Postdoctoral Career Development & Progress Assessment Process

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Welcome

The Postdoctoral Career Development and Progress Assessment process is required for all postdoctoral associates and postdoctoral scholars in the schools of the health sciences. The Center for Postdoctoral Affairs in the Health Sciences monitors and manages this activity.

Overview

Key features of this process include:

Postdoctoral Career Development Plan

Identifies a postdoc’s long-term and short-term objectives which the faculty mentor and postdoctoral trainee have identified as important steps in the postdoc’s scientific and professional development.

A Postdoctoral Career Development Plan identifies a postdoc’s long-term and short-term objectives that the faculty mentor and postdoctoral trainee have identified as important steps in the postdoc’s scientific and professional development. This annual plan, mutually agreed upon by both the faculty mentor and postdoc, serves as the benchmark from which the postdoc’s progress is assessed.

  • This plan is required to be completed no later than 90 days after the initial postdoctoral appointment.
  • An updated plan is required as a condition of reappointment.
  • Upon the introduction of this process, postdocs with contracts in progress are to submit their initial Career Development Plans at the time of their reappointments.

View samples of completed postdoctoral career development plans below:

Postdoctoral Mentoring Team

Consisting of two faculty members or professionals, in addition to the primary faculty mentor, that will provide expanded networks of support for all postdocs in the schools of the Health Sciences.

Trainees supported by training grants, or those who have successfully competed for independent funding, receive optimal training experiences by interacting with multiple mentors. Building upon this model, postdocs will consult with their primary faculty mentors to identify two additional individuals in addition to their primary faculty mentor to serve as members of their mentoring teams. Establishing postdoctoral mentoring teams will provide expanded networks of support for all postdocs in the schools of the health sciences. Depending upon postdoctoral career goals, mentoring teams may include faculty or professionals outside of the university.

Postdoctoral Research Independence Plan

An optional tool that allows trainees, in conjunction with their faculty mentor, to articulate the goals and objectives which can lead to their own independent research program.

For those postdocs who intend to pursue academic careers, it is important for faculty mentors to engage in conversations with these postdocs, early in their training, regarding strategies for establishing the postdoc’s research independence. The Career Development Plan includes this option for trainees to shape a Research Independence Plan, in conjunction with their faculty mentor, articulating the goals and objectives that can lead to their own independent research program.

Postdoctoral Self-Assessment

Exercise that provides a structure for postdocs to compare their annual accomplishments to the expectations set forth in their Career Development Plans.

Postdoctoral Self Assessment exercise provides a structure for postdocs to compare their annual accomplishments to the expectations set forth in their Career Development Plans. Once a postdoc completes and submits the self assessment form to his or her mentoring team, it provides a guide or tool for the primary mentor to evaluate the postdoc’s overall progress towards his or her career goals in combination with the faculty mentor’s own assessment of the postdoc’s progress

Postdoctoral Progress Assessment

An innovative process that assesses core postdoctoral research competencies and performance factors as well as critiques a trainee’s progress towards his or her customized career goals as articulated in his or her Career Development Plan.

A postdoctoral training experience is unique from a student, staff, or faculty appointment, and as such, warrants a distinct assessment process. Whereas traditional student or employment evaluations solely critique one’s performance, a postdoctoral training experience is also assessed by the degree of progress one makes towards his or her career goals. Therefore, this innovative Postdoctoral Progress Assessment instrument assesses core postdoctoral research competencies and performance factors as well as critiques a trainee’s progress towards his or her customized career goals as articulated in his or her Career Development Plan.

In the event that you determine that a postdoc is in need of significant improvement in a given competency or performance factor, a clearly defined Performance Improvement Plan and timeline are required. The Performance Improvement Plan template may be used or an additional document that sufficiently describes the plan. If a Performance Improvement Plan is in effect, the Postdoctoral Progress Assessment form allows a specific timeline for a follow-up review.

Darlene Zellers, PhD, Director of the Center for Postdoctoral Affairs in the Health Sciences, is available to consult with or to assist in developing a Performance Improvement Plan upon request, as well as being available to mediate any postdoctoral personnel matter as needed.

Postdoctoral Outcome Summary

If a postdoc completes his or her training or is not being reappointed, the Center for Postdoctoral Affairs in the Health Sciences requests that an Outcome Summary form be provided along with the postdoc's final Postdoctoral Progress Assessment and Employee Record.

Guidelines For Postdocs

Benefits

  • Empowers you to proactively manage your career goals and career trajectory.
  • Provides you the opportunity to talk to your faculty mentor about your career goals and objectives at the beginning of your training.
  • Allows you to openly explore a range of career options if desired.
  • Creates a structured yet flexible venue for your faculty mentor to communicate his or her expectations to you, to establish objective criteria for your success, and for your faculty mentor to define time and resources devoted to your technical and professional skill development.
  • Provides a mechanism for your faculty mentor to communicate constructive feedback to you and to articulate a timely and clearly defined performance improvement strategy if needed.

Step by Step Guide

1.  Develop a mutually agreed upon Postdoctoral Career Development Plan with your primary faculty mentor.

Postdoctoral Career Development Plan (CDP) is a professional tool which outlines long-term and short-term objectives that you and your primary faculty mentor have identified as important steps in your professional development. Use this document, preferably before accepting your postdoctoral appointment, to guide discussions with your primary faculty mentor regarding your goals as well as his or her expectations. A comprehensive review of your career goals and objectives with your primary faculty mentor early in your postdoctoral training, even if you are undecided, will increase the likelihood of your being successful and satisfied with your postdoctoral experience.

The Career Development Plan highlights core competencies of a successful postdoctoral experience. The first five core criteria are universal for all postdoctoral positions and are required modules.

REQUIRED: 

  1. Scholarly Activities    
  2. Publication Plans and Activities         
  3. Presentation Opportunities     
  4. General Transferrable Professional Development
  5. Career Specific Professional Development

However, each postdoctoral appointment is unique. If applicable, four additional fields with drop-down features are available for you to further design your postdoctoral experience to meet your personal career goal. 

IF APPLICABLE:

                  6. Instructional Training and Experiences
                  7. Clinical or Applied Experiences
                  8. Scholarly Independence Plan
                  9. Customized Career Competency 

This plan also serves as a benchmark for you to conduct an annual self-assessment and will contribute to your postdoctoral mentor/supervisor’s assessment of your progress.

After you accept a postdoctoral appointment, work with your primary faculty mentor to formalize an initial Career Development Plan. Print this document, acquire your primary faculty mentor's signature, and email a scanned file to the Center for Postdoctoral Affairs at postdoc@hs.pitt.edu within the first 90 days of your appointment. Career Development Plans are required annually. It will be your responsibility to prepare an updated Career Development Plan for your primary faculty mentor to review and approve during your annual Postdoctoral Progress Assessment review meeting. Your primary faculty mentor must provide an updated Career Development Plan for you, along with the other required paperwork, as a condition of your reappointment

2.  Consult with your primary faculty mentor to determine who might be good candidates to serve on your mentoring team.

Every postdoc is expected to build relationships with faculty members and professionals other than his or her primary faculty mentor. To help you build initial relationships, consult with your primary faculty mentor to identify two faculty members or professionals in addition to your primary faculty mentor to serve as members of your mentoring team. In some cases, a school may assign faculty representatives to serve this role for the school’s postdoc community. If this is the practice in your school, your primary faculty mentor will introduce you to these individuals. If not, we recommend that you discuss with your primary faculty mentor who might be well suited to serve on your mentoring team.

These individuals should be accessible to you, knowledgeable in your area of research, and complement your career goals. Take the initiative and help your primary faculty mentor to identify who might be able to contribute to your scientific and professional development, especially if you are interested in a career outside of academia.

It will be your primary faculty mentor’s responsibility to help you initiate contact with the members of your mentoring team, however after that, you will be responsible for developing and managing your relationships with these two individuals. Establish a pattern of communicating that fits your needs and accommodates your mentoring team members’ schedules and preferences. Your primary faculty mentor will be seeking feedback from your mentoring team members, at least quarterly, with regard to your scientific and professional maturation.

You are to identify the members of your mentoring team on your Career Development Plan and these members may change during the course of your training as needed or as necessary. Do not limit your interactions to only those who are officially designated as part of your mentoring team; use these individuals to help you meet other colleagues and develop additional mentoring relationships so that you cultivate a rich network of support during your postdoctoral training.

3.  Track your career development progress using the Postdoctoral Self Assessment form.
The Postdoctoral Self Assessment instrument allows you to track accomplishments that are aligned with your Career Development Plan’s core competencies (research accomplishments, presentation experience, publication record, professional development) as well as to track the customized criteria you articulated within your individualized plan. This exercise also provides a structure for you to document experiences that might otherwise be overlooked or omitted from your curriculum vitae, e.g., the writing stage of a manuscript or a grant application in progress. Capture everything that is relevant to your career growth.
4.  Prepare for your annual Postdoctoral Progress Assessment review meeting with your primary faculty mentor.

Although we recommend that you review your progress with your primary faculty mentor and mentoring team members on an ongoing basis, you will be required to submit a formal Postdoctoral Self Assessment to these individuals 120 days prior to the end of your postdoctoral appointment contract in preparation for your annual Postdoctoral Progress Assessment review meeting. This is required so that your primary faculty mentor and mentoring team members can review your self assessment in advance of your primary faculty mentor completing your annual Postdoctoral Progress Assessment. 

If your primary faculty mentor plans to reappoint you, you must also provide your primary faculty mentor a draft of your updated Career Development Plan in addition to your Postdoctoral Self Assessment. Seek input from your mentoring team when you are updating your Career Development Plan. 

You must receive 90 days notice if your postdoctoral appointment is not being renewed therefore your primary faculty mentor is required to schedule your Postdoctoral Progress Assessment review meeting in advance of this deadline. Providing your primary faculty mentor and members of your mentoring team your Postdoctoral Self Assessment 120 days before the expiration of your postdoctoral appointment, along with your updated Career Development Plan if appropriate, allows them 30 days to confer regarding your annual Postdoctoral Progress Assessment. Whereas your primary faculty mentor will solicit input from your mentoring team members, he or she will ultimately be responsible for completing the Postdoctoral Progress Assessment and scheduling your Postdoctoral Progress Assessment review meeting.

Familiarize yourself with the Postdoctoral Progress Assessment form that your primary faculty mentor will be using to assess your annual progress. It corresponds very closely with your Postdoctoral Self Assessment with regard to core competencies: research accomplishments, presentation experience, publication record, and professional development. Your primary faculty mentor will also critique your progress towards the customized career criteria articulated within your Career Development Plan.

The core competencies alone do not encompass the breadth of skills necessary for a successful postdoctoral experience. The Postdoctoral Progress Assessment provides your primary faculty mentor the additional dimension of assessing your performance with regard to the following factors:

  1. Execution of Research
  2. Knowledge of Literature
  3. Professional Communication
  4. Interpersonal Skills
  5. Self-Improvement

If your primary faculty mentor plans to reappoint you, he or she will provide feedback regarding your updated Career Development Plan during your progress review meeting. The Postdoctoral Progress Assessment process requires that your primary faculty mentor approve your updated Career Development Plan as a condition of your reappointment.

Performance Improvement Plan 

In the event that your primary faculty mentor determines that you are in need of significant improvement in a given competency or performance factor, your primary faculty mentor is required to develop a clearly defined Performance Improvement Plan and timeline. He or she may use the Performance Improvement Plan template or draft a separate document. If a Performance Improvement Plan is in effect, your primary faculty mentor will specify a timeline for a follow up review as part of your Postdoctoral Progress Assessment. 

Outcome Summary 

If you are completing your training or not being reappointed, and have accepted other employment, provide your primary faculty mentor a completed Outcome Summary form during your final progress review meeting.

Darlene Zellers, PhD, Director of the Center for Postdoctoral Affairs in the Health Sciences, is available to provide referrals or to consult with you confidentially regarding your postdoctoral training experience.

Guidelines For Faculty

Benefits

  • Encourages your postdoctoral trainee to proactively manage his or her career goals and career trajectory.
  • Provides a comprehensive review of your postdoc’s career goals and objectives at the beginning of his or her training and increases the probability of your postdoc achieving his or her individual career goals.
  • Creates a structured yet flexible venue for you to communicate your expectations to your postdoc, to establish objective criteria for your postdoc’s success, and to define time and resources devoted to your postdoc’s technical and professional skill proficiencies.
  • Allows you to provide ongoing constructive feedback to your postdoc and to implement timely performance improvement strategies as needed.
  • Communicates an institutional emphasis on postdoctoral career development and provides you a competitive advantage in attracting the best and brightest postdocs.

Step by Step Guide

1.  Develop a mutually agreed upon Postdoctoral Career Development Plan with your trainee.

Postdoctoral Career Development Plan (CDP) is a professional tool which outlines long-term and short-term objectives that you and your postdoctoral trainee have identified as important steps in his or her professional development. Provide prospective postdoctoral trainees a copy of the Postdoctoral Career Development Plan during the recruitment stage. Use this document to guide discussions regarding the prospective trainee’s career goals and objectives.

The Career Development Plan highlights core competencies of a successful postdoctoral experience. The first five core criteria are universal for all postdoctoral positions and are required modules.

REQUIRED: 

  1. Scholarly Activities    
  2. Publication Plans and Activities         
  3. Presentation Opportunities     
  4. General Transferrable Professional Development
  5. Career Specific Professional Development

However, each postdoctoral appointment is unique. If applicable, four additional fields with drop-down features are available for you to further design your postdoctoral experience to meet your personal career goal. 

IF APPLICABLE:

                  6. Instructional Training and Experiences
                  7. Clinical or Applied Experiences
                  8. Scholarly Independence Plan
                  9. Customized Career Competency 

This plan also serves as a benchmark for your postdoc to conduct an annual self-assessment and will contribute to your assessment of your postdoc's progress.

After a postdoctoral candidate accepts your offer of a postdoctoral appointment, work with him or her to formalize an initial Career Development Plan which your postdoc must submit to the Center for Postdoctoral Affairs at postdoc@hs.pitt.edu within the first 90 days of his or her appointment. Career Development Plans are required annually and you must provide an updated Career Development Plan for your postdoc, along with the other required paperwork, as a condition of reappointment.

2.  Help your postdoc identify two mentoring team members who are well suited to his or her research and career interests.

Following the practices of your school, help your postdoc identify a minimum of two additional faculty members or professionals to serve as members of his or her mentoring team.

  • Faculty members or professionals outside the university may serve on mentoring teams.
  • These individuals should be accessible to your postdoc and knowledgeable of his or her research and career interests.
  • Your postdoc may be able to recommend individuals to serve on his or her mentoring team. In some cases, a school may assign faculty representatives to serve this role for the school’s postdoc community.
  • For postdocs interested in careers outside of academia, mentoring teams may include professionals from the private or public sectors.

Help your postdoc establish initial contact and encourage your postdoc to develop relationships with the members of his or her mentoring team. Members of a postdoc’s mentoring team are to be identified on the postdoc’s Career Development Plan and may change during the course of your postdoc’s training.

Solicit regular feedback from mentoring team members with regard to your postdoc’s scientific and professional maturation. Their input should be taken into consideration when you complete your postdoc's annual Postdoctoral Progress Assessment. Ask mentoring team members about the degree of initiative your postdoc has demonstrated with regard to developing a relationship with him or her, observations with regard to your postdoc’s effort in seeking out additional resources to support his or her career development, as well as feedback with regard to your postdoc’s scientific and professional skills

3.  Schedule an annual Postdoctoral Progress Assessment review meeting with your postdoc.

Since a postdoc must receive, at minimum, 90 days notice if his or her appointment is not being renewed, a Postdoctoral Progress Assessment review meeting should be scheduled with your postdoc prior to this deadline.

Under Postdoc Guidelines, your postdoc is instructed to provide you and the members of his or her mentoring team with a copy of his or her Postdoctoral Self Assessment 120 days prior to the end of his or her appointment contract
(which is 30 days before your deadline to complete his or her annual Postdoctoral Progress Assessment).

  • This instrument allows your postdoc to track accomplishments that are aligned with the Career Development Plan’s core competencies (research accomplishments, presentation experience, publication record, professional development) as well as to track the customized criteria articulated within his or her individualized plan.
  • This exercise also provides a structure for your postdoc to document experiences that might otherwise be overlooked or omitted from his or her curriculum vitae, e.g., the writing stage of a manuscript or a grant application in progress. 
Your postdoc is also instructed to provide you an updated Career Development Plan with his or her Postdoctoral Self Assessment if you plan to reappoint him or her. Review your postdoc's updated Career Development Plan and prepare to provide him or her feedback during your progress review meeting.
4.  Complete a Postdoctoral Progress Assessment form to present to your postdoc at your annual review meeting.

The Postdoctoral Progress Assessment allows you to determine the degree to which your postdoc has met the expectations established within his or her Career Development Plan with regard to the core postdoctoral competencies: research accomplishments, presentation experience, publication record, and professional development. You are also able to critique his or her progress towards the customized criteria articulated within his or her plan. 

The core competencies alone do not encompass the breadth of skills necessary for a successful postdoctoral experience. The Postdoctoral Progress Assessment provides you the additional dimension of assessing your postdoc’s performance with regard to the following factors:

  1. Execution of Research
  2. Knowledge of Literature
  3. Professional Communication
  4. Interpersonal Skills
  5. Self-Improvement

If you intend to reappoint your postdoc, you should approve or make modifications to your postdoc’s updated Career Development Plan including the Research Independence Plan, if appropriate, during the progress review meeting. You will need to document your approval of your postdoc’s updated Career Development Plan by providing a date on the Postdoctoral Progress Assessment form.

Print the annual Postdoctoral Progress Assessment and acquire your postdoc's signature. If you plan to reappoint your postdoc, you must provide the Center for Postdoctoral Affairs in the Health Sciences a Postdoctoral Progress Assessment and updated Career Development Plan for your postdoc as part of the postdoctoral reappointment approval process.

Performance Improvement Plan 

In the event that you determine that your postdoc is in need of significant in a given competency or performance factor, a clearly defined Performance Improvement Plan and timeline are required. You may use the Performance Improvement Plan template or attach an additional document. If a Performance Improvement Plan is in effect, the Postdoctoral Progress Assessment form allows you to specify a timeline for a follow-up review.

Darlene Zellers, PhD, Director of the Center for Postdoctoral Affairs in the Health Sciences, is available to consult with or to assist you in developing a Performance Improvement Plan upon request, as well as being available to mediate any postdoctoral personnel matter as needed 

Outcome Summary 

If your postdoc completes his or her training or is not being reappointed, please provide the Center for Postdoctoral Affairs in the Health Sciences an Outcome Summary form along with your postdoc's final Postdoctoral Progress Assessment and Employee Record (ER) upon termination. If your postdoc has accepted other employment, he or she is instructed to provide you a completed Outcome Summary form during your final progress review meeting.

Darlene Zellers, PhD, Director of the Center for Postdoctoral Affairs in the Health Sciences, is available to provide referrals or to consult with you confidentially regarding your postdoctoral training experience.

Forms

Postdoctoral Career Development Plan
Postdoctoral Self Assessment
Postdoctoral Progress Assessment
Performance Improvement Plan
Outcome Summary

Contact

General Questions or Assistance

postdoc@hs.pitt.edu

Referalls or Consultations (Specific Personnel Matters)

Darlene Zellers, PhD, Director
Tammy Dennis, Associate Director