Posted: October 17, 2017

Web-based Job Simulation Exercises: A Novel Tool for Career Exploration


PhD level trainees who consider moving into a non-academic career are faced with a unique challenge: after many years behind the bench it can be difficult to envision a working environment outside of academia. To meaningfully explore careers, trainees need to understand the tasks involved in a career of interest, and an opportunity to test whether their skills and interests align with the tasks involved. Historically, institutions and organizations have focused on internships and externships as the primary method of experiential career exploration, but these opportunities are only available to a minority of trainees. We created and assessed an online tool for career exploration that is both accessible for trainees, and efficacious. The Interactive Simulation Exercises for Career Transitions (Inter-SECT) Workbook is a collection of brief exercises that simulate a subset of tasks involved in a job of interest, and that can be completed in less than 8 hours. We worked with PhD-level professionals to create and vet simulations that are true-to-life. The career fields represented in Inter-SECT so far include science writing, policy, business-related science fields, program management, and intellectual property. The exercises are paired with guides to complete a self-reflection and informational interview for a comprehensive learning experience. Evaluation data show that completing these convenient, online exercises enhanced trainees’ understanding of career paths beyond academia, the skills involved for each task, and their desire to further explore those careers. This innovative new tool fills a critical gap in existing career exploration resources, enabling trainees to move beyond gathering data about a career and into performing the tasks involved. Importantly, this tool will fill this gap where it’s most needed – at institutions where faculty, staff and trainees perceive a dire need for experiential tools, but lack the resources for job simulation experiences.


Skill Development, Career Exploration, Self-Assessment, Career Choice, Non-Academic, PhD, Job Simulation, Graduate Students, Career Task, Job Market Knowledge, Informational Interview


Thi Nguyen, PhD, Washington University in St. Louis; University of California, San Francisco

Elizabeth Silva, PhD, University of California, San Francisco

Kelly Albus, MS, University of North Texas

Linet Mera, PhD, Consultant