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Skills and Career Interests Assessment

myIDP and Imagine PhD

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For STEM disciplines:
myIDP

For Social Science and Humanities disciplines:
ImaginePhD

The My Individual Development Plan (myIDP), launched in 2012, was created in recognition of the scarcity of jobs within academia and that identifying jobs and careers that may be of interest is a challenging process. MyIDP was based on the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology’s (FASEB’s) Individual Development Plan for Postdoctoral Fellows and was created specifically for science PhDs and postdocs. 

ImaginePhD is sponsored by a wealth of American universities and was developed in conjunction with the team behind myIDP, and created by a subset of the Graduate Career Consortium (GCC) representing 56 academic institutions and professional organizations (O’Connell, 2018). Both myIDP and ImaginePhD are free tools designed to help and assist you through the self-assessment process. 

There are four steps in the myIDP/ImaginePhD process: 

  1. Self-evaluation – what are your skills, values and interests. 
  1. Explore your options – use the self-assessment to guide you through which career opportunities you may find interesting, identify a preferred career and some acceptable alternative options that you’d be happy with. 
  1. Set goals – get to the career paths you’ve identified. 
  1. Put your plan into place – discuss the career paths you aspire to, set your goals with your PI (or mentor) and put your plan into action. 

The outputs of the tests include a ranked list of your skills, interests and values as well as ranked career path matches. You are also able to set goals (for career advancement, skills and project) and implement your plan. 

Pros and cons of myIDP and Imagine PhD

Pros

These tools are free and created specifically for postdocs, spanning STEM, humanities and social sciences. 

The helpful features are: 

Saving progress 

so you can return and pick up where you left off, including goal setting and automated reminder functionality. 

Sharing with others 
 
“What was really good is that I could download a blank version, fill it in more than once and I even sent it to my PI to complete and I could compare with my own results. This is I think an important point because it’s very hard to self-assess these skills” (Psychology postdoc, University of Liverpool). 
 

Goal setting and automated reminders: 

 “I like the ability to put together SMART goals that I can take into my next PDR” (Health and Life Sciences postdoc, University of Liverpool). 

User-friendly framework: 
 
“The steps towards making a final career choice are systematically laid down” (Engineering postdoc, University of Liverpool). 

Cons

Not all the questions about likes and dislikes are obviously relevant to career interests, values or skills. 

There is a limited range of suggested career directions: most suggestions are academic or academic adjacent. University of Liverpool postdocs rated both myIDP/ImaginePhD with only an average score of 3/5 for thinking about career planning beyond academia. 

Both tools suggested careers that were not new to participants: 

“the results are not unexpected at all; all of my top matches I have already self-identified as worth pursuing and in some cases I have already taken steps to pursue them.”  

Biochemistry postdoc, University of Liverpool. 

The career suggestions are based on the employment situation in North America and don’t all translate to other locations.  

Both tools’ skills rating system is a double edged-sword – it forces you to prioritise but the downside of this is that it can feel unnecessarily restrictive. 

“You have to rate your interests with a broad distribution across all scores, the system doesn’t accept if you rate too much at maximum or minimum level.”

Health and Life Sciences postdoc, University of Liverpool. 

What do postdocs think of these tests?

Trials of these tools with a group of University of Liverpool postdocs showed patterns in how they were found to be useful.  

myIDP was rated highest for career development and career planning in academia, getting an average score of 4/5. 

Imagine PhD was rated as most useful for identifying interests, with an average score of 4.4/5, as well as for prompting thinking about career development, with an average score of 4/5. 

“The different assessments (interests, skills and values) allow the user to reflect on their career plans from different perspectives. It encourages a reflection on the potential clashes between career options and what we would really value and enjoy in a job. It allows for a bird-eye view on our aspirations, and whether they actually match our skill set, our needs and the way we enjoy working on a daily basis. […] In addition, the input from people who are currently pursuing these careers provides useful insights on what each one is like and what skills are needed”. 

“The different assessments (interests, skills and values) allow the user to reflect on their career plans from different perspectives. It encourages a reflection on the potential clashes between career options and what we would really value and enjoy in a job. It allows for a bird-eye view on our aspirations, and whether they actually match our skill set, our needs and the way we enjoy working on a daily basis. […] In addition, the input from people who are currently pursuing these careers provides useful insights on what each one is like and what skills are needed.”

Humanities postdoc for ImaginePhD, University of Liverpool. 

Other assessments

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Skills and career interests tests

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