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

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What was Emil's point?

Postby Emil Chuck » Mon Jan 31, 2005 2:34 pm

TF,
I obviously didn't mean to sound rude or condescending to you. You probably do know your options once you have your degree, and I admit it's scary to take the next step. But in the end, you make your decisions for yourself, and you need to know what makes you happy. Once you know what gets you up in the morning, then you can take a more directed, focused approach to getting the job of your dreams... at least for the next few years.

Maybe I've been listening to too much Dr. Laura. ;)
Emil Chuck
 
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What was Emil's point?

Postby TF » Mon Jan 31, 2005 3:05 pm

Emil,

I totally agree with you in the respect that I need to know what makes me happy. But that's exactly my issue. I know the things I like to do in lab. I have been lucky enough to have been exposed to most of the duties that a PI would (writing grants, writing reviews, writing research papers, data anlaysis, data interpretation, giving oral and poster presentations, doing experiments, going to meetings, participating in the peer review process, even a small amount of teaching). Obviously there are certain things that people like more than others about the duties I mentioned. The question then becomes, what jobs are out there for someone who likes most of being a scientist, just not running experiments, teaching, or participating in peer review. I'm slowly amassing ideas and this place has basically confirmed many of the things I have thought. Which is great! I also wondered how any people here not involved in direct bench work got where they are. That's some pretty basic info. I think it would benfit many grad students to know, not just those who are interested in regulatory affairs for instance.

The other part of your reply, waking up in the morning and enjoying what you do, well, to me that is something I will only know when I am doing the job for a while. And that is something as you say, only I can determine. BUT, options and ways to acheive them are things that everyone who has gone through the transition can share with me and anyone else interested.

I do appreciate the effort you put in to writing me and fortunately, I am aware of most of things you wrote. We are in control of our destiny, but at the same time, most of us can't do it completely alone, and so here I am. No insult intended on my part.
TF
 
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What was Emil\'s point?

Postby Emil Chuck » Mon Jan 31, 2005 4:06 pm

Believe me, many graduate students have been or are in the same boat. Ditto that for postdocs, even some assistant professors. I just wanted to get the topic out of a depressing, somber mood about how bench life stinks.

Among many other books to read: On my bookshelf is Chandra Louise\'s book Jump Start Your Career in Bioscience. I should read it more often than I do, but it\'s a great resource to answer some of the questions you pose.

I do have an opinion that the nature of graduate education means that each student must take more responsibility to find out what else there is. The institution\'s career services center should (and likely does) organize programs that help expose non-academic possibilities as careers to interested students. The thing is most graduate students and postdocs are probably too proud or too focused on research to check those programs out and find out for themselves just how powerful that Ph.D. degree is or can be. But that\'s another rant for another day.

No one is truly alone, I assure you... but you have to have the courage to ask for help. You just have to find the lifeline, but I assure you that wherever you are, you have one. I\'m just trying to give you ideas of resources you can tap (like your alumni affairs office from undergrad, or your undergrad career development office).
Emil Chuck
 
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What was Emil\'s point?

Postby TF » Mon Jan 31, 2005 4:54 pm

That's a great point, I never thought of the undergrad career office. I may have to look into that. Unfortunately, the campus that I am currently at doesn't have a career placement/office sort of deal, and I am about 2 hours away from the main campus that does. In any event, I will look into both things and see what I can pull up.
TF
 
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What was Emil's point?

Postby Bill L. » Mon Jan 31, 2005 5:08 pm

Hi TF,

It might be helpful to know (from a career counselor's perspective, at least), that you are entirely on track in terms of your career exploration and job hunt.

In terms of a four step framework:
1. Identify skills and values regarding the work experience you want.
2. Collect information to determine the 4-5 types of positions where you do those things daily.
3. Develop tailored CVs for each type of position.
4. Apply.

Often, we see clients who are reluctant to move until they are sure that they've narrowed it down to *the* job that they want. But really, so much matters on location, who's hiring, luck of the draw, stuff you find out during the interview, etc., that it isn't unreasonable to apply to both say, a management consulting position and a research marketing position, because the skill sets/experiences of what you would be doing (analytical and writing skills, applying of science knowledge, project focused work, interacting with people, etc.) are the same.

Whether you take one or the other could depend on something as plain as who gives you the job or if you can live on the east coast.

I do hope you get access to sci. nextwave's career transitions section. It's the most comprehensive resource out there regarding detailed information about the range of career choices a scientist can pursue and how they transitioned.

Lastly, your undergrad. career center is also a good bet - though unless they have grad level science programs, you might feel somewhat frustrated in that have strong counseling skills, but not a familiarity with the issues you are facing or an awareness of career options.

Be well!

Bill L. & Naledi S.
Bill L.
 
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What was Emil's point?

Postby TF » Mon Jan 31, 2005 6:07 pm

Bill and Naledi,

I think my problem is two-fold. The first is that the skills and values I'm looking for in a job are very broad. For example, looking for a job that requires critical thinking and interaction with people of a similar level (ie- not students or people from the general public). Right there, that could encompass a bunch of jobs. The other issue is that I think there are tons of potentially interesting jobs. Finance, marketing, advertising, science writing, etc. There are also some jobs I have no real interest in, such as being a lawyer, going to med school, or teaching. The problem is I don't have time to find an internship in each one to know if I like it. I really don't want to summarily cross things off that could potentially be interesting though. But this causes a focus issue. The only thing I have really ever done is sciencey stuff, nothing outside of that.

So do you think speaking with a career councilor either at my undergrad school or in grad school might help me focus my interests?
TF
 
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What was Emil's point?

Postby Doug » Tue Feb 01, 2005 12:24 pm

You point out a common problem, and one that is the underscores what delineates people who do great things from those who don't: a lack of focus. I'm not saying this is necessarily a bad thing. Bear in mind that you could spend your whole life doing something you feel like trying, then become bored with that thing, then do some other thing. People are remarkably adaptable, professionally: most can become charged up about any line of work or project, especially if they feel a sense of "owning" that project. I've seen it happen quite a few times. Worrying about missing out on a potential opportunity can become paralyzing. Pick something, and follow through with ALL of your energy, and be happy with that.
Doug
 

What was Emil's point?

Postby TF » Tue Feb 01, 2005 1:28 pm

Just pick something?

This isn't like buying a pair of pants. I mean you can't JUST pick a career. It's hard to pick something outside of research when everyone just assumes you want to stay in research.

That's why many people are in my shoes. It is quite difficult to remove one self from the std research track because there aren't many opportunities to explore other avenues. That's just the way it is, and that's why I am luckily not alone in my interest to leave research and my CURRENT unfocused approach.
TF
 
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What was Emil's point?

Postby Dave Jensen » Tue Feb 01, 2005 2:19 pm

TF,

I'd like to correct what I believe may be a misconception on your part . . . There are indeed DOZENS, perhaps HUNDREDS of career choices once you get your PhD. The reason you are not hearing about this is because you are surrounded by people on the academic track (and perhaps a little because you haven't looked hard enough? You be the judge on that one . . . ). You can't leave it up to a bunch of professors and your mentor to tell you about these opportunities, that's for sure!

Dave Jensen, Moderator

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What was Emil's point?

Postby Doug » Tue Feb 01, 2005 2:19 pm

I'm not suggesting picking a career at random ir ner-random. I'm suggesting picking a career that interests you and finding a way to break into that field, without sounding glib about it. It will take work, and it could well lead to some period of time where you're making very little money, but you should be used to that as a grad student (said somewhat tongue-in-cheek). You say, "You can't JUST pick a career." The alternative? Just NOT picking a career, and being stuck doing something you HATE without a good alternative. My point is, make a decision. Even if it's not the BEST decision, it's a decision, and will at least help to get you moving toward a goal. It seems to be that (and I've been guilty of this) that you CAN do a lot of things, you're INTERESTED in a lot of things, so you're stuck in indecision for fear of making a wrong decision. It seems you've already grappled with possible failure (since the PhD is never a sure thing until you're holding the paper), so failure/being wrong shouldn't be an issue for you.
And that's the end of my career/life counseling for this thread.
Doug
 

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