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174. I Have a Degree – Why Can’t I Find a Job?

Andrew felt like he was on top of the world when he finished his Master’s degree in History. He had excellent grades, experience teaching, and a willingness to explore new fields.

But as he submitted resumes and job applications, he noticed a pattern. Either he didn’t hear back from the employer, or they turned him down due to his lack of experience.

“It’s this cart and horse or chicken and egg thing where you can’t get a job because you don’t have the experience, but you can’t get experience because no one will give you a job,” he lamented.

Andrew’s job search stretched on for month after month, and he realized he had a problem.

“I didn’t know how to articulate my skills,” he said. “I really had trouble figuring out what was transferrable, what was not. And I had a lot of misconceptions about the face value of an advanced degree, and I was emphasizing all the wrong things”

That’s when he turned his attention to the study and practice of finding a job.

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173. Mailbag: I Have a Master’s Degree – Now I Want a PhD

There are many paths to a PhD. In the humanities, it’s common to earn a Master’s degree first (or so we’re told…)

In the biomedical sciences, students regularly skip the Master’s degree entirely, enrolling in a PhD program that includes coursework.

This week, we hear from two aspiring scientists who used the Master’s degree as a stepping stone, and now they’re looking to take the next leap.

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172. Research Software Engineer

If you work in a lab, you’re collecting data. And as the volume of data increases, many researchers find they can’t process or analyze that data in a spreadsheet or stats program anymore. Instead, they’re writing code in Python, R, or C++ to do that processing for them.

But this creates a new challenge: what happens to that code over time? Can your Python script be shared with other labs who might find it useful? When the graduate student who wrote the analysis package graduates, is there anyone around to maintain and update it so the lab can continue to reap the benefits?

Unfortunately, many researchers who know how to code don’t know how to shepherd that resource so it can be useful to others. But luckily, there are experts who know how to help.

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170. Mailbag: Should I Quit Grad School?

If you’re a grad student who hasn’t thought about leaving your PhD program at least once, you might not have a pulse. When experiments fail, grants are rejected, or you get reprimanded by the PI, it’s often comforting to remember that all of this suffering is self-imposed and you could simply leave the University and start a book shop somewhere.

For most students, that moment passes and they move on with their training and career. But sometimes, the moment doesn’t pass, and students begin to ask more fundamental questions.

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169. Change Your Plans, Not Your Goals

Even as a child, Alexandra wanted to study space. She had a Bachelor’s degree in physics from Cambridge University, so she seemed like the perfect candidate to for a PhD program.

But after graduation, she didn’t feel ready. She’d need a Master’s degree first, but money was tight and her student visa had run out.

She found a job prospect at a particle accelerator lab, but was turned down because they wanted more programming experience. So she packed her bags and headed home.

Her goal remained the same – to study astrophysics and earn a PhD. But due to circumstances, her plans had to change.

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