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On Tuesday, I found myself sitting in a small office at the medical school. On the other side of the table is the coordinator for a program I had applied for. Grabbing a box of tissues, she passes them to me before saying "I'm so sorry." And with that, we talked. We talk about the position I thought was a golden opportunity and about how the faculty who have been doing the interviews had completely cut her out of the loop. How she thinks I would be terribly bored and frustrated with the fellowship the way these faculty have been running it. I listen as she vents her frustration and anger, threatening out loud to terminate the position all together as the faculty are not meeting the criteria of the program and are treating the fellow like a slave.
Then she looks at me and confesses her confusion that someone with my background and experience would even need this type of training. "Don't get me wrong, I would love to work with you," she states, "but Cristy, you don't need this. With the postdoc you're completing now, you're more than qualified to take on the job market." And with that, we talked about options and things for me to consider. That she wants me to continue to use the resources she's generously allowed me access to these past few months and is happy to help in anyway. But it also was clear I need to start thinking outside the box as there are options I'm not even aware of yet. It's just a matter of tapping into them
And with that, I found myself in extremely scary territory: I'm officially job hunting
In a way, job hunting involves kissing a lot of frogs. You find yourself going down one path or another, trying on the different options to see if there's a fit. Some frogs seem right from the beginning only to fizzle out, while others are ones you need to check off the list with a firm "NO." Still, there are some frogs that do pan out, becoming more that what was initially expected.
Thing with all this kissing is you never know. Hence the importance of some good lip balm and a tooth brush.
For the last week, I've been putting the pieces back together and trying to figure out how to make this next step. The truth of the matter is that most PhDs are trained for an academic setting. We format our CVs to emphasize publications and who we trained with. But the rest of the world doesn't exist this way. Skills are the emphasis and the ability to show you can integrate all you've learn over the past 6-10 yrs into the real world is highly valued. The problem is we're not taught how to do this. Slowly there have been talks, panels and career fairs that allow for connections, but breaking into industry, nonprofit or government isn't as seamless as many assume it will be.
Still, I've never done well competing with hundreds of people for anything. I like thinking outside the box and working in ways most hadn't considered. Most importantly, I'm still very passionate about science education and communication. There's a need.
So I've been slowly activating my network; reaching out to those I know who are working in positions that just sound cool. I've been learning to network, looking into joining organizations and finally dusting off my Linked.In profile (feel free to contact me if you want to connect). But most importantly has been a mental shift. Of being willing to look into options for possibilities that most don't even know exist.
All of this is going to take some time. I figure about a year due to me also juggling research (one review written; hoping for at least one primary paper next year) as well as exploring all these new options. Still it's time. I've been a trainee for too long. Time to remove the training wheels and go out on my own.
Bring on the lip balm.
Listen Up and then BE HEARD!
3 hours ago