Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Finding a path

It's Tuesday afternoon and I'm in a lecture hall sitting on the floor as it's standing room only. The office for postdoc affairs has organized a panel regarding how to successfully navigate interviews for academic jobs and, though new to this position, I am obliged to attend. Looking around the room, which is packed to the gills, I watch many senior postdocs fidget and furrow their brows as the professors give their insight into how to successfully navigate academic interviews. The explosion at the Q&A session clearly catches the faculty off guard as they are hit with question after question about "exactly how" to successfully secure a job. One professor's advice to "have fun" and "be excited" is brushed off. It's clear the stakes have risen.

Since the beginning this postdoc, I've wrestled with what exactly my long-term career path will be. E and I haven't discussed the particulars yet as I'm focusing on writing a review, getting experiments off the ground and thinking about funding. But it's a conversation we're likely going to have within the next year or so as I will need to prepare for the job market. The thing is, I struggle with how to tell her that I'm no longer convinced academia is a good fit.

The path for anyone pursuing careers outside of academia is an elusive one. Even with the obvious step towards industry, the reality that this transition is a lot more complex with many, many different facets is something most training graduate students are unaware of. Hence where my problem comes in as even though I'm aware of these roads, I'm lost as which one to pursue at the moment. What little I know of industry doesn't appeal as my training is not medically focused. There's the flip of pursuing something more business driven, but the limited exposure I've had to that culture where money is the main driver has left me with a sour taste in my mouth.

A few nights ago, I ventured way outside my comfort zone and attended a seminar on strategy consulting. The theory behind was appealing and given my training I thought it could be worthwhile pursuing. Instead I left the session feeling sick and deflated after the presenter spent most of the presentation talking about her work with a large energy company and the strategy behind soda pop distribution. Whining later that evening to Grey (and him chuckling following a couple "I told you so"), I realized that this was going to be a lot harder than I thought.

Similar to infertility, the road forward usually isn't clear. There are suggestions on how to proceed and often people indicating which directions are often the best to take. But at the end of the day, a lot of this process is filled with failure. Coming up against walls and deciding whether to turn around or scale them. Most often, the ultimate ending is never what was expected and becomes a question of whether the path chosen is one that allows the decision maker to grow.

I'm struggling at the moment. I know I need to continue pushing and exploring options. After all, it's the reason I pursued this postdoc as I knew it had the potential to open doors. And yet there is the temptation to put my head down and not face the unknown. Not yet anyway.


  1. Sound like tough decisions. I have always hated situations where there are too few jobs and too many applicants and ultimately no logical way to choose between them. I would rather do a job that fewer people want than be in a situation like that. When it comes to a career I think there has to be some combination of what's needed in the world and what you feel called to do. I hope you find your niche.

  2. Job hunting sucks. :p I am hearing some stories from my colleagues who aren't in a position to retire just yet, and it's a tough, tough market out there right now, for both older & just-starting-out workers. Good luck to you, & keep us posted!


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