And Another Thing …


When I was a PhD student I often experienced the frustration of thinking of the perfect response to my supervisor--about 10 minutes after he walked out of the lab. I'm sure you know the feeling. And now, about 3 days after I've seen my latest CareerDoctor column appear, I'll stumble across a great Web site, talk to someone about a job I've just discussed, or read a report on a research careers issue that would have been just perfect for it!

This year I've been granted a Christmas wish by the Next Wave fairy. She let me pull together a few of these extra snippets in the style of one of the hilarious clip shows that will soon be filling television schedules. (For those of you unfamiliar with Christmas television in the UK, this is irony.)

So, where do I start?

Well, the year began with Avril's question about scientific communication to kids and I neglected to mention the Biosciences Federation Speakers Database. If you are interested in giving talks to local schools or colleges, you can sign up online.

One Next Wave reader who has already done this is Mel who was interested in freelance science communication, and she's recently updated me on her progress. She's had a busy few months chairing events for the "Genetic Futures" initiative, part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the discovery of the structure of DNA. This has led to freelance work with one of the event's sponsors, Bio-Rad, a large biotechnology company that has a Life Sciences Education programme. All pretty impressive as Mel's freelance career is still less than 6-months old--fortunately she hasn't yet turned her hand to careers writing, so my job is safe for now!

In February, I looked at well-paid scientific jobs (sadly nothing new to add there!), but the column was also about managing a career with a family. There are now a number of fact sheets on the Working Families Web site covering issues from negotiation to working from home; worth a look if you are struggling with your work-life balance.

I've been in touch with Jeff who was facing redundancy from academia--he was actually redeployed within his institution but is expecting his new department to close or be significantly depleted following the next Research Assessment Exercise. So he is building his networking skills to be ready for a career change within the next 5 years. He's also joined the AUT (UK's Higher Education Union), so he has access to advice and support when redundancy is next offered and tutored on a GRADschool. It's worth reminding you all that academic researchers are keenly sought after as mentors on the GRADschool programme and many researchers will qualify for a free place. Contact GRAD for more details.

Since writing this column, the URL for one of the key resources has changed--you can now find career resources for postdocs, including case studies and reports on recruitment, on the new Higher Education Staff Development Agency (HESDA) Web site. I've also found additional information from Leeds University Careers Service for postdocs considering a change of career to the commerce and industry sectors and an index of articles published in the U.S. Chronicle of Higher Education on nonacademic careers for PhDs, which includes case studies and advice.

In the spring, I looked at ways to take immunology closer to people and I have since had an opportunity to get a little closer to a few immunologists myself, having just attended this year's British Society of Immunology Congress and run a careers surgery for delegates. One resource which I found myself reaching for again and again was HESDA's University Researchers and the Job Market--a comprehensive career development manual for academic researchers. I'm now looking forward to April when I'll be meeting microbiologists at the 154th Society for General Microbiology meeting and I hope to see some of you there.

This year's most popular column was Overcoming a Poor Publication Record, so I'm happy to have found another article with advice on publishing in academic science. You will need to register to access articles from the Scientist, but the process is mercifully brief, and free!

Another site I've recently discovered is Graduate School, which pulls together articles from a number of publications--mostly U.S.-based--and covers most career issues of interest to Next Wave readers. I thought the articles relating to a "mid-life" career change were especially useful and supplement well the Mature Scientists piece I wrote in September.

Looking at a few more recent columns, I would add the interview resources developed by the University of London Careers Service to the advice given in "Beating the Interview Odds". The virtual job interview and help sheet on interview technique both look behind common interview questions and suggest strategies for giving the answers employers are looking for.

Also in November, Robert wanted advice on returning to the UK after working abroad for several years. Would you believe it, the very next week Freepint published an article pointing to sources of support and advice for those suffering from repatriation culture shock.

Finally, almost immediately after publication of last week's column I had a classic "Doh!" moment when I found a wonderful article which succinctly describes the key differences between the academic and industrial work environments and links to a more comprehensive survey of researchers in both sectors.

Maria had already looked into industrial postdocs in depth, but for other readers I think the Faraday Partnerships programme connecting industrial and academic research is a great model for researchers wanting to broaden their experience without having to go back to square one.

Finally, a huge thank you to those of you who have e-mailed me this year with questions and feedback. Columns in preparation for the New Year include merging science with law, looking at careers in mathematics, and the dilemma of whether to take the PhD route or not. Please keep sending me your career questions and I will do my best to address them here.

Merry Christmas,

The CareerDoctor

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