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How to get out of postdoctoral positions and move on

PostPosted: Mon Jan 31, 2005 6:23 pm
by Sandra
Dear all,
I came to the US with already postdoctoral experience, got a great job for 4 years and was promoted to a non-tenure track position. All too good to be true until my boss moved to a different University where I lost my tittle and most of my responsibilities. I was told that due to my visa status this was the best he could do and I did not want to be thrown out of the country. Now After a long year of trying to at least get an interview for a new job at my old level, I am getting close to my last day at work and I still don't have something else to look forward too. I have a long list of papers published in good journals but I do not seem to be able to do the right thing. If anyone can give me good tips how to get out of the situation without having to do another postdoc that would be great! Or even better how do I make the transition to the industry when having a lot of experience in academics?


How to get out of postdoctoral positions and move on

PostPosted: Mon Jan 31, 2005 7:57 pm
by Kevin Rogers
contacts, contacts - think of everybody you have ever worked with - where are they now ? people you have met at conferences etc

read up on networking - the street savvy science articles here are really great

Also is there a company that does research close to what you are doing now ? Chances are you know somebody that knows somebody that works there - science is a pretty small world actually

How to get out of postdoctoral positions and move on

PostPosted: Mon Jan 31, 2005 9:25 pm
by Val

Sandra wrote:

> Now After a long year of trying to at least
> get an interview for a new job at my old level

Perhaps, the previous level was not _yours_, after all. As they say: "Don't hold it and let it go. If it comes back, it always was yours and will always be yours; if it does not come back, it was not yours in the first place".

American scientists realise that "soft money" position is highly unsecure in the sense that it will finish sometime, sooner or later. Your fortune in "soft money" position depends on the fortune of your superior, and on your relationship with him. Both of those can deteriorate at any moment without any possibility for you to control. Your "promotion" does not constitute a career progression in the eyes of American scientists.

You are now in the situation when you invested lots of efforts in your publications, and you want a senior position which comes with a high pay. Such positions in academia are not easy to come by even for the locals who know more about the mechanism of getting such jobs and have better chances for getting such jobs.

There is no direct transition between academia and industry. In academia, people are solely responsible for a project and plan the investment of their resources and efforts on a timescale of 1-3 years. In industry, the rule of profit dictates that people invest efforts with the view of a tangible outcome obtained in several days or weeks. The very good quality is not required; a passabale quality is what is sought. Therefore, if you suddenly and miraculously found yourself employed in industry, your industrial manager will find your work attitude as over-investing and not solving the problem of the day (if this constitues a better scientific approach is a different topic). Your work according to your academic mindset would only not be doing the task needed by your manager, it would be wasting the resources of your manager. Your long list of publications only serves to demonstrate to prospective industrial employer that you are good at "academic" type of thinking, which, in the mind of the industrial manager, is counter-productive to the work of industrial scientist.

The usual advice which is given at this forum is firstly to find a science-related job at a lowest rung. This would give an opportunity for the person to learn how the hiring mechanisms in industry, to develop useful contacts, and to get a work experience on the basis of which the successive employers will judge your suitability to performing their task and your productivity. This approach is probably not suitable for you, because the employers will not bother themselves with getting a working visa for a low-rung worker.

Perhaps, doing an industrial postdoc is unavoidable for you. Working in industry will provide you with the abovementioned benefits (learning the hiring mechanism, making contacts, getting work experience). Immigrants have to put up with the lower pay at the beginning of their lives in the new country. The investigations show that the difference in the pay of an immigrant and a local disappears after about 7 years of the immigrant's life in the new country.


How to get out of postdoctoral positions and move on

PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2005 8:53 am
by Dave Jensen
Hi Sandra,

You need to shake yourself out of the academic mindset if you are looking for a job in industry. The first thing to do, as Nick suggests, is to srart thinking about who you are going to contact, and about companies that work in your field of expertise.

First off, you'll need a complete CV revision, one that is targeted to industry instead of purely an academic slant. This isn't hard, but it requires you to do some rewriting with the emphasis on selling yourself better than the usual CV. You'll need to write a really good cover letter that tells a bit about one of your accomplishments, and which can be adapted to the situation you are applying to. There are good articles about both CVs and cover letters on Sciences Next Wave.

Then, I would start networking first with people who are ex-Pats from your country, working in the USA. Talk to them about how THEY made it, how they broke through the same barriers you are facing. It can be done, but first you have to wipe clean your CV and your interviewing style, and learn what industry needs to see.

I enjoyed Val's post and believe that this guy is a modern philosopher. Much of what he says is true. Val knows about what it is like to be an immigrant scientist because he lives that every day.

There are so many people whom I talk with who have come from somewhere else, and they've struggled through this same process. You'll need some drastic changes in the way you do things -- the two worlds, the Ivory Tower and Industry, don't operate under the same rules. Are you prepared to change?

Good luck and keep in touch with us about your progress, Sandra!

Dave Jensen, Moderator

How to get out of postdoctoral positions and move on

PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2005 12:41 pm
by Sandra
I appreciate very much all your comments and advice. Specially Val's comments are right on target. There are many scientists and not only immigrants like me that are stuck in this ongoing postdoctoral jobs and don't know how to get out.
I'll start reshaping my resume right away and will keep you posted on my adventures. Though I might need to take another postdoc just to be able to survive for the time beeing.

How to get out of postdoctoral positions and move on

PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2005 12:48 pm
by Dave Jensen

Yes, Val's comments are always interesting. It's a shame he isn't more active here.

Another suggestion is to pass on another postdoc, if you can, and go directly to a job with a company that makes scientific equipment or reagents. Look up posts that deal with the job called Applications Scientists. One advantage of going to work in a company like this (a supplier company) is that they are FAR EASIER to get employed with, and they can offer a transition period to a pure-research company job somewhere down the road. You may even enjoy the work, in which you are dealing with customer scientists all over the globe who use their products/services.

You'll still need to get an industry CV going, though.

Dave Jensen, Moderator