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Professional career services.

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Professional career services.

Postby RCB » Thu Jun 18, 2015 3:35 pm

As our longtime moderator Dave knows, my scientific career path has been a very rocky one. It's been one of temp jobs, underemployment and only a few sniffs at a genuine permanent career job - interviews which all failed.

Things have gotten bad enough that I'm thinking that the only way forward is rebuilding my job hunt from scratch. I'm in pretty bad shape mentally and financially, so rebuilding a job hunt only from what's in my head probably wouldn't be helpful - I'm quite literally at my wit's end. I know all about what doesn't work and I know my limitations. What I need is a way forward, a way of starting a career at a Ph.D. level position and salary (not, say, being an adjunct professor or a temp technician).

I've come upon the idea of using a professional career counselor. Such a thing is probably costly but I see no other way forward at this point...things like state paid vocational rehab and retraining just aren't equipped to deal with a Ph.D. level professional.

Would the readers and moderators have any suggestions in regards to professional/paid career counseling? What resources would be worth checking out?

Thank you for any advice you have.

-- RCB
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Re: Professional career services.

Postby John D. D, » Thu Jun 18, 2015 6:16 pm

Ehrenreich went the route of professional career counseling, and ended up writing a book about the process, Bait and Switch. I don't dismiss it entirely, but given your financial state, I probably wouldn't think it a good investment at this point.

I think that you've probably done a good job of assessing your ability to withstand various life challenges - it's kind of like coming out of a stress test. You are not supposed to feel good, just be able to look back and say this is where the fracture points were for you in this system. Think about it mathematically and try to define probable points of stability for you (multiple sets of variables that will produce a state of stability).

I think what you want is a permanent job with Ph.D. level responsibilities and a Ph.D. level salary. The reality is these 2 things may be separable, but in any event, they may not exist in the system for everyone. You can try to create them for yourself by getting enough capital to start something.

I think that the most important thing at this point will be to discover your "conditions of growth", what is going to work best for you, and then gradually try to find those environments (like growth factors). Flexibility and mobility are important in this challenge (see what you can express and how that changes the environment around you into something that is better for you.)

Try not to let any given set of experiences define you as "a success" or "a failure". It is all about character. Every challenge that you face in the day is a new opportunity.

Focus on finding at least one point of stability in the near future, and perhaps from there, a path to a second one.
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Re: Professional career services.

Postby Rich Lemert » Thu Jun 18, 2015 8:35 pm

Don't automatically discount the potential value of a career counselor. The right person can help you better understand yourself and determine what types of employers would be the best fit for you. The trick is going to be finding "the right person." You're going to want someone with training in the field, and some jurisdictions don't require career counselors/coaches to have any particular accreditation. You're going to need to do your due diligence.

Consider, though, that what you're really looking for is someone who knows your field and can get to know you. This person needs to be willing and able to give you honest feedback on your abilities, and who has a good understanding of what different types of jobs are available for someone like you. He won't tell you where to apply or what to say in your application, but he can help guide you as you determine that information for yourself.

In short, what you really need is a career mentor. That person might be a career counselor, but doesn't have to be. Finding someone willing to do this might be a greater challenge than finding a qualified counselor, but they might turn out to be a lot cheaper. You'll have to do a lot of networking to find this person, but that gives you practice for the networking you'll need for your job hunt.

(I'd be hesitant about resorting to using an academic as your career mentor - especially in the life sciences. Too many of them have a strong preconceived notion of what constitutes an appropriate career, and too few really understand what other options are out there.)
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Re: Professional career services.

Postby RCB » Fri Jun 19, 2015 8:12 am

Rich Lemert wrote:(I'd be hesitant about resorting to using an academic as your career mentor - especially in the life sciences. Too many of them have a strong preconceived notion of what constitutes an appropriate career, and too few really understand what other options are out there.)


That's the real trick - the folks who have always been willing to talk to me in a networking context have been academics, because (due to my grad work) they see me as one of their own. Industry folks literally won't respond to my emails, and it is MUCH more difficult to get a direct "line" to an industry scientist then an academic in the first place.

And it's my mentoring that has been, at best, well meaning but blinkered (due to the academic blindness you mention) and at worst, neglectful, that landed me in this awful place in the first place. I saw the writing on the wall about where academic careers were going, 5 years before I had my Ph.D. And yet, since none of my past advisors would help me network, that left me thrown to the sharks, alone...where I am now.

Getting out of this place is what I need the help with.
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Re: Professional career services.

Postby Rich Lemert » Fri Jun 19, 2015 10:04 am

RCB wrote:Industry folks literally won't respond to my emails, and it is MUCH more difficult to get a direct "line" to an industry scientist then an academic in the first place.


It's no surprise that industrial scientists aren't replying to your emails. Would you, in their place? They typically receive dozens of emails a day, of which maybe ten require a response and another twenty contain information relevant to them.

You need to be talking to them personally. Pick up the phone and give them a call - but do so wisely and in a way that's respectful of their time. Have a clear and concise message, and be brief. If they want to extend the conversation, that's their call (pardon the pun).

The best way to approach these people, though, is in person - if at all possible. Find local chapters of the appropriate technical societies and attend their meetings. Volunteer at conferences, and meet people during your free time. Put yourself in their mind and think about what their professional activities must be like.

One possible approach: pick e.g. one of the big pharma companies that's active in your area, and find everything written about them or by them in the last year that you can. Go through that and find every comment made about a topic that you'd be interested in. Look for people's names, or even just the location where the work is being carried out. Contact those people. Even if they aren't a scientist themselves, they probably know where to find them.
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Re: Professional career services.

Postby Dave Jensen » Fri Jun 19, 2015 4:43 pm

RCB wrote:I've come upon the idea of using a professional career counselor. Such a thing is probably costly but I see no other way forward at this point...things like state paid vocational rehab and retraining just aren't equipped to deal with a Ph.D. level professional.

Would the readers and moderators have any suggestions in regards to professional/paid career counseling? What resources would be worth checking out?

Thank you for any advice you have.

-- RCB


Hello RCB - While there are a few career counselors with experience from science industry, there aren't many. And using the services of one who has always focused on accountants or lawyers would be a mistake. Also, there are "services" out there that amount to nothing more than a big rip-off. There are even some school programs that take advantage of people in your shoes (I'm thinking of one heavily promoted organization that preys on Postdocs) -- they fall into the same category as the outplacement firms that get you for $5 or $10K.

The best way to get out of such a mess is to manage the process yourself -- and starting "from scratch" on a job search isn't a bad way to do it.

You've had some good advice from others in this thread.

Dave
"Failure is a bruise -- not a tattoo." -- Jon Sinclair
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Re: Professional career services.

Postby Lydia » Fri Jun 19, 2015 11:15 pm

I know someone in this line of work who is pretty good. She frequently gives workshops at networking events. I suspect that many career counselors do this sort of work to build their businesses. If you can find similar events in your area, attending would be a relatively low cost way for you to assess if someone may be able to help you, and at the same time you might meet people and build your network.

Also for getting a hold of industry scientists - LinkedIn is really useful for identifying people that would be interesting to talk to that people you know would be able to introduce you to. I am not sure about calling people out of the blue as another poster suggested. I rarely answer my phone if I don't recognize the number and I know many of my colleagues don't even listen to their work voice mails. I will generally answer emails if we have a common connection, or if the person is asking a question relevant to my work (e.g., trying to implement a technique from one of my published papers, or has an interesting idea about a new way to apply said technique).
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