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Career direction

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Career direction

Postby Dileep Vangasseri » Wed Nov 10, 2004 12:30 am

Hello,

I am a Ph. D in bio-organic chemistry from India. I was always carried away by the fascination of science and as a result of that my resume has now become very diverse including synthetic organic chemistry, computational chemistry, membrane biophysics, gene delivery, cancer biology and a bit of immunology. It was okay since I was interested to go to academics. But recently I started realizing that I am not very much suitable for academic research (I personally do not like writing grants, manuscripts etc. which is an integral part of such a life). Then I started applying for industry jobs and realized that most of them are not very receptive to my kind of a diverse resume. I am now in my first year of post doc and is not very much interested to continue what I am doing. In fact I have started disliking wet science. I was thiking of taking up a second post doc in some computational biology work but am afraid if it would complicate my cv further and make it even more difficult to find a job later on. Could you please advice me what would be a sensible approach?

With regards,

Dileep
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Career direction

Postby Val » Wed Nov 10, 2004 1:58 am

I presume you did your PhD in India or in the US, and now you are doing your postdoc in the US.

It sounds you are in a similar situation in which I found myself in the earlier years. As an international PhD student, I was nothing more but a cheap scientific labour. When my PhD studies were nearing the end, I realised I would not be able to find a job -- any job -- in this fundamental science. After unemployment period, I found a science-related job in a different field of science. Then I lost the job due to the loss of funding by my managers. This situation repeated itself several times. I ended up with a CV with work experience in four different fields of science over the course of several years. It was hard with such a CV to convince the prospective employer to hire me. The academic employers did not see my career progression with the ever-increasing responsibility in the same field; what was worse, I did not stay long enough in each field to develop a reputation on the basis of which I could receive the funding for further academic research employment, or the knowledge who hires. The industrial employers suspiciously eyed my CV with a patchy string of jobs of short duration, voicing their doubts that I would stay long enough in their companies.

By the end of the day, all boiled down to the following conclusion. Whatever I did to my career with an extra-ordinary effort, caused no effect where I ended up now. You, too, will end up somewhere which will not depend on your today's concsious efforts. Relax, take a cocktail in your hand, and sit by the window of the train of life watching the passing by landscapes over which you have no control.

Regards,
Val
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Career direction

Postby John Fetzer » Wed Nov 10, 2004 12:08 pm

Val is right in that you cannot yourself control your own destiny. With acquisitions, mergers, and yes, even failures of employers, you can be tossed about without much control. What you can do is take a position, build up your skills - both technically and in personal interactions and communications. In industry, being on project teams, collaborating, presenting to managers, etc., are all looked on as valuable experience and are, therefore, marketable.

Network among your colleagues and get involved in professional societies, especially the local chapters. This increases your visibility and may come in handy in the need of another job search. Even within a year or two in a position you can strengthen yourself career-wise.

John
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Career direction

Postby Dave Jensen » Wed Nov 10, 2004 12:39 pm

Hi Dileep,

I'm 180 degrees from both of the previous posters. I believe we control our own destinies, and the moment that I start feeling otherwise, I'm going to hang it all up and retire.

But controlling your destiny in your case means you need to solve the problem of being "unfocused" to industry employers. Don't take yet another postdoc! You'll end up forever not getting any industry interest because you'll be labeled as an academic. Instead, get out and find a scientific job -- any job -- in industry where you can start to focus in on an area of interest. Even if the job isn't exactly what you were looking for, it will be good for you to have a few years of stability and specific work experience that will make you marketable.

Don't forget. You control your destiny. And because you are "in charge" of your career, you'll need to make smart decisions. Taking yet another postdoc will probably not fall into that category.

Dave Jensen, Moderator
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"Failure is a bruise -- not a tattoo." -- Jon Sinclair
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Career direction

Postby John Fetzer » Wed Nov 10, 2004 4:25 pm

I'll agree wholeheartedly that each of us controls our own careers, that we are the ones who deal with things and make the decisions. You should never forget that your own needs should be the overall number one concern. Employers will gladly take whatever you give up, be it your 60, 70, or 80 hour workweeks or your doing tasks that you do not really enjoy.

I meant that changes happen, be it outsourcing, mergers, downsizing, or whatever. Those things are out of our control. We must not be obsessively worried of them happening, but do things that leave us choices if they do. Keeping a robust network is one. Diversifying skills is another. Always having an updated resume is a third. Never abrogate the responsibility of your own career.

So as far as the original post, turn yourself into someone more attractive to an industrial hiring person. Do not emphasize your research's knowledge attainment, but its problem solving and usefulness. Do not emphasize all of your publications, but emphasize any patents, any project work, your people skills, teamwork, and so on.

John
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