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How do I get out from under the choking grip of bench work?

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How do I get out from under the choking grip of bench work?

Postby TF » Fri Jan 28, 2005 12:34 pm

mpb,

I think you just defined what the real problem is, or what my real problem is. I think most people know there are other options out there, but how exactly does one have access to them? It almost seems that there can be too many options. I think in general Ph.D education is bad at two things. 1) Discussing financial matters that future life science researchers will need to deal with 2) Alternative careers and how to find ways of getting one's foot in the door.

The whole reason for me starting this thread had to deal with problem 2. Many of the so-called alternative career options that I have seen require previous experience. What you are saying and what the posted realities are seem to be incongruous. So the question becomes how does someone with just a Ph.D overcome these incongruous situations. Do you just keep looking at websites day after day, show up to the places in person and demand an interview (obviously a joke), hire a headhunter, etc? As someone starting this search I was hoping to hear from some people that may have been in my shoes previously.
TF
 
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How do I get out from under the choking grip of bench work?

Postby MPB » Fri Jan 28, 2005 1:07 pm


"I think most people know there are other options out there, but how exactly does one have access to them?"

The short answer is, by talking to people. Forget about job boards. They can't help you. And here's why:

"Many of the so-called alternative career options that I have seen require previous experience."

You will need to find an alternate way in. As I said, this is going to require creativity and effort, and also time. But it can be done, and I know many people (including myself) who have done it.

Case study: My background is probably somewhat similar to yours. I did a PhD in experimental psychology; 2 post-docs in academic medical research; and spent a year as a non tenure track "research associate" at a big medical school. Somewhere during post-doc #2 I realized that I wanted to do something else. So I started talking to people, just trying to identify potential jobs where I could use my experience. I kept a notebook with possibilities and what I would need to do to get from where I was to those possibilities. Eventually I came up with about 20 things. At this point I was just listing possibilities, without much regard to practicalities.

Then I started to narrow the possibilities. After some research I settled on medical publishing as the clearest route to a non-academic job, based on my skills and the people I knew. So I started looking and asking people about anything related to medical publishing that I could think of. I got lists of medical publishing companies and tried to identify senior editors (rather than job openings), and sent out CVs and reprints to those people. I found a small journal on campus that was run by a professor in the education department and did some proofreading and editing for next to no money. Eventually I found a medical publishing company that hires PhDs to do editing on technical lab manuals, also for almost no money. [I did all this while I was a post-doc and research associate.] I found a directory of companies that do continuing medical education for physicians (the Pharmaceutical Marketers Directory; an invaluable resource) and sent out more CVs and reprints. Eventually I got a couple of freelance writing assignments. One of those eventually led to a job offer. I moved to New York and worked in-house in medical communications (essentially a form of PR), then decided to go freelance. I have freelanced for the last 7 or 8 years.

People hate to hear it, but you really need to think about your social network; everyone you know, and everyone that they know. Keep talking to people. Many people will talk to you and help you, it's just human nature.


MPB
 
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How do I get out from under the choking grip of bench work?

Postby J.J. » Fri Jan 28, 2005 2:12 pm

TF-
I think what you are going through is a natural part of the process of graduating that goes something like 1. I need to find a job 2. My advisor can't just call someone and get me one 3. Boy-there sure aren't a lot of postings for entry level positions, and eventually you get to where you are, which is on a (very helpful) posting board. mpb and John E. are just further along in the process than you are.
Your next steps will just be just as mpb described, evaluating possibilities and networking.
You have plenty of time to start the process, and because you've already interviewed at a pharma company, your resume must look pretty good. Trust me, there are a lot of people who post here who would love to be able to interview at big pharma.
I think people have been a little hard on you for being negative, but I personally feel that it's an important part of the process. It was for me-I spent most of my last year of grad school totally anguished, and I had 2 job offers by the time I defended.
J.J.
 
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How do I get out from under the choking grip of bench work?

Postby Ken » Fri Jan 28, 2005 2:23 pm

Ditto to what Jill said. My last year of PhD was miserable, and I had this pit in the bottom of my stomach the whole time about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

My advice: Defend, do a targeted postdoc and then more doors will be open to you.
Ken
 
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How do I get out from under the choking grip of bench work?

Postby Bill L. » Fri Jan 28, 2005 2:29 pm

Hi TF,

Just to remind you: Science Nextwave's career transitions section has an entire feature on Regulatory Affairs, including about 8 stories of the different routes scientists took to transition from the bench. If you're at UCSF, you can access it from any on campus computer (as we have a subscription....)

The link is:
http://nextwave.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/1998/04/17/32

Be well,

Bill L. & Naledi S.
Bill L.
 
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How do I get out from under the choking grip of bench work?

Postby TF » Fri Jan 28, 2005 2:30 pm

Jill,

I know I am not the only grad student disgruntled with their current situation and frankly confused with what the heck to do with their advanced degree. I'm glad that you were able to put that in words! It seems others may have forgotten or maybe didn't have as tough a time determining what they want. I can only hope that stuff comes along, but being out in the boonies makes networking a little difficult.

I do know all about the "it all in who you know" type deal. Unfortunately, as a scientist surrounded by other scientists who wouldn't dream of doing anything else makes it very hard to network. I have been in contact with someone who does reg. affairs and was in a similar situation as myself. It hasn't really done a whole lot for me right now, but who knows. The good thing is I'm open to pretty much any alternative option. The one thing I am worried about is hearing all the stories of people in this thread who did at least one post-doc before getting out. I don't want to waste time or money doing something I know I will have a negative feeling about from the beginning. "Time is money" and "it's all about who you know" appear to go hand in hand it seems. Not that all I care about is making money, as I would not have even considered science if that was my main goal.

TF
 
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How do I get out from under the choking grip of bench work?

Postby TF » Fri Jan 28, 2005 3:02 pm

Bill and Naledi,

Unfortunately, my institution doesn\'t grant me access to that article. I do appreciate the link though. Maybe I\'ll sign up for the 24hr pass to see what it says.

Ken- I really hope I am not forced to do a post doc if that\'s not what I want to do. That could be a disaster! I have the uncanny ability to always pick the worse labs possible! My current lab and one previous lab were exceptions out of about 6 others.
TF
 
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How do I get out from under the choking grip of bench work?

Postby Dave Jensen » Fri Jan 28, 2005 3:33 pm

Hi TF,

I just checked, and the institution you are at is a major user of NextWave. You, for some reason, don't know about it, but they indeed have a campus wide subscription, and you should be able to access all features of this wonderful resource. The link that Bill and Naledi provided is only for Reg Affairs. In actuality, there are dozens of sites like that one archived inside NextWave. I hope that you will try again, or email me privately if you have trouble.

Dave Jensen, Moderator
"One of the most powerful networking practices is to provide immediate value to a new connection. This means the moment you identify a way to help someone, take action." - Lewis Howes
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How do I get out from under the choking grip of bench work?

Postby MPB » Fri Jan 28, 2005 3:35 pm


"I do know all about the "it all in who you know" type deal. Unfortunately, as a scientist surrounded by other scientists who wouldn't dream of doing anything else makes it very hard to network."

Only you can decide how serious you are about doing something else and how much effort you want to put into it. FWIW, in the process that I described above, I spent about 9 months of research and networking to identify and narrow my focus; and then it took me about another 15 months between deciding what I wanted to do and getting a job. I probably worked an average of 10 to 15 hours a week on it during that time, maybe more than that.

What you might consider is this: spend the time between now and graduation researching and identifying what you think you might like to do. Then do a postdoc that is geographically situated to increase your chances in that career. While you post-doc, do the work that you need to do for the transition to your new job. That way you will have a stable salary and you don't break the continuity of your experience on your resume, and you may also aquire a better set of contacts. Remember though that contacts are not just your scientific colleagues; they are your cousins, your parents' co-workers, the guy who cuts your hair. Help can turn up in some surprising places.



MPB
 
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How do I get out from under the choking grip of bench work?

Postby TF » Fri Jan 28, 2005 3:53 pm

Dave,

Everytime I click on an article in Nextwave, it says the subscription I have does not allow me to access the article. I have had this happen before trying to view other articles. Also, the particular campus I am at probably is just too cheap to subscribe, while others may not be. I do however get access to other things on the Science website.
TF
 
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