The 8 best tips to find your dream job in science - title

The 8 best tips to find your dream job in science

Making a career in science is the result of careful planning, making many complex decisions, luck, and regular course corrections over a longer period (I presume 5 to 10 years on average). To find your dream job in science, you have to invest quite a lot of thinking and work.

The following eight tips will bring you much closer to your dream job in science.

AVOID THE FOLLOWING MISTAKES

When you start looking for your dream job, stop yourself from procrastinating and avoid the following mistakes:

1. Don’t start with upgrading your resume and cover letter!

Nearly everybody I know starts their job search by upgrading their resume or CV. This does not make sense before you know precisely what you want and who will receive your application. 

A resume or CV is a powerful tool to market yourself and convince a potential employer to invite you for a job interview. However, you must find out first what you want and what the potential employer wants – and then adapt your documents.:

2. Don’t waste your time by putting your resume on recruiters’ websites and job websites!

The same is true for recruiters’ websites and job websites. Do not procrastinate in your job search by spending too much time on these websites. You need to know what you are looking for first. 

At least in academia, most employers I know do NOT search the databases of recruitment websites. Read more here:  Should I upload my CV on multiple job websites for a career in science?

3. Don’t waste your time by creating a strong presence on social media!

There are very good reasons for scientists to avoid a crappy social media profile, for example, on LinkedIn, because employers check carefully potential candidates and google them. Most social media profiles I have seen so far from applicants are bad for their careers – because they are not professionally curated!  

Read more here:  Social media profiles are bad for most scientists!

4. Don’t be passive! – “Who brings me my perfect job?”

I dare to predict that more than 97% of all PhD students and postdocs tend to be passive and hope that a beautiful coincidence solves all the problems of their job quest. 

You just vaguely mention to your friends that you would like a nice job in academia or industry and that you are open to many options…. 

… and suddenly, you get a call from a well-disposed mentor who asks you friendly whether you would be available for the job you have ALWAYS wanted without knowing. 

There is no real competition because they want YOU.  You happily agree and enjoy the passion of the job and spend the surprisingly high salary with your family and friends … 

Well, quite often, that does not happen. Instead, – no surprise – you must be proactive.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO INSTEAD?

1. Define precisely what you are looking for.

This is easy to say and difficult to do. If you have no clue what to do, choose one of the thousands of books about job search to get your first idea. 

If you are already convinced that you want to stay in research, you should find out whether you want to work in academia or industry. 

Analyze carefully the conditions that are non-negotiable for you. Are you committed to a specific field of research (for example, immunology or neuroscience in general or a specific subset of cells, proteins, genes, mechanisms, or a specific disease or technology)? 

Is a specific country or region important for you? Do you want to stay close to your family or go abroad for a certain time?

Do you feel obliged to go abroad and are afraid of the unpleasant side effects of mobility? Or do you want a challenge and enjoy all the fantastic experiences of living in another country and all the new career opportunities when going to a new work environment? 

Which working conditions do you want? Do you want a high-level laboratory that publishes a Nature or Science paper every six months, with a lot of pressure? Or do you want to work in a niche with less competition and a more relaxed working atmosphere?

Do you want a big or a small research institution or company? Do you want a small or a big city? Countryside or heavy nightlife? Do you need daycare for your children? Is your partner looking for the same thing or the opposite? 

It is absolutely crucial that you write down what kind of work you are looking for.

2. Don’t figure it out in your head! Get more information and experience! Be proactive.

To find your dream job, it is essential NOT to figure it out in your head. You will not find your dream job by sitting on your couch and dreaming. You have to talk to people about experiences and experiments as much as possible. 

Follow courses that qualify you better and give you insight into fields that may be interesting. Make an action plan about whom to contact, which extra experience to make, and which course to follow.

3. Don’t figure it out alone! Get in contact with experts.

To plan your career is challenging because you never possess sufficient information to make sensible decisions. However, if you analyze the careers of people you admire and whose careers inspire you, it is easier to understand which decisions may lead you on a similar career path. 

In my experience, most people are very willing to talk about their careers, the advantages and disadvantages of their jobs, and which decisions have been good or bad in their lives.

We regularly organize presentations of scientists with exciting career paths to give PhD students and postdocs a better idea of alternative career paths in academia, industry, and the public sector.

4. Look for jobs that may fit and talk to the potential employer.

If you decide not to become an entrepreneur and build your own business, you must apply for open positions. Take your list of ideal criteria and compare the available positions. If you find an interesting position, do NOT apply immediately. 

Do not make the most costly mistake in your job interview and get more information about the position before  applying.

Acknowledgments

I have used AI systems, including Grammarly and ChatGPT, to enhance the English and comprehensiveness of this article. 

Recommended reading

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  1. The most intelligent strategy to get hired in science
  2. Job interview outfits in science – what to wear?
  3. How to choose the best postdoc position?
  4. Am I good enough for a career in science?
  5. Am I doing enough for my scientific career?
  6. Will I find a job as a scientist?
  7. I have no idea where I will be in two years
  8. Public social media profiles are bad for most scientists!
  9. Should I upload my CV on multiple science job websites?

3 Comments

  1. I wasn’t looking forward to reading this because of the generic title but it is a great article, very relevant details, things I have come across before from experts and professionals. I look forward to applying this because I might be looking for a new job or career and needed the right information for clear thinking. Thanks

  2. We know the hard work you put in to realize your dream life and career. We have been in this space for long and quickly realized how the market is flooded with job portals which compel dreary job seekers to shell out cash fora mere glimpse of the jobs they so justly deserve.

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