What shall I do, and once decided, how can I get my dream job after completing my PhD or postdoc, especially if I don’t want to become a group leader? Questions many of us ask ourselves sooner or later, and there are more options than the pessimistic among us might be able to imagine. These issues were addressed at today’s EMBO Career Day, taking place before the start of The EMBO Meeting, from which I’ll be blogging during the next few days.
There was a choice of four different workshops, of which one could pick two. The first I attended covered the process of applying for a job – “Cover letters, CV writing & interview skills”. Barbara Janssens, PhD career advisor at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg, Germany, started her workshop by telling us how she ended up in her current job. After having produced “no papers but two kids” during her postdoc, she decided that she would rather have a career outside of academic research. Barbara talked to many people about their experiences, and finally came across someone who suggested her to try at Wiley, where she started as a trainee and even ended up setting up a new journal! From there she went into teaching scientific writing, before finally becoming the PhD Career manager at the DKFZ.
Barbara and EMBO’s Gerlind Wallon both did a great job in giving useful advice, such as to always have an up-to-date CV (you never know when someone might ask for it), to network in an intelligent manner (know who has the power to hire you – it won’t be HR!), and stand out from the crowd by being involved in relevant extracurricular activities (as everyone applying for the job will have a PhD – that’s not enough).
Several of the participants had sent in their applications for a mock job advertisement we had received a while before the workshop took place. We evaluated these (anonymised) cover letters and CVs, and one brave volunteer even did a practice interview in front of the whole group. These exercises resulted in two precious “Dos and Don’ts” lists; the strongest advice I extracted from this was to always be aware of what’s relevant and what isn’t when presenting yourself.
After this excellent workshop I attended the Expanding Career Options lunch, where in an informal setting, I learned about careers in science policy, intellectual property and non-governmental organisations.
Finally, EMBO reports’ Sam Caddick guided us in explaining research in simple terms in the very interactive “Make Science Make Sense” workshop. Avoiding jargon and deciding on a single, simple message to describe your work turned out to be a lot harder than one might imagine, and it had the beneficial side effect of making me think more carefully about the relevance of my research. All in all, the EMBO Career Day gave me a lot of information and I can definitely recommend attending it next year in Nice!