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Get Involved

Due to the inherent flexibility of the BEST Program, there are not many requirements (aside from participation in long-term tracking of your career) or obligations. As you will find in life, you will get as much out of it as you invest. We are here to facilitate your professional development and to link you with the resources and experiences for your career aspirations, when you are ready to participate. Make an appointment now.

FAQ for Applicants (Doctoral Students and Postdocs)

Who is eligible to participate?

All existing and entering Cornell graduate (PhD) students and postdoctoral scientists in STEM fields are eligible. (STEM = science, technology, engineering and math)

How do I get involved in the BEST Program?

First, connect with us via the application link to help guide us on your needs and interests. Don't worry if you do not yet have a fleshed out idea; submitting the incomplete application (e.g. without filling out the last three questions) will in no way preclude you from a deeper involvement at a later time.

Second, request to join our BEST LinkedIn Group by clicking on the blue LinkedIn logo at the top right of this page. Instead of receiving individual messages every time there is an interesting opportunity, you can see them posted here and can opt to receive weekly digests. It is also a chance to engage in individual discussions, catch up on industry trends, be inspired, and actively participate in topics of broader interest with members from Cornell and beyond. Don't have a LinkedIn profile? GET STARTED with some tips!

Third, start an individual development plan, if you have not already, to examine your skills and interests and help set goals for your future career. Read this Molecular Cell paper on how to discuss your IDP with your advisor. Consult this 13 step guide to careers outside of academia.

Fourth, visit this website frequently to see past and upcoming events on the calendar link at the top of this page.

Fifth, you may opt to be added to our BEST Listservs based on the tracks you are most interested in. Posted via these listservs are events, news and select opportunities related to the track (Communication; Policy; Governance; and/or Industry, Entrepreneurship & Management). Additionally, a BEST-all listserv is for those who would like to sample all the pathways. Addition to these listservs is completed after you have had a follow up meeting to make sure you will get the most out of the BEST Program. 

What does it mean to be a "BESTie"?

We expect that you have undertaken a bit of self-exploration to understand your preferences and talents, which can be done via personality assessments (MBTI, Strengths Finder, e.g.) and thought a bit about your career goals via an individual development plan (ScienceCareers myIDP, Versatile PhD, or your own plan) that you might have discussed with your advisor. Have you already taken advantage of career development opportunities through Cornell Career Services or the Office of Postdoctoral Studies? Annually they provide over 200 workshops that will help you in your career and job search. The more legwork you have done, the better we can help you gain the meaningful experiences to make you successful in your career of choice.

To be officially labelled a BESTie, you must have filled out our application, had an follow up meeting with BEST Program staff, and attended at least one BEST event (not necessarily in that order).

This allows us to personalize the program opportunities to your individual career needs, whether you are in an exploration stage to rule in or out a particular career path, or at a point where you are seeking deeper involvement in a career track to gain experience for your resume to make you a more credible applicant. Many participants tout the benefit of meeting like-minded individuals across disciplines who share a career interest beyond academia.

Being a BESTie also gives you priority access to events that are limited to small numbers of participants, puts you on a short list to be recommended for select opportunities based on your career interest, and increases the likelihood of being funded to gain additional experience in your pathway. We want to empower you to be engaged with your career success, and can help brainstorm ways to get you to where you want to be, within the time constraints that are your reality. The most active BESTies receive a certificate of participation as a result of their input. We hope that you will consider becoming a BEST mentor beyond your tenure at Cornell to share your experiences with others who might have questions about the career path you end up in.

I don't know about many of the options available to PhDs.  Where do I find general career advice tailored for grad students and postdocs like me?

PhD Career Guide

VersatilePhD

Bio careers: career paths available to PhDs

Career ServicesFinding JobsMy Individual Development Plan

Professional Development at Cornell

Vitae

Office of Postdoctoral Studies

Peter Fiske's book "Put Your Science to Work"-the take charge career guide for scientists

Although the BEST Program does not focus on careers in teaching, we collaborate with groups on campus who do an excellent job in providing support for this field:

Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CU-CIRTL)

Center for Teaching Excellence

Does the BEST Program cover tuition or stipends?

No, funding from the BEST Program cannot be used for tuition or stipend.  However, we can fund travel, lodgings, supplies, or registration fees for instance. However, the most valuable BEST Program resources may come to you in the form of referrals, introductions, recommendations, and select opportunities offered to the most engaged participants.

How are BEST related activities to be funded?

There is no cost to attend most events listed on our calendar if you let us know you would like to go. On occasion we also offer to reimburse travel to non-BEST associated events. Additionally, we have set aside a budget for trainee-initiated ideas and encourage creative approaches that might combine your lab research with your desired career experience. We hope to augment and facilitate what you are doing to help you participate in opportunities otherwise not accessible due to other constraints. We encourage trainee initiated projects that are outside the box. Submissions are considered on a rolling basis.

FAQ for Faculty/Advisors

What is the expected workload for participants? How much time will the BEST program take away from their dissertation research?

This is totally flexible. Without PI buy-in it might only encompass a career panel discussion (1-2 hrs in a semester), for instance. At the other extreme, if the PI agrees it could involve up to a 10-12 week rotation/internship in an off-campus setting. We do not dictate participants' level of involvement, and certainly encourage trainees to discuss their level of commitment in advance with you. The ideal opportunity will not take away from, but rather supplement, their dissertation research in some way to benefit your lab. We expect that their involvement will make them more productive and more attractive to their future employer, which will in turn reflect well on your lab. We stress to all participants that their first priority is their dissertation research or postdoctoral work.

Are you pushing students and postdocs away from academia?

Definitely not. A successful career outcome is based on an informed choice; many of our participants come full circle to decide academia is where they want to be, and we fully support them in that choice. Knowledge and skills trainees acquire while participating in the BEST Program are useful in all careers within and beyond academia, and might satisfy their passion to have a broader impact of their research.

We suggest you read this Molecular Cell paper and discuss with your trainees their individual development plan.

How do I encourage PhD students and postdocs to participate?

Send trainees to this website and encourage them to fill out the BEST Program application. Tell other members of your department and field about the BEST Program. Schedule an appointment with us to discuss possible options for us to partner with your field. Discuss career plans with your trainees and suggest they explore the framework of "My Individual Development Plan" for science careers - see also this Molecular Cell article - and consult this 13 step guide to careers outside of academia. Encourage trainees to suggest seminar series speakers in your department from beyond academia: the BEST Program will facilitate speaker travel and engage trainees to develop an interactive session to benefit BESTies across campus.

My grad students and postdocs are paid on my grants! Can they take time for their professional development? Remember the dual role of doctoral students and postdocs as researchers AND trainees: the Uniform Guidance 200.400(f) requires the recognition of the dual role of all pre and post-doctoral staff, who are appointed to research positions with the intent that the research experience will further their training and support the development of skills critical to pursue careers as independent investigators or other related careers.... Scroll on the left side near the bottom of the following webpage under "Allowable Student and Postdoc Activities": http://commonfund.nih.gov/workforce/index which links to a PDF of questions asked of the OMB (Office of Management and Budget). Page down to section .400-2 (page 19), which reads:

400-2 Dual Role of Students and Post-Doctoral Staff The Uniform Guidance states; ”For non-Federal entities that educate and engage students in research, the dual role of students as both trainees and employees contributing to the completion of Federal awards for research must be recognized in the application of these principles.” Staff in postdoctoral positions engaged in research, while not generally pursuing an additional degree, are expected to be actively engaged in their training and career development under their research appointments as Post-Docs. This dual role is critical in order to provide PostDocs with sufficient experience and mentoring for them to successfully pursue independent careers in research and related fields. Does 200.400(f) require recognition of the dual role of postdoctoral staff appointed on research grants as, both trainees and employees, when appointed as a researcher on research grants? Yes, the Uniform Guidance 200.400(f) requires the recognition of the dual role of all pre and post-doctoral staff, who are appointed to research positions with the intent that the research experience will further their training and support the development of skills critical to pursue careers as independent investigators or other related careers. Neither Pre-Docs or Post-Docs need to be specifically appointed in ‘training’ positions to require recognition of this dual role. The requirements and expectations of their appointment will support recognition of this dual role per 200.400(f). 

Is financial support available to participants (tuition/stipend)? How are BEST related activities funded?

Funding from the BEST Program cannot be used for tuition or stipend.  However, we can fund travel, lodgings, supplies, or registration fees for instance. We can also pay for consultants. We have set aside a budget for trainee-initiated ideas and encourage creative approaches that might combine the lab research with the desired career experience. We hope to augment and facilitate what trainees are doing to help them participate in opportunities otherwise not accessible due to other constraints. We also encourage student or postdoctoral association initiated projects that are outside the box.

How much time does it take to complete the BEST program?

This again is flexible, as all involvement is voluntary. As with all professional development, it is never complete! Participation in the BEST Program might even extend beyond the participants’ training at Cornell to eventually serve as a mentor themselves. The most active BESTies receive a certificate of participation as a result of their input. We can facilitate connections with alumni to come back and speak with trainees in your lab or department.

I have experiences outside of academia and would like to share them with trainees. Is there an easy way to do this through the BEST Program?

Absolutely! We welcome your input and can arrange to have you speak to groups of students interested in your career path, with all of its jogs and loops. Please contact us to initiate this conversation.

I don't know about many of the options available to PhDs.  Where do I point my grad students and postdocs for general career advice tailored for them?

PhD Career Guide

VersatilePhD

Biocareers: career paths available to PhDs

Career ServicesFinding JobsMy Individual Development Plan

Professional Development at Cornell

Vitae

Office of Postdoctoral Studies

Peter Fiske's book "Put Your Science to Work"-the take charge career guide for scientists

Although the BEST Program does not focus on careers in teaching, we collaborate with groups on campus who do an excellent job in providing support for this field:

Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CU-CIRTL)

Center for Teaching Excellence

What info should be provided in a letter of recommendation made to the BEST program for longer-term BESTernships, for example?

We are looking for evidence that there has been a conversation about the trainee’s involvement in the BEST Program, to ensure faculty buy-in and support for activities with longer timelines and deeper commitments. The letter is free-form, but we would hope that it might help us determine the level of encouragement for participation in the BEST Program activities, the potential benefit to the lab and how it might enhance the trainee's thesis and/or career outcome. We ensure that without adequate academic progress, a trainee's BEST privileges are revoked.

Information for Partners

How do I get involved in the BEST Program?

First, connect with us by email at sv27@cornell.edu or by phone at (607)253-4304. We are very interested in learning what your needs are among your Ph.D. hires, how we can help you recruit specialized talent, and when we can arrange for site visits, shadowing experiences, traditional internships or flexible 'BESTernships'.

Second, request to join our BEST LinkedIn Group by clicking on the LinkedIn logo at the top right of this page. You can connect with interested graduate students and postdoctoral scholars within this group. If you have interesting opportunities to share you can post them within this group. It is also a chance to engage in discussions and actively participate in topics of interest.

Third, you can be added to our BEST Listservs based on the track(s) you are most interested in mentoring. The four tracks are: science policy; science communication; governance, risk & compliance; and industry, entrepreneurship & management.

What is involved in becoming a Mentor?

Program recruits can be assigned a mutually agreeable BEST mentor from the field of their career aspiration who will meet with trainees regularly and help them navigate the program and succeed in their career of choice. It can be a one-time job shadowing opportunity or an informational interview, or it can be a series of quarterly meetings/Skype/phone conversations to answer questions and give advice. Depending on the desires of both parties, it can extend to regular emails, in-person meetings, or an internship at your organization of varying lengths. The time commitment is dependent on mutual agreement and good chemistry between you.

Tell me more about the BEST Program and its objectives.

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