Right now, many PhD students and postdocs are having to step back from lab-work, and work remotely. A number of EMBL sites are closed, and all of EMBL is encouraged to work from home if possible.
“This is a special time; limbo time. Better to come out of this having done and learned something” Cornelius Gross, Deputy Head of EMBL Rome in his EMBL blog post, lab life under lockdown
We encourage you to use some of this time to reflect on your professional future. In case you are not sure where to start, we would suggest one of the following actions:
- If you are not sure what career direction you want to take: spend time really thinking about your skills, interests and what you want from your life/career in the long-term (your values); this can be very helpful to find some clarity on your options.
- If you have some ideas about what might come next, but don’t have an in-depth knowledge of the career areas: line up at least one Skype call with someone working in a lab or career path that interests you to better assess your fit, requirements and what skills/experience you might still need.
- If you know what comes next, and have a good understanding of the career area: brainstorm action items that will help you get your next role.
- If you will be applying soon: learn how to write a good application – including how to tailor this for your chosen type of role – and spend time identifying your unique skill selling points and achievements. Then start collecting evidence / information that you might want to use when preparing application materials and later on in the job interview.
Please see our detailed recommendations for these suggestions – and other potential actions – with links to relevant resources, below.
For EMBL predocs and postdocs, the EMBL Fellows’ Career Service continues to offer a wide range of support, with our in-person activities now offered online. If you are an EMBL fellow and would like input on how to implement these recommendations or to discuss any other aspect of your career planning, you can book a career guidance session via Skype, or contact us with specific questions (e.g. if you are looking for specific resources).
Do you have a resource that you’ve found helpful? Share in the comments below……
Stay safe and healthy,
Rachel and Patricia
EMBL Fellows’ Career Service
- If you are not sure what career direction you want to take: spend time really thinking about your skills, interests and what you want from your life/career in the long-term (your values); this can be very helpful to find some clarity on your options. Resources that may help:
- A Science careers article that explains why this is so important and introduces one possible tool that can be used to help with this (MyIDP).
- Berkley’s career clarity exercises here.
- For EMBL PhDs and postdocs: download the EMBL Career Planning Guide and read the self-awareness section – then complete the self-awareness handout. Follow-up with a career guidance session via skype.
Other potential actions related to clarifying your career direction:
a. Get a preliminary match to different career paths followed by a PhD based on your skills, interests and values:
- MyIDP, a tool for considering your strengths and weaknesses
- Career Choice Indicator from Bioscience Careers (Sarah Blackford)
b. Find careers inspiration by finding out what other former PhDs have done, and what these different roles involve:
- Career profiles on this blog, as well other similar blogs: mySciCareer – PhD Career StoriesCareers After Biological Sciences – BMC Science Careers – Think Ahead Blog – Recovering academic
- Within EMBL, recorded career talks in the video library
- LinkedIN – see our article on using this for careers research
- InterSect’s job simulations for different science-related jobs
- Check out resources offered by the Alumni team at your University / Institute. At EMBL, the Alumni Directory can be used to find Alumni by expertise, and there is also an EMBL Alumni LinkedIn group – for details see here.
c. Read articles and brochures on specific career areas that interest you
- For those at EMBL, appendix I of our Career Planning Guide provides recommended articles and resources for the most popular post-PhD careers, including both academic and non-academic options.
- For early-career researchers at other institutions, here are some good places to start:
- Ten simple rules for choosing between industry and academia
- What should you get from being a postdoc? and Setting sail: a short guide to choosing a postdoc
- For those considering a PI career, the Wellcome Trusts’s guide to running a research group, is indirectly a good introduction to the role a PI has.
- For the vast array of non-research roles Science Careers – Science Careers Booklets – and Nature Careers have lots of articles on most of the common options – which is most relevant will depend on the options you are interested in, simply search for your favourite career on these sites. Career profiles (see point 1b) are also very informative for non-research roles.
d. If you want to treat yourself to a book, we like the following:
- A PhD Is Not Enough! A guide to survival in Science. Peter Feibelman. 2011. Basic Books. Great advice covering mainly academia, written by a US-based physics professor.
- Next Gen PhD – A guide to career paths in Science. Melanie V. Sinche. 2016. Harvard University Press. Written for scientists wanting to explore options outside academia, this book has lots of practical advice on self-assessment, networking, making a career development plan, and applying for jobs.
2. You have some ideas about what comes next, but still have some time before applying:
- Line up at least one Skype call with someone working in a lab or career path that interests you to better assess your fit, requirements and what skills/experience you might still need. Many people are working from home right now, with limited outside contact – and a short virtual conversation might be a welcome break! Even without these circumstances, we find most people are happy to talk about what their job is really like and advise potential future candidates on what they need to be successful. This can really help you better evaluate your fit to specific roles that interest you, and to prioritize different career development options. We’d advise speaking to two people if you can, to better assess what is universal for that type of role, and what is organisation specific. You can find our advice article on holding such conversations, often referred to as informational interviews, here.
- Optional but recommended extra – brainstorm ideas of how to implement what you learnt. Prioritize a couple of career development actions for when you return to the lab, and some you could do now (see point 3 / box 1).
- Alternative: delve into resources on different career paths. See point b-c of “other potential actions” in section 1 above.
- If you know what comes next, and have a good understanding of the career area:
Write down what requirements you will need to meet for a successful application to your desired position. Consider what evidence you can provide for each requirement, then brainstorm ideas of how to fill the most critical gaps.
Your ideas for career development actions may include actions:
- that directly address a gap (e.g. doing a course to learn a specific programming language; or prioritizing a project that will help you improve your existing knowledge, and could be used later in your CV [e.g. as evidence of your r or python skills]), and/or
- that indirectly help you achieve a goal (e.g. working on your project management to help you get your paper out quicker, or working on your writing skills to help you when applying for funding in the future).
Prioritize a couple of career development actions for when you return to the lab, and some you could do now (see box 1).
|Box 1: some ideas of potential career development actions you can do at home.
- If you will be applying soon:
Learn how to write a good CV and cover letter, spend time identifying your unique skill selling points and achievements. Then, start collecting the evidence / information that you might want to use to demonstrate your skills and fit to the position in the application or in an interview. Do not forget to set up, or update your professional online presence (e.g. LinkedIn, Research Gate). Please find specific resources for different types of positions below. For EMBL fellows, we continue to offer our weekly job application clinic on Fridays via skype; and if you are considering applying for a non-academic job, we will also be offering a remote “Applying to Industry” workshop (see Complementary Scientific Skills Courses).
- For faculty roles:
- Academic job application resources from the UCSF career service; particularly the academic career readiness assessment which may help you understand what’s important when applying to such roles (specifically for US-institutions, but the general ideas can be more broadly applied) and the sample materials for applying to Faculty positions.
- An informative elife webinar on academic interviews
- Results from a survey of recent faculty applicants and search committee members
- For postdoc positions:
- Outside academia:
- See out previous blog articles on job applications, starting with preparing a job application for industry. These articles also include links to other helpful resources.
- For those within EMBL, we will pilot delivering our popular “Applying to industry” workshop online on 24 March (see Complementary Scientific Skills Courses), and we have a growing number of handouts available on the intranet (currently Job Application Tips, Preparing for a Non-academic Interview, Ability and Psychometric Testing in Job Interviews plus – coming soon: Telephone & Skype Interview Tips, and LinkedIN Profile tips).