Canada’s top researchers discuss career development at leadership retreat

A recent Inside Higher Ed article by Joseph Barber stressed the importance of professional soft skills, noting that “postdocs in particular should aim to incorporate [such skills] into their professional development so that they can be seen as more than just researchers and teachers.”

For postdocs transitioning from PhD programs to full-time careers, professional development can be a sensitive topic: who makes sure they have the appropriate skills? How can they ensure they’re prepared? And what skills might they need to complement their extensive research expertise? 

One such group of top-ranked postdoctoral researchers gathered to discuss these questions at the recent Leadership in Innovation retreat, part of the Mitacs Elevate postdoctoral fellowship program. Together, the cohort is undertaking a two-year professional development program that will empower them to turn their expertise into leadership and career growth. Individually, they’re also working on complex research projects that have the potential to increase business value for their participating industry and not-for-profit partners.

Elevate is open to postdoctoral fellows in all disciplines, so the cohort represented diverse backgrounds, including animal science, oncology, cultural studies, engineering, and psychology. During the three-day event, fellows met with their cohort, Elevate alumni, industry partners, and Mitacs staff. They analyzed topics such as problem-solving styles, constructive criticism, and project planning— particularly as applied to their own unique projects, which have fellows undertaking research on developing sustainable agricultural practices improving hearing aids for music, and screening for depression with social media posts.  

As attendees discussed their own short- and long-term career goals, an Elevate alumni panel provided real-world examples of the program’s impact on PhDs in Canada. This forward-looking approach to career development had one fellow raving that “the workshop provides a great opportunity for self-reflection and career reflection in the context of project management.”

As the retreat wrapped up, one attendee indicated that the retreat wasn’t just relevant to their immediate research project: “[it bridged] topics related to [my] own development in relation to the partner organization and a future career path.”

Mitacs Elevate is now accepting applications. If you are interested in receiving customized professional development training as you lead a project with industry or the not-for-profit sector, visit the Mitacs Elevate web page for eligibility and application information. 


Mitacs empowers Canadian innovation through effective partnerships that deliver solutions to our most pressing problems. By driving economic growth and productivity, we create meaningful change to improve quality of life for all Canadians.