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026: Career Advice from A Successful Scientist

When you’re worried about today’s experiments and tomorrow’s time points, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s really important for your career and your life.  Why not start the New Year with a new perspective?

Father Time
“How about setting down the pointy scythe, son. You’re making grandpa nervous.”

Looking Back and Moving Forward

In this episode, we consider the advice of Robert J. Sternberg, PhD,  a self-described geezer and well-respected academic.  He’s Professor of Human Development at Cornell University, and has co-authored over 1,500 publications.  He wrote an article for the Chronicle of Higher Education laying out his career advice for other academics.

His tips range from simple (“Save as much money as you can”) to subtle (“Be true to yourself”), but all of them are worth a few moments of consideration as we enter 2016.  Here’s the list, with more detail included in the article:

Career Advice From an Oldish Not-Quite Geezer

  1. Put your family first.
  2. Make your health a close second.
  3. Save as much money as you can.
  4. If you’re in the wrong place, get out.
  5. Stay away from jerks.
  6. If you’re not having fun, something’s wrong.
  7. Be true to yourself.
  8. Don’t tie up too much of your self-esteem in someone else’s evaluation of your work.
  9. Take stock periodically.
  10. Have a hobby. See the world. Or both.
  11. Help others.
  12. Take some risks.

Pop a Cork

Also in this episode, Josh and Dan pop some bubbly to celebrate the New Year and some exciting milestones for the Hello PhD podcast.  Thanks to all of you joining us on this journey, and we can’t wait to make science a friendlier, happier place in 2016!

018: How NOT to choose a career you’ll love

If you wake up every morning excited to go to work, you’re ‘in-the-zone’ all day, and you come home refreshed and excited to start a new day, please stop reading now.  Everyone else, join me in paragraph two.

A story for the rest of us

Oh good, they’re gone.  It’s hard enough to work at a job you dislike, but it’s much worse when the people around you seem to love what they’re doing.  As they succeed, you feel like a failure.  They seem engaged with the work, while you watch the clock until closing.

But fear not: there are steps you can take today to find a career you’ll love.  Step one is to learn from other people’s mistakes and avoid their stupid choices!

forkintheroad
“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” -Yogi Berra

This week on the show, Daniel shares his story of landing in graduate school and realizing too late that it wasn’t a good fit with his work style or abilities.  Experiments weren’t working, and he began to lose hope of ever finding a career he’d love.

Quitting was an option, but there’s such a stigma in the academic world for those who “leave with a Masters.”  In the end, he finished the degree, and took the time to understand which aspects of his work life made him happy.

Along with the harrowing tale of poor life choices, we discuss the red flags that indicate you might be on the wrong path.  We also identify a few of the components of a satisfying career and why it’s important to start seeking them today.

Reaching for the top shelf

To extract Daniel’s story, Josh bribed him with a special ethanol this week.  It’s Basil Hayden’s Bourbon with one ice cube.  If you’re in grad school, you may have to take out a loan in order to buy some!

Josh also shares some fun research linking bee foraging behavior to caffeine content in the nectar.  It makes the bees head out to the dance floor, and they seem to get addicted to the sweet tasting stimulants.  It’s like Red Bull for bees!

003: Should I take a new job or stay where I am?

You may like your job, your boss, and your co-workers, but what happens if a “Dream Job” lands in your lap? Should you leave the safety of your current gig to take a risk on something new?  What if it’s outside of the “norm” or in a slightly different field?

Stuff you do that people won't pay you for is called a "Hobby."  Those are fun too!
Stuff you love to do that people won’t pay you for is called a “Hobby.” Those are fun too!

The answer is rarely simple, but this week we give you some tips on finding your passion, and pursuing it throughout your career. There are a few things you can do today to improve your odds of finding that dream job and landing it when it comes along.

It won’t be easy.   There are some mental and emotional barriers to stepping into the unknown, but we talk about how to overcome them.  And don’t be surprised when your mentors and peers try to discourage you – they’re just projecting their own fears on you!

If you’ve ever faced the question “Should I take a new job?” send us an email and tell us about the options and how you made the decision – we’d love to share your experience on a future episode!

Also in this episode, we celebrate a Hello PhD milestone with a bottle of bubbly, share some love with the scientists who launched the New Horizons probe to Pluto, and uncover the controversial origins of the clavicle.  And you thought it was put there by osteoblasts!

If you’re interested in the IRACDA training program mentioned in this episode, you can find more information here.

002: Post-doc salary, absent PIs, and the secret of landing industry jobs

Proposed rules could boost post-doc salary
Is that guy left-handed? Let’s all watch to find out!

The Obama administration has proposed some new rules that would give overtime pay to salaried workers making less than $50,400 per year.  Who cares?  Many post-docs who make the NIH recommended $42,840 seem to care!

In this episode, we explore whether the new rules would apply to post-docs, and how post-doc salary has stagnated over the last ten years.  If you have a dog in this fight, be sure to register your opinion on the regulations.gov website before the September deadline.

What do you do if you need help in lab, and the PI is never around?  A grad student asks:

I’m doing a rotation in a fairly well-known micro lab, and the PI isn’t around much.  I’m working under a Post-doc, but he’s really busy, and every time I ask for help he tells me he’ll help me later.  I’ve lost a couple of weeks waiting on him – what should I do?

Is an online application good enough to land an industry job, or are there steps you can take to improve your chance of getting noticed?  A job-searching scientists writes:

I’m looking for industry jobs, and I found one that sounds interesting at a local biotech company.  I applied using their online portal, but I’m wondering if there’s something else I can do to improve my chances of getting an interview.

Last but not least, we embrace our inner hipsters by drinking Dale’s Pale Ale and we uncover the hidden meaning of the word “autoclave.”  It doesn’t mean “sterilizer!”

001: Tim Hunt, Lab Rotations, and Teaching vs. Tenure

In this episode:

Tim Hunt incited a firestorm on Twitter last month for making sexist comments about women in lab, and he eventually lost his job over the incident.  We marvel at the intersection between science and social media, and examine the notion of sexism and bias for scientists committed to discovering truth.

We answer questions from established and upcoming PhDs wrestling with tough decisions.  This week, an incoming first year grad student trying to choose lab rotations writes:

“I need to choose three rotations over the next year, and I can’t decide whether I should go with a PI who is kind of new and just getting started, or one who is more established. I like the idea of more personal attention from a new faculty member, but I know the bigger labs tend to publish more and look better on a resume. What should I do?”

And a post-doc currently job searching writes:

“I’m looking at my job prospects at the university level, and I can’t decide: should I go for tenure or non-tenure? What are the pros and cons of each? Would I really be happy just teaching”

For ethanol, we go back to our youth with Yuengling Lager – the “fancy” beer of choice for poor grad students.

And we unpack the word “Yuengling” – learn the meaning behind the beer!