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Updated by Melissa Vaught on Sep 10, 2017
Headline for Finding your career path
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Finding your career path

Most of us have a moment in our lives when we realize it's time to start asking big questions about our futures & careers. There are some great articles & resources for exploring those questions & learning about career paths. Check out some of these (excerpts are included, and, with exception of larger collections, I've read or used all on the list). There's a focus on PhD & science careers here, but some are broadly applicable.

Have a recommendation? Tweet @biochembelle with the hashtag #bbcareers.


There have been lots of conversations in recent years about how science career paths don't all follow the trajectory of: degree -> PhD -> postdoc(s) -> lab head. Instead, scientists may find themselves moving into science communication, publishing, technical or other roles where they still consider themselves to be using their scientific training, while not necessarily doing research...

MySciCareer is a regularly updated resource of first-person stories about science careers that intends to flag up some of the diverse opportunities now available.

How can I follow my passions when I have no idea what I'm interested in?

By Fatimah Williams Castro (@FatimahPhD)

PhDs in search of their first postac career ask this question lamenting, "I'm so disconnected from my interests outside of my research that I don't know where to begin thinking about my life and career beyond the academy."

BB's note: Great tips on discovering what you enjoy doing outside your typical everyday work. If you think you want to do something other than what you're doing now, start here.

By Bethany Brookshire (@scicurious)

“How do I get out of science and into science writing?”

There is no magic piece of advice... Practice. Write. Write as often as you can.

By Fatimah Williams Castro (@FatimahPhD)

The transition from academia to a nonacademic career is never as simple as shutting one door and opening another. As a career coach, I've watched many a Ph.D. simultaneously work and live in both worlds while trying to forge a new career path. Transitions take time and are not a straight-line process.

Do you want out of the lab? Advice to prepare for your non-academic job search

In the middle of academic job season or right around when you're planning for your defense this Spring, you start thinking about jobs outside of academia. But how do you apply for a non-academic job?

BB's note: Concise post with pointers for each step of the process - from start to interview.

Do you know what career path to take?

By Jennifer Polk (@FromPhDtoLife)

"When did you decide to leave academia?" This question, or some version of it - "How did you know that you didn't want to be a professor?" for example - is one I'm regularly asked. It comes up in conversation, on Twitter, or when I'm on a careers panel.

BB's note: Nice short post about starting to consider where you want to go - and reminding us that struggle is part of the process.

Individual Development Plan (myIDP)

You have put a lot of time and effort into pursuing your PhD degree. Now it's time to focus on how to leverage your expertise into a satisfying and productive career. An individual development plan (IDP) helps you explore career possibilities and set goals to follow the career path that fits you best.

BB's note: I'm a bit of a myIDP evangelical. Tailored for science careers. Provides structure for skills & interest inventories if you're not sure where to start.

IDPs for Successful Career Development

By KatieSci (@katiesci)

Individual Development Plans (IDPs) are becoming all the rage in the scientific community, and for good reason! Scientists-in-training tend to get busy with research and leave their career plan simmering on the back burner. Ideally, students can create an IDP in their first year of graduate school.

BB's note: Good overview of how to create an IDP, if you're looking for something a bit more open ended than myIDP.

The Five Finger Rule

By Marquita M. Qualls (@DrQualls)

I know so many people who have been drawn to jobs and careers based on the glitzy covers of the title, compensation, or even geographic locations. They are simply going through the motions, but more often than not, they aren’t enjoying it.

If you are not in the appropriate career that matches your skills, potential or dreams, how much fulfillment and joy are you missing?

BB's note: A simple approach to asking whether you're on the "right" track.

What is an Informational Interview?

By Joann Kamens (@JKamens)

Training as a scientist in the academic system has many pluses. I delighted in my graduate school years for allowing me to focus wholly on the science I love. This immersive nature of academia often means that scientists-in-training rarely get the opportunity to learn about the myriad of diverse, nonacademic careers that will be available once they have a graduate degree in science.

Chemjobber: Stories of quitting grad school

BB note's note: Chemjobber put out a call and is posting stories of chemists who decided to leave grad school. He asked them the following questions:
1. Why did you leave?
2. Your thought process in leaving? Was it deliberate (over a period of time) or sudden?
3. Where are you now?
4. Are you happy after leaving? How does the decision look to you now?

Mentoring for Diverse Careers: A Mentee Perspective

Lisa Stow is currently a Medical Science Liaison at Champions Oncology where she is responsible for managing personalized TumorGraft (patient-derived xenograft) technology for clinical and research based initiatives. Dr. Stow is passionate about patient advocacy and advancing personalized medicine in a responsible and ethical manner.

Helping graduate students and PhDs envision, prepare for, and excel in non-academic careers since 1999

BB's note: I've been following @versatilephd on Twitter for a while but only just became a member of their online community. But it looks like there's potential for forums, networking, and job postings. They cover humanities as well as STEM, and they organize events in several major US cities.

By Bethany Brookshire (@scicurious)

Deciding to leave academia can be a wrenching experience. Sometimes, people who decide to leave are bitter and angry to their core. Other times, they are sad, with constant feelings of failure. And many, many times, they feel lost.

CV to resume to job.pdf

Alycia Austin (@AlyciaPhD) shares how she navigated from PhD to Director of Graduate Recruitment & Diversity Initiatives at University of Rhode Island.

Stop Worrying about Job Security

By Melanie Nelson (@melanie_nelson)

I hear two common concerns from graduate students and postdocs who are considering a nonacademic career path: Will the work be intellectually stimulating? And will my job be secure?

...I realized I needed to change my perspective on job security. I stopped worrying about it and focused instead on building career security and financial security.

By Chris Pickett (@ChrisPickett5)

...there is no single path from the bench to policy. Everyone starts on the path at a different place, so everyone is going to have a different experience. But...the many paths have commonalities. Here are some of the things scientists can do to blaze their own trails from the bench to careers in science policy.




By Chris Pickett (@ChrisPickett5)

Finding a job away from the bench can be a frightening prospect. Are you sure you want to leave the bench? Does your training even give you the necessary skills to make this jump? What if you get a job and don't like it? What are your options then?

Careers In Research

Scanning the web to bring you the most useful information to build a career in research

BB's note: Curated by the Centre for Research & Development Monitoring (ECOOM), this is a collection of articles from around the web covering many aspects on careers for PhDs.

[via Raj Mukhopadhyay (@RajMukhop)]

Careers: Case Studies

BB's note: Published by American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (@ASBMB) Today, these pieces feature personal stories from a variety of science careers.

"Not Networking - Building Relationships for Success" webinar with Joanne Kamens via ASCB

"Not Networking - Building Relationships for Success" webinar with Joanne Kamens via ASCB
(Run time - 36:04)

By Jay Fitzsimmons (@JayFitzsy)

I love my job. But until I got it last year, I didn’t know jobs like mine exist: non-academic jobs where you can nerd it up about insects and make a difference for conservation. My goal is to describe how you, Ontario entomology grad students, can build your skills to get contracts in insect conservation management in Ontario.

[PDF, see page 24]

BB's note: Though Jay's target audience is entomology grad students, there's some solid advice in here.

Decoding Industry

BB Note: Ever find discussions of industry gigs baffling? Check out this guide to decoding jargon.

What Does Industry Want From You?

By Elizabeth Sandquist (@ilovebraaains)

Interview with Lawrence Carter, Senior Director of Clinical Development at Jazz Pharmaceuticals

7 Questions to Guide Your Research on Nonac Jobs

By Fatimah Williams Castro (@FatimahPhD)

You may be doing a lot of online research on nonac careers these days, and have your eye on a job opening or career path that interests you. Trouble is, you're not sure what the job is actually like beyond the brief descriptions you've found online. Before preparing that application, you want a little more info on what the job to know if it’s a good fit for you?