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Phase 2: Working and achieving goals

Expand your skill set and explore your options for the future

The goal of this phase is to build skills in multiple areas and to get hands-on experiences. This is a time to pause and reflect on your career goals, to acknowledge that they might have changed, and to refine your Individual Development Plan. OITE career and educational advisors, staff in your IC training office, and other career mentors can support you through this phase.

Assess your experience

This is also an important time to assess your satisfaction with your research training and to consider what you can do to strengthen relationship with your PI and other research supervisors/mentors. If you ignore issues, they will not likely go away; revisit the information we provide to build relationships with mentors and make a plan.

Your tasks for this phase

  • It is likely that you are very busy in your research group and it may be easy to ignore career development activities. However, these activities lay the foundation for your long-term success. Hiring managers and hiring committees in all job sectors want to see more than your research accomplishments.
  • This is a good time to add some hands on experiences relevant to your career goals. Here are some possibilities:

Core competencies

Career readiness

Utilize our career readiness resources to develop your networking skills, learn how to do informational interviews. Start exploring specific career paths through sector-specific workshops and by attending career panels.

If you are interested in a career in industry or involving drug discovery, complete the Translational Science Training Program.


Develop your communication skills by presenting posters and talks. If you have work that will soon be ready for publication, consider taking the FAES writing course.

If you are strongly considering a career where grant writing will be a critical skills, find relevant grant writing courses in your IC and beyond. This is also a time to consider applying for internal NIH grants, including opportunities in your IC, and to explore if you are eligible for NIH K awards or other external opportunities.

Leadership and management

This is the time to focus on leadership and management skills by attending the OITE Workplace Dynamics and Diversity and Inclusion series. You need to complete these now if you wish to take our management short-course later.

Well-being and resilience

Continue developing well-being skills  by attending various OITE resilience discussion groups and the Mental Health and Well-being series. If you have not completed the Becoming a Resilient Scientist series, complete this now.

Teaching and mentoring

Strengthen your teaching and mentoring skills through OITE and IC courses and by gaining hands-on experiences in your group, at NIH, and beyond.

Thoughts specific for trainee groups

If you are a:

Postbac. It is important to meet with an OITE career or educational advisor and to participate in relevant application and interviewing workshops. Also, be sure to explore the Graduate and Professional School Fair and present your work at Postbac Poster Day. Depending on your career goals, you may wish to consider participating in the NIH Academy on Health Disparities and/or the Health Science Communications and Policy Course.

Graduate Student. It is easy to get discouraged as your thesis project often takes shape slowly, so be sure to engage in our well-being activities. It is also easy to become isolated at NIH; get involved in the Graduate Student Council and attend the Graduate Student Retreat. Also, be sure to present at the Graduate Student Research Symposium and develop communication skills that will enhance your ability to engage with committee members and collaborators.

Postdoc. This is a good time to meet with a career counselor or industry advisor, to attend the NIH Career Symposium, and to do informational interviews. Avoid waiting too long to gain critical hands-on and didactic experiences necessary for your job search.

Next steps

Are you making plans to move to your next opportunity? Explore the next phase of training.

Phase 3: Preparing to leave and leaving