Today is the six month anniversary of becoming unemployed. I had figured/planned, hoped even, to be back in work by now but clearly that has not happened. This would probably suggest that I have made a gaff somewhere along the way in deciding not to go for another postdoctoral position. So the question is now…
** what to do about this situation?**
I can only assume that I am either currently not selling my skill-set appropriately, applying for inappropriate positions or just in the wrong game. I’ve emailed my CV to the RSC careers advisors and they provided me with feedback. _In fact I had written down the feedback they would reply back with and was about 90% accurate. Bully for me! _But this is a good point it means that we both see the same flaws in my CV. I’ve now emailed them my non-academic CV which I don’t have the same feel for, so this will be interesting to see what they come back with.
Options considered (academic):
Postdoc or Senior Research Associate/Assistant
So moving forwards into a lecturer or associate professor role looks like a no go. I’ve now completed two academic postdocs and if you count Daresbury as a postdoc then it is three postdocs in total. I was thinking that another postdoc was not the way forward and to be honest I am still thinking that. Seeing that I graduated from my PhD in 2003 I have a ten year track record as a postdoc and if you include my degree which started in 1995 well that is a lot of years in scientific research.
I think it is time to stop fooling myself that I will be anything other than a postdoc. So I need to reset my horizon and start looking broader a field. I should also note that whilst seeking advice recently I have been told that you reach a point as a postdoc where the number of years experience you hold apparently does price you out of the market. So you either get creative with your CV and remove experience or look for alternate posts where experience is more important. Also many posts are designed to help bring in new talent so they won’t offer it to an older more experienced and potentially more expensive postdoc as it is suppose to be an incubator kind of thing.
Once you understand these hurdles are present then it is logical to plan appropriately and focus on achievable or SMART objectives.
Where to get help?
Whilst writing this blog I have also emailed the RSC to ask the careers advisor for leaving academic science and moving on to another job perhaps one completely outside of science. Do they have any good resources I can access, pamphlets, online courses etc. I await a response. Which I did get which sadly I was a tad disappointed with if I am honest.
I’m not certain about other services so I am looking at those I know like jobs.ac.uk and DuckDuckGo’ing the web. This did provide some interesting results for example Leaving Academia.com. I am still reading through the website but there is a surprising amount of websites from such a simple search. vitea.ac.uk has lots of interesting resources as well as jobs.ac.uk and I found the graduate website prospects.ac.uk also very useful. Interestingly taking the careers test on prospects.ac.uk gave me a 97% match on “higher education lecturer” as my number one job!
So what to do after academia?
If we take being a facilities crystallographer role (central facilities that is) then I’ve only really looked and applied for academic positions or fellowships over the past six months. I’ve done this because I have always wanted to be an academic but clearly that is not meant to be.
Now that I understand this then the key to success is not looking backwards at what I have achieved other than to analyse potential skill-set examples and the parts of my previous jobs I did enjoy (RSC advice) and then use them to find a new job. Unlike before where I was effectively trapped into a specific box now that I no longer have that constraint I now have carte blanche to find something new. This is rather disconcerting as it is liberating as I’m not certain where to go or what to try. So I figured that a recruitment agency may be the best bet. In theory I can find and potentially try different part time jobs to see which components fit and which I enjoy the most.
My skills in IT, management, project management, etc you would hope help me find a role in a non-academic environment. Now I really need to start focusing and finding that role.
Looking Backwards to Go Forwards
Over the years I’ve done lots of non-academic jobs from working in drainage to a printer’s assistant. Perhaps that is the way to go. Perhaps returning to being a screenprinter or a plant operator? Working outdoors is great when it is a sunny day so perhaps a gardener? But where else could I take my skills. I mean none of the jobs I’ve just listed use anything I have learnt over the past ten years or the previous eight at university. That seems quite wasteful. In the not too distant past two of my former colleagues left academic roles to work in health and safety. Do I want to do that? I don’t know?
Staying in the Game
Could I stay in the game but switch sides. Could I move to diffractometer sales or support? Doubtful, since the Yorkshire blood running through my veins has always seen my heart on my sleeve and with that being more honest that political. In short most major manufacturers know that I won’t lie to make a sale and I would be brutally honest about the product. So I guess that sales is out the question. Application scientist is not though?
Perhaps a Short List (options non-academic)?
What about Olex2 and Olexsys?
Seeing that I recently blogged about the future of Olex2/Olexsys and how I think it is going to grow into a blooming success (a bit of gardening terminology for you there) you would think I would be banging on the door for a job. But as I said in that piece they are still not really big enough to carry anymore staff. This means I would have to be a freelance consultant and they are really looking for Asian representatives. So I don’t think that is going to be the place for me and by the time it could be I will be long gone.
What about departmental crystallographer?
I have thought about that. However I think that is in some ways marked by the same postdoc stick I have in my head. That “stick” says that if I continue to be a postdoc or “just a crystallographer” then I will never have any control over my science over the direction of my research. I will never be able to grow my own research group and publish what I want when I want kind of thing. So I think that would be a no as well. Perhaps there is a compromise to be had with that role though? If I am happy to move out of academic science them perhaps the role of department crystallographer is a logical middle ground. Difficult to say right now as I am very excited about planning in a different direction.
What about the research?
Spending nearly eighteen years to get to this point is a bit of shock to be honest. Over those years I have as have many others generated lots and lots of research which has never been published. It has never seen the light of day. So if I am to leave science what about all those results? Well the obvious answer is that they must be released to the public. So I must upload them into my website, publish all the structures I have been involved with on my website, the scientific ideas and concepts, my applications and all the results into the public domain. In a “Share and share alike CC” way. That is going to perhaps take a lot of effort but it needs to be done (something I’ve alrady started by releasing my “sandbox”).
So What NEXT?
That is a really hard question to answer as I really do not know where this is going to take me. Lets see as one door closes another door opens. When you eyes go you stop painting, when your knees go you stop dancing and when you can not get the job you think you want you think again.
When all is said and done I’m not giving up on academia I am just broadening my horizons.