Hello Bio Careers® Community! I have been invited to share my experiences as a Science Writer with you in the form of blogs. I must say that I am a bit intimidated because there is a lot of good content already posted here that covers a lot of topics. Bloggers Sandlin Seguin and Clement Weinberger have written at length about the value of Networking and the power of Serendipity in finding that next job among other important subjects. I hope to add my thoughts and experiences to the mix.
I haven’t been on Twitter a lot recently, but imagine my surprise when I glanced at my news feed and saw all the scientific bloggers I follow, talking about the same subject. This is unheard of, and they were all very unhappy. They even had a hashtag specifically for it #istandwithDNLee. Clearly, I had missed something and began digging for information.
To be successful in science, you have to learn how to take criticism. This is one of the reasons I left the bench. I didn't like feeling like I wasn't good enough all the time. At that time, I thought that the best coping strategy would be to ignore the criticism. Unfortunately, this left me feeling like I wasn't sticking up for myself, and that my science was barely mediocre.
“I earned my PhD in drug discovery in 2011, and now I work as a curriculum writer.” When I introduce myself this way, especially to other trainees who are interested in transitioning away from the bench, I always get asked, “How did you do that?” I usually say that I wrote a lot, and that’s how I got the experience.
If you browse job listings on the websites of pharmaceutical companies, it’ll soon become apparent that there are a slew of titles and abbreviations, which often differ between companies…it can get confusing! Sometimes, at Company X an ‘Associate’ scientist has more experience than a ‘Senior’ scientist. Who knew that a ‘Clinical Research Associate’ (CRA), which sounds like a role requiring a medical degree, actually describes a lab-based PhD scientist? Hmmm…
Given the current dismal job prospects in tenure-track science academia, it’s no wonder more science PhDs are exploring alternative career options. Although we were groomed to succeed our mentors in the academy, bench life isn’t for everyone. Some of us don’t have the passion for conducting the same meticulous experiments day after day or the wherewithal to generate the endless grant writing required for PI survival.
In the year after I earned my PhD, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out who I am as a professional. I would introduce myself as “Sandlin, I recently earned by Ph.D. in Molecular Virology,” to people at networking events and meet with something between silence and panic. Someone gave me the advice to present myself in a way that allows people to help and connect with me. For example, I had a much easier time convincing people that I could be a top notch writer than that they wanted to hire the world’s leading expert in native SV40 large T antigen purification.