Spring 2019: Careers blog and annual meeting recap

4/19/2019 1:59:39 PM

I’m back to it after finishing three jam-packed days of speed mentoring sessions at the ASBMB annual meeting in Orlando earlier this month. What a brain rush! I met with so many amazingly talented scientists who are interested in divergent career paths (e.g., industry R&D, science communications, consulting) and looking for some pointers on how to get there. Since then, I’ve spent some time reflecting on the career advice shared during these sessions. While everyone had different needs, there were some common themes that emerged. Here is a summary of some of that advice, along with a careers blog recap to help you catch up on the latest posts.  

1. Seek out a team of mentors. One person cannot possibly fill all your mentoring needs. And, as many of the people I met with pointed out, their primary academic adviser could not adequately address their career-mentoring needs because of a lack of experience outside the academic environment (or an inability to imagine that anyone would even want to have a nonacademic career). In fact, many who met with me just wanted to talk to someone outside academia to get a different perspective. Bottom line: Find people who can complement your various career interests and who are supportive of your goals.  

2. Add informational interviews to your career-development toolbox. Informational interviews can help you explore career paths, build your professional network and identify potential mentors. This involves having an informal conversation with a professional working in a career of interest to you to find out what they do and what path they took to get there. There are some great tips on how to conduct an informational interview in this careers blog post and video tutorial. Several people were intimidated by the idea of reaching out to people they don’t know. My advice is to start by interviewing your current contacts and/or asking if they are willing to connect you with others. From there, you can continue to ask for recommendations of people to talk to. Trust that most people are going to be positive and are going to want to help out by sharing their career stories.   

3. Develop an individual development plan. Many people were in career-exploration mode. It was great to see so many people thinking through career options early on and taking steps to determine exactly where they want to end up in the science world. An individual development plan can really help solidify your career goals by assessing your interests, skills and values for a future career and developing a plan to reach these goals. You also can use an IDP to guide discussions with your adviser to communicate your career goals. There are a number of online tools (e.g., myIDP) and other downloadable templates to guide you through the process.  

4. Find a curriculum vitae or résumé style that works for you. There was some confusion on the difference between a CV and a résumé. For an example of what a classical CV looks like, check out Karen Kelsky’s rules for an academic CV. If you’re not applying for an academic job, then, in most cases, a résumé or some type of hybrid is going to work best. To find a style that works for you, ask colleagues if you can look at theirs or check out samples online. A few websites with lots of sample CVs and résumés include the UCSF Office of Career and Professional Development and University of Illinois Graduate College Career Development Office. Also, be sure to take advantage of career services centers on your campus for résumé reviews. (Note: I’ll return to résumé prep tips in a later post.)  

5. Stay focused on your career goals. I have to admit that I was dismayed by the elitism and just inadequate career advice that still persists in science and academia. I met with people who were worried because they didn’t have the “right” discipline listed on their advanced degree or that they may have to take a gap year while re-applying to graduate programs (which partly inspired the recent careers blog post on post-bachelor’s research jobs). You can’t listen to naysayers. Stay focused on the career paths that will give you the most professional satisfaction and give yourself time to get there. Have an exit strategy in place so you can focus on these career goals during any transition periods. And, importantly, when looking for jobs, find organizations with a culture that values you as an individual and your future contributions.    

Careers blog recap  

January 2019

February 2019

March 2019

Past blog recaps  

2018: the year in review (October–December 2018 and top posts from 2018)

Fall 2018: Career resources and blog recap (July–September 2018)

Playing summer catch-up (April–June 2018)

Recap and random advice (January–March 2018)

Rock your year-end science accomplishments (top posts from 2017)

Careers blog recap and annual meeting reminders (September–November 2017)

Donna Kridelbaugh is a contributor to the ASBMB Careers Blog. She holds an advanced degree in microbiology and is a former lab manager.   

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