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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 TF » Tue Feb 01, 2005 2:59 pm

There seems to be quite a bit of circular arguing here. Yes, I have investigated a number of options. Yes, I have spoken a couple of people in alternative careers. Indeed there have even been a couple of "career days" at my school where members of different science related jobs came and spoke. Unfortunately, nothing really jumped out at me. Though at the time, I was more of a sponge, just taking things in as I was still quite intent on doing a post-doc at the time.

Hmmmm, I may need to make a much bigger break, and remove science altogether. Who knows. Thanks for all the suggestions.
TF
 
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What was Emil\'s point?

Postby Carlysle Tancha » Tue Feb 01, 2005 3:50 pm

TF,

I totally feel for you. These career days on campus and the people in these jobs express themselves landing their positions based on the luck of the draw--meeting the right person because they HAD the OPPORTUNITY to do so. If a PI wants you to be working in the lab and doesn\'t let you go to many meetings, for whatever reason, then it is hard to network and the networking going on at these conferences--at our level anyway, is usually the post-doc exchange network--\"I have this really good post-doc, he\'s got great hands...\" you know. I have seen it and this is just not the opportunity for breaking through. For breaking through, you can be the BS or MS without too much experience, but if you have the Ph.D., then you better have 15 years experience? How are you supposed to break through with that??
Carlysle Tancha
 
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What was Emil\'s point?

Postby TF » Tue Feb 01, 2005 4:03 pm

Carlysle,

Yup, you pretty much got my situation pegged pretty well. That's why I came here. Unfortunately many people here have just told me to go out there and do it. Funny, part of going out there and "doing it" is posting on boards like this! People seem to think I have made no effort whatsoever. Fortunately, that's pretty far from the truth.

Oh well, I guess one day luck will be with me and I'll find something.
TF
 
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What was Emil's point?

Postby Bill L. » Tue Feb 01, 2005 7:51 pm

Hi TF,

The short answer is yes: A career counselor can help you brainstorm and sort through your exploration and decision of a career path.


Good luck!

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

Postby Bill L. » Tue Feb 01, 2005 8:18 pm

One other thing TF,

One of the best ways that someone visually describes the experience of making a career transition is not as a straight line, but a line that moves forward in a series of overlaping cricles. (Hmm, frustrating that this forum doesn't enable images, as one would help right now).

That is, that while people move ever forward overall, gathing information, considering options, defining personal choices and identifying limitations, they also continually step back and regroup their new information into their psyche, plans, etc.

So really, people are always moving forward to something - it just might not be visible to the naked eye and relatives/friends/colleagues who would feel more comfortable if you would "just make a career choice and move into it".

It's an interesting question as to why people are really uncomfortable and impatient with uncertainty and indecision. If you tell the next 5 people that you are no longer satisfied with your career path, or want to leave your job, the next questions folks almost always jump to are: so where are you going to go? What do you want to do? (Go ahead. Try it.) And it's really considered quite a negative to not know. It reflects badly on you.

Three things I am sure of: 1. People who love, hate or are middlin' about their career choice should reflect and reevaluate where they are often. And that's what you're doing. 2. It's rare that a person who is not a career counselor/HR representative/headhunter, will have a thorough understanding of a full range of career options for someone with their background and training both inside their field and outside of it. And often, even we don't know. The exception, of course, is Dave - who just seems to know more people and more career paths for scientists than anyone I know.

3. It's rarer (and not often realistic) when a person is certain about what their career path holds, for say, the next 10, 20 & 30 years, any more than they are certain about what city they will live in in the year 2020. This is an even more acute experience for scientists, who once thought they knew what the future held - and often it was academe - but now don't know, and can't know, because of the limited number of faculty positions.

Considering where you are, perhaps a career counselor would be helpful in asking you great questions without pushing you towards one option or another (or out the door for that matter), as you sort through the information you've already gathered, as well as address some of the issues around the experience of not having found some career paths that you connect with yet.

Just a thought. And a question. How long have you been thinking/informational interviewing/researching/posting on forums and in general moving towards making this next step in your career?

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

Postby MPB » Tue Feb 01, 2005 8:52 pm

"It's an interesting question as to why people are really uncomfortable and impatient with uncertainty and indecision."

This is an interesting question. I definitely noticed this when I made my move from science to doing something else. I think there are at least 2 things going on. One is just a sense of visceral worry that people feel for you. If you lose your job, how will you eat? How will you survive? I worried about this myself when I was in middle of the decision-making process.

Second, I think a lot of people are basically unsure about what they are doing in their own lives. They are not satisfied with their jobs but they don't know what else they might do and they feel that they have to suffer on with it anyway. So when they come across someone who has decided to at least try to find some way to stop suffering, I think it is a bit threatening and kind of shocking to many people.

I really think that what TF (and other grad students and post docs) needs more than anything else is an "honest mentor." That is, a mentor who does not have a personal stake in TF's decision-making process. Your major professor or PI can only help you so much, no matter how good they are, because your interests and theirs do not always align completely. I didn't find my "honest mentor" until my second post doc, and by then it was too late to do me much good.
MPB
 
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What was Emil\'s point?

Postby TF » Wed Feb 02, 2005 10:24 am

Bill, Naledi, & MPB,

I appreciate and agree with your sentiments. With regard to what MPB was saying, I am in full agreement with the honest mentor idea. My current boss is not that AT ALL! I mean he is a great person to work for IF you plan on staying in academia. I told him that I went on an interview for an industry post-doc and he basically spent the whole time telling me why he didn't like industry for himself. Freedom to do what you want, blah, blah blah. I'm almost afraid to tell him I am very much exploring opportunities outside of research altogether! I will need to do some work to find someone who is close enough to an honest mentor.

With regard to the question brought up by Bill and Naledi, I have only been ruminating about the next step since about sept/oct 2004. It really started at the post doc interview I had. It was honestly a great experience. Current post docs were telling me how they were just picking up new and different techniques and basically in charge of their own research. While I kept trying to deny it, I really came to the conclusion that I don;t work well that way. I am used to people holding my hand when it comes to learning experiments. It's just FAR more efficient for me that way. I don't do well trying to figure things like that out on my own. Plus the company was stressing that they were really into having post docs publish. It all sounded great except none of the postdocs I interviewed with had any publications in the works and they had been there for at least a year. I don;t know, I just had a real uneasy feeling about the company and industry post-doc'ing in general. I haven't had good luck finding industry post-docs for the type of e-phys that I do either. I know I don;t want to be in academia, so the idea of an academic post-doc is really the very final option in my mind. So basically that has left me thinking quite a bit over the past few months about what else I want to do.

To be honest I haven't been SUPER pro-active in the whole search just yet. I have a committee meeting in the beginning of march to discuss when everyone thinks I should be able to graduate. My boss thinks as soon as I am done with my current round of experiments, but who knows what the other members think.

So currently I am looking into potential job applications and if I happen upon someone who may be able to help me out, I will utilize the situation. I happened upon someone who is quite big in reg. affairs and who knows lots of people. We spoke quite a bit, and he emailed my CV to like 6-7 people in different large pharm companies and really nothing came of it. I just recently came across another person who works at a pharm company and am seeing how things work there. Though I am running into an issue, I am overqualified for half the things, and underqualified for the rest. I still have a couple of cards up my sleeve that I have yet to utilize based on a couple of connections I made at a "career day" fair last year.

As far as posting in forums, I'm only aware of this forum specifically for scientists. If there are others, please let me know. I signed up and went to the job fair stuff at the Soc. for Neuroscience meeting this past fall and it was horrible. Everyone wanted an academic postdoc. I even signed up for a program where you basically have a "meeting mentor" who is generally a senior research person, either in industry or academia. Not sure what the real purpose was, but I figured it was a great way to network. The guy was from a big pharm company and told me how marketable my CV was. Wow, that sounded great. This was prior to the meeting, once at the meeting, the guy totally ditched out on me. Kept telling me stuff back at work came up, and had to leave like the day after he got there. So I never met him or anything! It just seems like one big wall after another.

Would you recommend going to the job fairs that Science sponsors? I see there is one fairly local to me, in the PA-MD-DC area.
TF
 
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What was Emil\'s point?

Postby Carlysle Tancha » Wed Feb 02, 2005 10:31 am

MPB,

You are totally right on with your comments. All the overlapping circles--no matter how much they overlap, and hence provide some sense of familiarity with a situation--will not give a sense of direction if the tunnel is continually grey at the end--there might even be an end, but the the light is so hidden by the interests of others (not so honest mentors continually relying on others for their own gain) that the uncertainty can drive the hope right out of you. I think that this is something that the dorum has not really addressed. The fact that you have to go for "training" so long and then face the uncertainty _again_ for trying to find a job/some sense of stability seems to plague many coworkers. It is a contract world out there and the no guarantees keeps you constantly in a sense of worry, if not doubt. Interestingly, these are also the comments that recruiters also hear; they are bent to thinking the applicant is negative. I think that it is safe to say that most of us entering science were not thinking about this kind of uncertainty and were certainly drawn in my our own perceptions of how science could cure. But, even in this age of paper retraction, there is no sense of certainty. And, then comes the kicker--if there is no certainty, yet people hope for the certainty of cures and medications to wipe out disease and we constantly are expected to turn out results that vary according to the position of the sun on any given day, then there is a constant sense of uncertainty. How can one find a sense of strength and confidence and positivity when the very work being done is without certitude?!
Carlysle Tancha
 
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