Amplification: Utilizing our NIH BEST MIND alums to teach fellow UCSF students & postdocs how to explore careers.

Lately, the office has been thinking about amplification strategies to best use the career and professional resources we’ve developed or surround us.  This month, in Every Month is Career Exploration Month for PhDs (#EveryMonth), we piloted integrating an alumna of the NIH’s BEST program, which we call MIND (Making INformed Decisions), in our career exploration programming for all UCSF students and postdocs.

Specifically, we invited a MIND alum to co-lead our Science Communication Careers – What are My Options? Workshop for May: Science Communication & Writing Month. Tapping the MIND alumni and featuring them in OCPD programming was the brainchild of Allyson Spence, a former MIND peer team facilitator, and current OCPD Program Manager, and it worked fantastically, in some unexpected ways.

We had previously focused on inviting current professionals and alums to earlier events but found that MIND alumna Aarati Asundi was able to share what she learned about career options in science communication and writing careers. Also, wonderfully, she could speak to her current experience being a student and a ‘career explorer,’ navigating everything from self-reflection to informational interviews.  Her personal stories really resonated with the 20 or so student and postdoc participants. We’re hoping it also helped consolidate her experience.

So, we think this works and will start intentionally integrating MIND alums into cyclical #EveryMonth programming. In future months, in addition to hearing their voices at career exploration events, we’ll work with the PIs of our career exploration programs (like MIND and GSICE Internship program) to find other small ways capture the knowledge and enthusiasm of successful career explorers to benefit the entire UCSF community. For example, inviting career explorers to use the knowledge they learned to populate our #EveryMonth career exploration pages.

Finally, we’ve thought about ways to also loop in workshop participants into visibility efforts. This includes everything from emailing workshop registrants to ask them to bring a friend to the workshop, to explicitly asking participants to share one thing they learned today with another UCSF student and postdoc who wasn’t able to attend. Maybe we’ll call it something catchy like the ‘bring a friend/tell a friend’ campaign.

But in this case, we are reminded that our the NIH BEST program gave us and an amazing network of MIND alumni who serve as career exploration role models. They are seeded across our campus, and their presence enriches UCSF in countless ways. We are lucky to have them.