Making a career in science is the result of careful planning, making a lot of complex decisions, luck and regular course corrections over a longer period of time (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 8 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 to procrastinate and avoid the following mistakes:
1. DON’T START WITH UPGRADING YOUR RESUME AND COVER LETTER
Nearly everybody I know starts his or her job search by upgrading the resume or CV. This does not make sense before you know exactly what you want and who will receive your application. A resume or CV is a powerful tool to market yourself and to 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 the search for the perfect job by spending a lot of time on these websites. You need to know first what you are looking for. At least in academia most employers I know do NOT search the data bases 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 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 career – 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 for 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 your friends … Well, quite often that does not happen.
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 at all what to do choose one of the thousands of books about job search to get a first idea. One classical book that may help to get a first orientation is What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard N. Bolles (amazon affiliate link).
If you are already convinced that you want to stay in research you should find out whether you want to work in academia or in industry. Analyse carefully what the conditions are that are non-negotiable for you (again the book by Bolles can help to find your most important criteria). 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 the 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 which publishes a Nature or Science paper every 6 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 day care 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 PRO-ACTIVE.
To find your dream job it is absolutely 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, make experiences and experiments as much as you can. Follow courses which qualify you better and give you insight into fields which may be interesting. Make an action plan 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 develop a rough idea 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 and bad in their life. In our doctoral school we organize on a regular basis presentations of scientists with an interesting career path to give the PhD students and postdocs a better idea of alternative career paths in academia, industry and the public sector.
4. LOOK FOR JOBS WHICH MAY FIT AND TALK TO THE POTENTIAL EMPLOYER
If you decide not to become an entrepreneur and build your own business you will have to 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 you apply.