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  • Hour glass icon15 minutes

Career audit

The aim of the career audit is to look at significant points in your career - the decision to pursue a PhD, when you got your first postdoctoral position - and to compare your prior expectations, with the reality of the experience.

In doing this, you can identify any areas of mismatch or areas that you would like to develop in the future. 

  • Who you are
  • How you got here
  • What you want to take forward

How to use

Step 1: Thinking about your expectations before the experience 

  • What was it you were hoping to get out of going into academia?
  • Consider, lifestyle, values, skills and contribution.

Step 2: Thinking about the reality of the experience

  • What is the reality of the tasks and activities that you are doing on a daily basis? 
  • And week to week? 
  • What is the reality of the lifestyle, values, skills and contribution?

Record your experiences in a table like this:

Pursuing my passion for research in my field of study.Too much teaching responsibility gets in the way

Add your step 1 experiences to the before column, step 2 in the reality column.

Suggested tasks

Login or register to add these tasks to your personal development plan.

Thinking about the future

Step 3: What you want to take forward 

  • What do you want to keep from your current reality?
  • What do you want to let go of?
  • What do you want to get rid of because you don’t like it or don’t care about it? 
  • What do you want to reclaim from the before column for your future?

Step 4: Linking your past experiences to potential career exploration ideas

  • What would you do if money was not an issue and you could just devote your time to doing it?
  • What would you do if you did not experience unhappiness if it did not work out? 
  • What would you be doing if you knew it was distress-proof regardless of whether you got it or not?
  • What would I be doing if I didn’t have a fear of failure? 


Salma, a Bioinformatician in the early stages of her research career, identifies that she does public engagement because she enjoys bringing information to the masses and feels passionate about the role of scientists in combating fake news by making credible evidence accessible to the public.  

The university where she works seems to have a broadly positive attitude to the Pint of Science events she organises and hosts. However, she feels frustrated that this activity will not contribute to her being promoted or achieving funding. The time spent will not be accounted for in the working model. No, it is just one of the extras she fits into a 60 – 80 hour week. 

There are myriad roles, in medical communication for example, in which skills around science communication are valuable. Salma could spend time researching and brainstorming a list of organisations and roles that are linked to these interests and skills. 

Why does this work?

Many people have tangled ideas about happiness and success. Researchers in the sciences do experiments to find out by trial and error. Failing is one way that we learn about what works and what doesn’t.  

The academic publishing industry, and some PIs, reinforce the notion that ‘success’ is the goal of research by encouragement to only publish ‘successful results’. When researchers were asked what they thought about this by the Wellcome Trust:

‘[...]only 60% believed their supervisor valued negative results that don’t meet an expected hypothesis and 66% would feel comfortable approaching their supervisor if they couldn’t reproduce lab results.’

Welcome Trust, What Researchers Think About Culture

But negative results are valuable because they help us to eliminate a line of inquiry, and to focus on alternative an hypothesis. 

Paying attention to resentment and anger, perhaps that you have been ignoring for a long time, can give you insights into situations in which your boundaries are being crossed. Those activities or situations may tell you about things you want to leave behind. 

Conversely, thinking about activities where you feel joyful and engaged, will give you tasks, skills and interests you find fulfilling which you can link to potential career ideas. 

Reflective Auditing

The sequence of questions on this page can be used to reflect on any aspect of self. On values, likes/dislikes, strengths/weaknesses, skills, ability, and experience. Helping to inform decision-making, to market oneself to employers, to identify internal struggles, and understand what needs to change. 

  • What did I expect it to be like before the experience?
  • What is the reality and how does that compare to my expectations?
  • What do I want to hold on to?
  • What do I want to let go of?
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