The American Chemical Society recently deployed a new online career tool called ChemIDP. As the name implies, this resource is an individual development plan (IDP) tool that assists graduate students and postdoctoral scholars in the chemical sciences with career planning and preparation.
IDPs are commonly used in industry to assist employees with their professional development and have proven to be a useful tool for managers and senior leadership. The use of IDPs is not as common in the academic world, but this perspective is changing as institutions implement ways to help prepare their students to meet the demands of the current job market.
In its 2012 report titled “Advancing Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences,” the ACS Presidential Commission on Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences noted that “graduate programs should make an Individual Development Plan a standard part of every doctoral student experience.” The results of the 2013 ACS Graduate Student Survey echoed this recommendation, and the 2015 ACS Committee on Professional Training Ph.D. Recipient Survey revealed that chemistry doctorates now in their mid-30s to mid-40s received little career counseling while in graduate school.
Furthermore, an increasing number of government agencies that provide funding to research institutions, such as the National Institutes of Health, are requiring grantees to report on the completion of IDPs for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars in their annual reports. Some institutions have gone as far as implementing the use of IDPs for all of their graduate students across all disciplines. A small number of online IDP tools exist to help strengthen students’ prospects of career planning success, but until now, none has been specifically targeted to assist students in the chemical sciences.
ChemIDP was designed to fill this gap, serving as a mechanism to transform the career planning process across the chemical sciences. To guide graduate students and postdoctoral scholars in developing their career plan, workshops will be held at ACS national and regional meetings, as well as at individual chemistry departments, to promote effective use of this online tool.
The framework of ChemIDP focuses on four essential components of the career development process:
▸ Self-assessment: taking an introspective look into one’s values, as well as identifying proficiencies in technical and professional knowledge and skills, resulting in potential areas of career matches.
▸ Skill strengthening: searching for and finding skill-strengthening strategies to enhance desired technical and professional skills.
▸ Career exploration: navigating an archive of more than 45 descriptions of traditional and nontraditional careers for chemists that delve into each career’s typical work environment, salary, and job responsibilities.
▸ Goal setting: creating short- and long-term SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound) goals, and keeping track of accomplishments that support career aspirations.
Through this framework, ChemIDP offers guidance and suggestions customized to an individual’s values, skills, and ambitions.
There are a number of advantages for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars using ChemIDP, which is freely accessible online. Specifically, the ChemIDP tool does the following:
▸ assists in career planning and SMART goal setting;
▸ introduces students to a wide array of career options of which they may not have been aware;
▸ allows students to track their progress toward their ultimate career success and satisfaction;
▸ links to a rich array of ACS and other accessible career resources; and
▸ offers flexibility as ChemIDP can be used starting in any of the four main areas, making the tool adaptable to students and postdoctoral scholars at any stage of their studies.
Graduate students and postdoctoral scholars can also optimize their career planning through discussions with research advisers, career consultants, or other mentors. ChemIDP can help focus these discussions by giving mentors a better understanding of the students they advise, their career goals, and their future plans. Working alongside students, mentors can review their mentees’ progress and career aspirations. In those cases where a student or postdoc wants to move toward a field that is less known to their mentor, ChemIDP has an extensive list of career profiles and resources that they can explore together.
ChemIDP was initially funded through a National Science Foundation I-Corps for Learning grant, which supported the customer research needed to inform the development of the tool. Additional funding from the ACS Insurance Trust was approved by the ACS Board of Directors, making ChemIDP a reality.
ACS has a wealth of career resources, workshops, courses, and programs available to future and current chemists at all stages of their careers. ChemIDP is a new tool that complements these existing resources. It is an engaging portal that raises awareness of the value of ACS membership through a customized exploration of and navigation to those resources that can benefit graduate students and postdoctoral scholars the most. We encourage you to explore and use this valuable online tool at ChemIDP.org. If you have an interest in holding a workshop at your institution or have any questions, please contact ChemIDP@acs.org.
Views expressed on this page are those of the authors and not necessarily those of ACS.