So what’s it like working outside of lab?
Let’s start with my experience working in lab as a graduate student. I stood for long periods of time, and moved around a lot, from working under the hood, to the cell culture room, and maybe then to another building to use a specialized piece of equipment. If I was sitting, it was pretty active, and included activities such as conducting stereotaxic surgery on rats. There were also times that I sat at my desk analyzing data or writing, but this was not where I spent the majority of my time.
Working in an office environment is a lot more stationary than working in a lab. You spend a lot of time at a desk, reading email, papers, and analyzing data. Office jobs require a lot more writing than what you did in graduate school. You write more often, and you learn to write more concisely. Instead of writing a novel about the research process, you tend to focus on key points. My writing improved a lot after leaving the lab. Many organizations offer writing workshops for new employees. Take advantage because the writing style in an office environment is different than what you experienced in graduate school.
You might have your own office, which is a lot of fun decorating or you might share an office with a colleague. People tend to wear ear buds or headphones to drown out neighborly noises.
When I was contracted to work offsite, I worked in a cubicle that fit four people. There are benefits to having your own office, but it can be isolating. Working in a cubicle can be fun and rewarding because you meet more people, find out more about your team’s projects, or in the organization as a whole.
Office environments can be “meeting heavy”, depending on the organization. At a minimum, there is usually a team meeting. Sometimes team members are allowed to provide highlights regarding their work, but in some cases the team leader may be the only speaker, and talk about what’s going on in the company as a whole.
Depending on the team lead, you might meet them individually on a scheduled basis, but some team leaders may prefer that you schedule a meeting when you need to talk to them. Meeting work colleagues is key to getting work done, and sometimes it can be conducted via email or other avenue the company may provide, but meeting in person can expedite the work.