In my last entry, I talked about the reasons why I wanted to leave academia. I was tired of the low pay and time spent in the lab with little progress. I was upset and frustrated in my postdoc and I definitely didn’t want to become a full professor and carry the responsibility of writing grants and training students and teaching … all at once for the next thirty years. Thus, I opted to search for positions where I could still use my talents in structural biology, and had better pay and benefits; a position where I would still appear in the author’s list, even if I wasn’t first ever again, and a place where I could have more instrumentation and training responsibilities.
It took me a long time to figure out what it was that I wanted, but once I solved that, next came the “dreaded” search. I say “dreaded” because at times it was fun, I had a purpose, a goal: to find a fulfilling job; but mostly it was overwhelming and quite frankly scary. I knew that lots of well qualified people would be applying to the same position and I needed an edge to get the job I wanted.
With all this in mind, I used several resources, mostly online, to find jobs, prepare for interviews and negotiate:
• I used all the “traditional” internet channels that I knew, i.e. Google, LinkedIn, and a slew of job searching sites. Google was a great source of info on the places I was applying, but because I was lazy, I didn’t parse my search to discriminate from old job postings and current ones. LinkedIn was another good option; I found a few places, more on the industrial side, to apply to, but lacking industry experience no one took a chance on me.
• The other career search sites were a good tool to see what big companies were using as qualifications, so I could copy their style and make my resume and CV sound more modern, a little less academic. I wanted an edge; I didn’t want to sound like I was looking for another postdoc.
• I quickly found out that again, many of the career/job search sites weren’t specific enough. I knew there had to be a site (or sites) out there tailored to people like me, people who still wanted to be in science, but didn’t want a slew of industry or faculty job ads that seem generic. I wanted something more exclusive and focused, specific for people like me.
• Enter Bio Careers. I remembered my school being a member of Bio Careers and after a bit of searching, I found my account login info. It was an eye opener. I felt like I fit in, I looked at the ads and I finally felt like I found the place to look for a job. I found a couple of ads and applied for the jobs. I got a call from one of them, and an email from the other.
• Finally, I was also on list-servs from my structural biology areas of interest, and through those lists I found two more jobs to apply to.
• I also found a posting for a job in Canada via Google.
The results from using every place mentioned above? Countless job applications on some of the more “generic” job search sites, 1 job posting in Google that was both current and tailored to my interests, two from list servers I was on and 2 from the site specific for scientists (Bio Careers). I can honestly say I applied to over 100 jobs online both in the US and Canada, and a few in Europe. I got ~5 interviews, out of which I got 3 job offers. One of the offers was a no-go because I wasn’t a resident of the country and the search was for a national lab, but the proper competition hadn’t been officially opened. I got an offer for a transition position, one in which I’d start as a postdoc, and eventually become a staff person, and the third offer, one in which I’d enter as a staff scientist.
I ended up choosing for the straight-to-staff-scientist position, one that I’d held for more than a year now. This one I found through the listserv in one of my disciplines.
The job search is though, there are many people vying for a company’s interest and HR personnel. Not only do we have to worry about standing out from 100’s, if not 1000s of people with more experience in this or that, we have to figure out what it is that we want, whether we want or need to relocate, and tailor every resume to those ends. It’s a grueling process, and honestly, whatever we can do to focus the search and tailor it to our needs, I believe, the better the outcome. I’d highly recommend that once you’ve figured out the area(s) you want to work and the type(s) of position(s) you’d like to work on, go to a specific place (such as Bio Careers) which helps narrow and focus your search … instead of spending valuable time scanning through hundreds of postings which may be already filled by the time you start reading the Qualifications section.
Next up, I’ll discuss some of the resources I used once I had passed the screening interviews. Stay tuned!