stones to Funding Your Future
  • Show Me The Money: Using Online Databases to Identify Funding Opportunities for Your Research
  • Behind the Scenes at NSF, DOE, DOD and Other Funding Agencies: An Insiders’ Perspective on Grant Review
  • Behind the Scenes at NIH: Study Section Members Share Their Experience with Application Review
  • Revising and Resubmitting: Practical Considerations Based on the Psychology of Re-Reviews
  • Funding Q&A Clinic: Get your questions answered in an informal setting

Responsible Conduct of Research for Postdocs

Recent RCR Syllabus

Please find a syllabus from RCR here.

What is Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR)?

“Yale University is committed to the conduct of research and research training activities in a scientifically responsible and ethical manner. The Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training is a part of funding requirements for both the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundations (NSF).”


Who should take RCR?

Postdocs paid from NSF or NIH grants, fellowships or other awards are required to complete RCR.  If you are unsure how your postdoctoral position is funded or whether you are required to complete RCR, please consult your faculty mentor/supervisor or unit admin and funding agency guidance (see links below).

What are the options I have for taking RCR?

For those postdoctoral appointees paid from National Institutes of Health (NIH) T32 institutional training grants, F32 individual postdoctoral fellowships, and K awards, please register for the in-person RCR course offered by the Office for Postdoctoral Affairs which is offered each spring. 

***The Spring 2024 course for the above appointees is now scheduled. It will take place on April 11 and April 12 from 9am-2pm on each day. Full details and registration can be found here: Attendance on both days is required to complete the course. *** 

For those postdoctoral appointees paid from NIH R awards, NSF fellowships and research grants please take the online CITI RCR course using the instructions provided here:

What do I do after I’ve completed RCR?

If you take the in-person RCR course offered by the Office for Postdoctoral Affairs, your attendance will be tracked and your completion recorded to reflect your compliance. Please note: for the in-person course, you can miss only up to two sessions, and any sessions missed must be made up (instructions for makeups will be provided).

If you take the online CITI course, please send your certificate of completion to and your completion will be recorded to reflect your compliance.

When do I need to take RCR again?

According to the NIH guidelines, you need to take RCR again when you: change roles or every four years.


NIH RCR Requirements:

NSF Requirements:

Office for Postdoc Affairs RCR webpage:

Job Search

Networking has been consistently demonstrated as the most effective job search strategy, so why are so many people reluctant to network?

Getting Comfortable with Networking

Networking is about  creating and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships with others, particularly those in your fields of interest. As a general rule, the larger your network, the more effective your job search is likely to be. 

Commonly cited barriers to effective networking

Sheer Terror! I am much too shy/introverted to do this!

  • It helps to remember that networking is not primarily about you. It is about the other person. Skills like listening attentively, asking good questions ,and showing an interest in others are key. And if the idea of making cold calls day after day or attending self-proclaimed “networking events” ranks among your worst nightmares, there is no rule that says you have to network this way. Focus on creating and fostering relationships in ways that work for you, be that community involvement, referrals from friends, or talking with professors.

I don’t like schmoozing/using people – networking seems rude/aggressive to me.

  • Done poorly and with the wrong attitude, networking can indeed come across as aggressive and inconsiderate. Good networking, however, is about seeking out mutually beneficial relationships. Never assume that you can “use” someone and then just move on. Show respect for your contacts’ time by doing your homework prior to any meeting. Do not push someone to do more for you than they are willing. Make sure to show your appreciation by following up with a simple thank you note or email.

I don’t like asking for help or imposing on people – won’t that seem desperate?!

  • Rest assured that anyone you talk to will have received help from someone somewhere along their career path, and they will likely be quite pleased to give back a little. By asking for help you are giving others the opportunity to give and share their knowledge, wisdom and passion for their field. It can be a genuine pleasure to talk about your career path and interests with an eager listener.


  • Attitude is everything. Neediness, selfishness, and desperation repel others; kindness, generosity and genuine interest in people attract.
  • Instead of focusing on what you need from an interaction, relax and start really listening to the other person. Find out what makes them tick, where their passions lie. Pay attention to what their needs are, and figure out how you might be able to help them. Give first, and give often. The rest will tend to take care of itself.
  • As a job seeker it is natural to feel somewhat vulnerable and powerless at times – consciously remind yourself that you have a lot to offer others, be it your time, enthusiasm, knowledge, contacts, advice, skills or a listening ear.

Remember that good networking is really about being friendly and interested in others, being an active and attentive listener, and treating people with courtesy, respect and generosity. As Zig Ziglar, motivational speaker and author, noted: “You can get everything you want in life, by helping enough other people to get what they want.”

Preparing Your Mini Introduction

As you develop relationships within your target field you will need to introduce yourself to many people and be able to make the most of these opportunities.

In such situations a little preparation goes a long way, especially if talking about yourself and your achievements does not come naturally to you. Start by identifying your strengths as a potential employee: your relevant skills, experiences, achievements, interests and goals. Then think about the organization or industry or individual you are targeting, and consider which factors directly contribute to a good fit between you and them. Thirdly, be clear on what your goals are for the interaction. What are you hoping to learn? Finally you want to try to put all of this together into a mini introduction that might take several possible forms.

a) Sound Bite: An abbreviated introduction best used when time is short, as a lead-in to a telephone conversation for instance. Mention your name, educational background, and the purpose of making the contact.

“Hello. My name is Danielle Ferguson, and I am in a postdoctoral researcher in English literature at Yale. I am currently researching potential career options, and the publishing sector is an area of particular interest to me. I understand you have held many different positions in this field. I am interested in finding out more about your career path. Would it be possible to speak with you sometime this month?”

b) Infomercial: A longer version of a sound bite, more along the lines of a verbal business card. In addition to your name and educational background, mention relevant experience and skills, knowledge of the organization and the information or position you are seeking.

Continue with: “Last year I gained some editing experience at H & R Publishing in Chicago where I especially enjoyed collaborating closely with writers. I would like to continue to gain editing experience but am also interested in finding out more about the marketing side of the publishing business. I know that your company, NewBooks Plus, has recently expanded its marketing operations. Could you tell me more about these developments?”

c) Commercial: The longest version describes your background, qualifications, skills and achievements in more detail and would be used in situations where you are able to have a more extensive conversation with someone.

Continue with: “Over the course of my doctoral degree and since I began my postdoc I have taken numerous business and marketing seminars to complement my research experience. I have a thorough understanding of American literature and writers, with expertise in modern poetry. I would enjoy collaborating with local authors to promote their new works. I have several questions regarding the qualifications and experience necessary to break into the field, and am very interested to hear what you have to say about this.”


  • The sample scripts are by no means designed to be memorized and blurted out without pause at any opportunity. Rather, they are designed to get you thinking about what you want to communicate in any given situation - use them as a place to start and a way to help structure your thoughts.
  • Your conversation partner will almost certainly have questions and responses to various aspects of your introduction. Prepare for this by thinking about what you might be asked.
  • You are the ultimate expert on yourself. No one can be more informative than you in describing your skills, expertise, and experience. A passionate, confident introduction is what tends to impress.

Questions to Ask at a Networking Event or Information Interview

The keys to a successful information interview are your enthusiasm, preparation, and ability to communicate clearly. Before you go to an interview, think about the type of information that would be helpful to you. 

The following are sample questions. Respect anything your interviewee does not want to talk about. Always remember to thank them for their time and ask if there is anyone else they would recommend you speak with.

Questions about their career path/training

  • How did you get into this field?
  • What has your career path been like to date? Is it representative of most people in this kind of position?
  • What kind of education/training do you have?
  • Are you a member of any professional orders or associations? Which ones do you feel are the most important to belong to?
  • What are the future prospects in this field? What trends do you see developing over the next few years?
  • If you could do things all over again, would you choose the same path for yourself?

Questions about their current position and responsibilities

  • What does a typical day/week in your job look like?
  • What do you enjoy the most about your job? The least?
  • What skills have you found essential for success in this occupation?
  • Could you tell me about one of the main challenges you face in this position?

Questions about working conditions

  • How many hours do you work in a typical week?
  • How much autonomy do you have in terms of what you focus on at work?
  • What kind of supervision did you have when you were starting out? Now?
  • How is your performance evaluated?
  • What kind of professional development opportunities are available?

Additional questions

  • What advice would you have liked to have heard when you were starting out?
  • How would you recommend I “try out” this line of work (i.e. through a summer job, internship, volunteering…)?
  • What other fi lds or jobs would you suggest I research before making a fi al decision?
  • Is there anyone you would recommend I talk to next? When I call them, may I mention that you referred me?

Following Up

You may want to take some notes during the information interview, but do so sparingly, so as not to interrupt the flow of conversation. After the interview, write down all of the main points and pertinent details covered. 

Send a thank-you note or email within 24 hours of the meeting. 

Nurture and maintain your relationships with the people you have interviewed. Keep them informed of your progress and any action you have taken based on their advice. If they referred you to someone who was also helpful or recommended a book, website or professional organization which you subsequently followed up on, let them know that. Once you make a decision about your career path or land the position you were hoping for, inform them of this as well; and thank them for their role in your journey. Remember, good relationship building is reciprocal: if you read an interesting article they might enjoy, forward it on; if you hear about a success they have achieved or an award they have received, send a congratulatory note.

Re: Meeting Last Week

Dear Mrs. Newman,

Thank you so much for talking with me last week. I really appreciated you taking the time out of your busy schedule to tell me about your fascinating and varied career path and to bring me up to speed on the latest developments in immunotherapy technology. 

I learned a great deal from our discussion, and I also greatly appreciated your referral to your colleague in a new start up, Mr. Johnson. I spoke with him yesterday, and we will be meeting later this week.

I will be sure to keep in touch and let you know how my career plans develop. Thank you again for your time, your enthusiasm, and your suggestions.


Linda Green

Applying for Jobs

This is the last step in the career planning process (many people make the mistake of starting here!)

After you have:

  1. identified your skills, interests and values
  2. selected career options that will meet your needs
  3. networked with people working in the organizations you are targeting

Then you will be ready to create a strong targeted resume and cover letter. The most common error postdocs make when creating a resume is to forgo tailoring it –it is incredibly important to take the time to examine the positing and identify all the skills the employer is looking for –including all the soft skills (communication, team work etc.).

Here is a table that outlines the differences between an academic CV and a resume:

Here is a summary of what to include in your cover letter:

The following guides and sample industry resumes will help you to see what kind of information employers in industry are looking for:


Academic Job Search

The search for a tenure track faculty position is somewhat different from a regular job search, and has unique challenges. Our office, the Office of Career Strategy, and the Center for Teaching and Learning run workshops throughout the year on preparing for the academic job market.

Below are additional resources to help you craft your job application and prepare for the interview process.

Vitae’s The Quick and Painless Guide to your Academic Job Search. (Also see see: )