Many trainees are transitioning into non-research careers. Navigating this transition can be tricky, as the available resources are still scarce and fairly inconsistent. Dr. Josh Henkin, founder of STEM Career Services, gave a workshop at the 2017 AAAS meeting titled “Transitioning into a Non-Academic Career.” The workshop explored the skills and best practices for trainees to transition out of academia. We highlight the main points from the session.
You are 1-2 years away from graduation and want to switch into a different sector or move away from research altogether. Or you are a postdoc who is actively applying for jobs outside of academia. How do you tell your dissertation/postdoc mentor that you are considering a career different from an academic research position? We discuss hurdles that trainees encounter and provide tips on having a career discussion with your mentor.
In today’s world, direct engagement with those outside of science is critical not only to communicating what we’ve discovered, but also to promoting an atmosphere of trust between scientists and the public. Direct engagement can mean many things, but for me, public outreach is a powerful and immediate means of bridging the gap.
You’ve finally landed a job in research & development or in the clinical research division at a pharmaceutical or biotechnology company. After spending, a few years mastering your job, you might be thinking of moving into the business side of your company and ask yourself “How much business experience/background do I need to be competitive for a management position within industry?” We interviewed Dr. Alita Miller of Entasis Therapeutics and Dr. Sarah McHatton of Novozymes to get their insights on this question.
One of the challenges for any PhD candidate is to decide if they want to pursue a post-doctoral position after graduation. This challenge can become more daunting when decisions need to be made about where (and under who) this post-doc should be conducted as well as the post-doctoral research topic. However, it’s important to know that you are not alone in making these types of decisions. Microbe Mentor reached out to three relatively new post-docs, regarding their post-doc decisions. Despite different backgrounds, they collectively agreed that it was critical to first determine what was important to them. The factors and their importance played out differently for each of the three interviewed post-docs.
You’ve heard about Medical Science Liaison (MSL) positions and even know alumni from your institution that have entered the field, but what does a MSL actually do? Is it a sales position? Is there a lot of travel? When you’re looking for answers to these myriad of questions, who do you turn to? How about someone who is currently in the job in the form of an informational interview? To learn how to do informational interviews and why they are important, check out the article.
The career planning process can start at any time, but the overall rule is the sooner the better. The rule applies to anyone - whether you’re a junior undergraduate, 1st year graduate student, postdoctoral fellow or somewhere in between. The career planning process includes four steps: 1) Understanding You – What are your interests, values, and skills? 2) Exploration – What are the current career paths in the workforce and which do you find most interesting? 3) Building Yourself and Your Network – What skills, experiences, and people do you need to get to career X, Y, or Z? 4) Job Search – How do you put together a job application and execute the interview successfully? This process is important because it will help you shape your career aspirations and make you more marketable for a particular career. In return, these steps will make it easier for you to put your application materials together, including: cover letters, resumes, CVs, teaching philosophies, etc.
How critical is a postdoc if I want to teach at a primarily undergraduate or 2-year institution?
To bring a broad perspective to the issue, Microbe Mentor editor Thomas Hanson asked three microbiologists at different career stages and types of institutions for their thoughts. Dr. Amy Cheng Vollmer is a Professor of Biology at Swarthmore College, Dr. Virginia Balke is an Instructor and Project Director at Delaware Technical Community College (DTCC), and Dr. Carie Frantz is an Assistant Professor of Geochemistry and Biogeoscience at Weber State University.
Dr. Vollmer’s research focuses on the stress response in Escherichia coli, and is moving towards microbiome characterization. She is the sole microbiologist in a Biology Department, where she has served twice as Department Chair. Research experience for students is an important part of the curriculum at Swarthmore and Dr. Vollmer has hosted over 70 students in her lab to date. She has previously written about her job in the August 2000 ASM News (66:459-462).
How important is it to do a postdoc if you want to pursue careers in science communication or policy?
This is an increasingly common question, so thanks for asking Microbe Mentor! The vast majority (~70%) of science Ph.D. students pursue a postdoc after graduation. However, you may wonder if it’s really necessary to do so if pursuing a non-research career such as science communication or science policy. To help answer this question, Microbe Mentor reached out to Erica Siebrasse, Ph.D., and Erika Shugart, Ph.D., for their insights.
Dr. Erica Siebrasse, the Education and Professional Development Manager at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, details how to successfully make the transition from academia to science communication or policy. Dr. Erika Shugart, Director of Communications and Strategic Marketing at ASM, explains what she looks for in candidates when she hires.
Both agree that it is not necessary to do a postdoc for careers in science policy or communication. However, it is necessary to have a solid plan and be passionate about the career path you choose.
ASM members have expressed a significant interest in being able to gain career advice from microbiologists who have “been there and done that” and ASM has responded with an article on what advice they would give to their younger selves.