Today I want to focus on something that I believe a lot of scientists should consider getting – getting a professional opinion. We are all familiar with the idea of being trained by an expert in our field of interest, after all that is what we did with our doctoral degrees, but we don’t seem to take the same serious approach with learning new skills.
There are a plethora of jobs, someone with a scientific background or Ph.D. could be suited for, but they also require a few additional skills. When applying for non-academic jobs, there are things you can do to maximize your chances of being called in for interview – of course, our academic training hasn’t prepared us to know what these are. So how do you find out? You ask an expert for their professional opinion. Of course, just as in science, we have different hypotheses. There are also a number of different opinions about how to apply for jobs and develop skills. Therefore, you should apply your scientific method to choosing who you believe but that doesn’t limit the number of people you can ask.
There is an old saying, “those that can’t do, teach.” When it comes to getting advice, I am a firm believer in asking someone who is exceedingly experienced in whatever area you are interested in. Fortunately, for us, there has never been a better time to ask as a number of experts who have had successful careers are now sharing their knowledge. Check out the credentials of the people so that you can decide whether you believe their advice will be effective, and then decide whether to follow it. I am now going to share with you some of the people I have been fortunate to either see, present, or been given advice by.
A few years ago I met Ms. Mary Mitchell. She is beyond fabulous and provides guidance in both professionalism and etiquette. If you would like to find out more please see http://themitchellorganization.com/ . I have witnessed her talk a number of times and her witty delivery always has members of the audience hooked. She tackles the questions that people are either afraid to ask, don’t ask, or don’t realize they should ask! She also ensures that everyone realizes that your job interview begins the moment you step foot in the door to the moment you leave–that includes when you are with anyone or are eating, so you had better make sure you are at your best the entire time.
I have written a blog about Randy Ribaudo, Ph.D. previously. He is the CEO of SciPhD (www.sciphd.com). He and his coworker, Larry Petcovic, give great seminars and workshops. They also have great advice when it comes to targeting jobs and tailoring your resume. I should point out that I have been told before that you should never pay to get your resume or CV professionally done as it will not be as good as if you had taken the time to do it yourself.
My experience with these guys refutes this statement. They came to give a seminar at work, and I was luckily chosen to get my resume updated. I found a potential job that looked interesting and sent off my current version. We had email exchanges and, once I had the finished result, I was astounded with the improvements. The personal statement at the top simply blew me away. They had taken my entire 11 page CV, and distilled its essence into a short, attention grabbing paragraph. I would never have been able to write anything similar no matter how long I had tried. Plus, I think it helps working with someone else, as then you don’t feel like you are bragging or coming across as arrogant (and if you are they can advise you differently).
If you are thinking of changing careers and potentially walking away from a traditional academic path, there are some fabulous books (and blogs) to read. My personal favourites are “Put Your Science to Work – The Take-Charge Career Guide for Scientists” by Peter S. Fiske, Ph.D., and “Career Opportunities in Biotechnology and Drug Development” by Toby Freedman. These are great starting points for ideas and also advice on how to do things. They are also exceedingly encouraging.
Let’s face it, we all probably expected to become professors with research groups one day, so the idea of leaving that behind and doing something else is daunting. Yet, lots of people have previously done it, so you could, too. These are just five of my favourites which I hope may help some of you. Never be afraid to ask for advice, especially when it comes to something this important. These guys (and girls) really know what they are talking about, and I trust their opinions. There are many other people out there who I could mention (and may well do in future posts), but you need to decide for yourself whether you value their advice and opinion enough to use it.