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UCLA Career Center

No matter where you are in your degree, the best time to start thinking about your career goals is now.

Create Your Personal Career Development Plan

Choosing your future career path is a complicated decision that will continue to evolve throughout your professional life. Career assessment tools can help you identify your strengths and skills, understand your work and communication style, and reflect your core values. You can access the following tools online or with the help of a career counselor.


MyIDPis a career development and planning tool for individuals in STEM disciplines. MyIDP provides:

  • Exercises to help you examine your skills, interests, and values
  • An algorithm to help you identify which careers best fit your current skills and interests from a list of 20 scientific career pathways
  • A tool for setting strategic goals for the coming year, with optional reminders to keep you on track
  • An opportunity to help map out or frame your career development plans, skills, and interests when meeting with your faculty advisor or PI


ImaginePhD is a free online career exploration and planning tool for PhD students and postdoctoral scholars in the humanities and social sciences. Use ImaginePhD to:

  • Reflect on your career-related skills, interests, and values
  • Explore career paths that PhDs in humanities and social sciences pursue and more than 450+ curated, job-specific resources including job boards, sample resumes, and PhD profiles
  • Map out your next steps for degree completion, as well as career and professional development success

Use these tools to introduce yourself to different career paths you may or may not have previously considered, and continue your exploration of how they may align with your

Experiential Learning

Gaining experience by working on a project in a particular industry is one of the best ways to explore career options. An ideal way to gain this experience is through completing an internship. However, as a graduate student or postdoc there are often significant barriers around time, funding, and experience that can make committing to an internship challenging. We have identified the following low-risk opportunities to help you “try out” work that involve minimal time commitments and allow you to reflect on how much you actually enjoy the work.

Job Simulations

InterSECT Job Simulations is an online platform that allows PhD-level scientists and humanists, regardless of professional stage, to explore future career options through true-to-life job simulation exercises. Job simulations include positions in business, university administration, data analytics, intellectual property, project management, advocacy, and many more! Through completing these exercises, you can continue to consider the following questions:

  • What are my professional interests and skills?
  • How to my interests and skills translate to potential careers?
  • What are my career options?
  • Which careers haven’t I considered?

Competitions and Crowdsourcing Platforms

Crowdsourcing online platforms provide opportunities for organizations to pose problems and users to solve those problems for incentives ranging from cash rewards to on-site interviews. Pay attention to fine print on crowdsourcing sites, including:

  • Intellectual Property - who owns your ideas if you participate, and at what point do your ideas become the intellectual property of the organization posing the idea? The most reputable sites either never own your idea, or own your ideaonly if you win the competition. Consult with the Technology Development Group and your lab director regarding
    the complexities of intellectual property before you participate, too. In some cases-and especially if the work on a crowdsourcing platform is similar in scope to your research at UCLA-the university, your lab, or a funding agency may already have rights to your work product.
  • Fair Compensation - be sure the work on these platforms is worth the effort, and understand exactly what the compensation for your work will be before you participate. In some cases, prize money is awarded only to winning ideas. In other cases, each bit of work performed is compensated. And some crowdsourcing sites - particularly work for nonprofits and government agencies - do not provide any compensation at all. Even if the pay is not great, though, determine if the work experience will be useful to you for building a portfolio for future employment or learning new skills.

Explore a list of crowdsourcing platforms here.