23 April, 2009

Humbly Seeking Advice

OK, so by now it's probably become more or less obvious that I don't blog much about my personal life at all. For all any of you know, I could be the garden gnome in your yard, sneaking in to bang away at your keyboard while you slumber. This isn't because I'm just a brain on a stick, although I'll admit that at times it is nice to retreat into that mode and cavort about in a marshmallow buttercup landscape of knowledge. Rather, I tend to be more of a stubborn introvert like Prof-like Substance, Science Bear, and (my Giga-Nefarious Mega-Archenemy) Hermitage. I'm not comfortable spreading myself out there in public like Dr. Isis and Juniper Shoemaker; it makes me nervous and jittery, although I can turn on the charm as needed and doing so has gotten me out of many scrapes. As such, writing this is somewhat difficult.

It has become starkly apparent that it would be prudent for me to start looking for another job. This isn't due to problems within the lab or with my boss, we all generally get along quite swimmingly and do some really awesome science and I have been lucky enough to get the responsibility to plan, coordinate, execute, and quantify some rather complex experiments. Unfortunately our science doesn't yield publishable results very quickly, and because of this (at least in part) we're not sure how much longer we can keep the lab open. We've been waiting with panicky, bated breath to hear back about the latest grant applications. We're still waiting. I've been nervously checking our reagent stocks and material supplies, questioning whether we really need something at that very moment. Every experiment I have been planning has been as cheap as possible, and I've been afraid to start new projects because I fear wasting precious reagents if it doesn't work. Despite this I have learned a LOT in this job, not least of which has been how to clean up and reorganize the lab's legacy of messy pack rats.

But my boss pulled me into her office today to let me know that, since we've yet to hear about current grant applications, it might be in my best interests to start looking for another job.

I'm hopeful that, what with ARRA and the NIH getting more funds for challenge grants, people will be hiring again. I'm fortunate to live in a town with lots of biotech, both academic and industrial, which is rare enough in the Midwest. Nonetheless, I'm still somewhat at a loss. I mean, I've been looking at the postings, trying to reassure myself at the slightly increased rate of local postings, but still: I really like the work I've been getting to do*. But liking what I've been doing doesn't buy food or pay for rent.

So how best to move forward? Nothing is set in stone here, it's all risk management. But how can I formulate my resume or format my experiences to make then extra shiny? I know that I should personalize the objective in my resume when possible (most internal institution job postings do not include a PI or lab name). But what else can I do? Essentially, how best can I sell my skills and potential to PIs hungry for data?

Let me know what you think, if you'd be so kind. I'd really appreciate it.

*It helps to have an early bird boss who understands that I'm irredeemably a night owl.


Anonymous said...

You need to start networking RIGHT NOW. Update your CV, send PIs emails with CV attached, telling them in 2 sentences tops that you are looking for another job, and that you are wondering if there are any opportunities in their lab or in a lab that they know about. Most PIs know who is getting funded in their local areas. Make sure in your email that you show you know what the PI does, don't just do a blanket all PI email. Put some effort into looking up each PI you email.

Ask your boss if she knows of any labs that have funding that she can recommend you look into.

What about govt? usajobs.gov - check it out.

For industry jobs, go to individual websites. You will have to do some cold-calling for industry jobs. They tend to advertise for positions that aren't open ALOT. They either already have someone in mind, or they use the ad as a marketing tool to stir up shit with competing companies. To break into industry, you need to get the name of an insider and call them, asking for help. Do your homework - look up the research they do and be enthusiastic. The last thing they want is another fucking academic. You'll need to change your CV into a resume.

caostaff said...

What anonymous said. ;)

I don't know where you are in your education, but it's always worthwhile to contemplate getting your Ph.D. and/or doing a post-doc, even if you don't want to be a professor.

I don't know where you live, but I live in Morgantown, WVa, and if you get really desperate, Mylan is always hiring chemists for 2nd shift (4-11pm).

Prof-like Substance said...

Hey, who are you calling a stubborn introvert :) Stubborn, maybe.

If you want to stay in the academic setting then the personalized, but brief, email approach is a good way to go. If you can make a personal connection through your PI or someone else you know, that helps a lot.

As far as industry goes, I can't help you there. Good luck and hopefully you don't need the new job.

quietandsmalladventures said...

wow, good luck toaster hopefully all of this works out for the best.

as far as polishing techniques goes, RNA work seems to catch everyone's attention. If you've done it, i'd work it in somewhere (maybe under position description or if you have a techniques/procedures section?).

Science Bear said...

Shoot, PLS already said what I was thinking :-)

I'd growl in my every so subtle bear way, but seeing as how I've greatly enjoyed many of your blogs lately, I'll save it for another day.

Being in school still I'm not sure how much I can help. Most of the positions and internships I had before coming back to school were found through people I knew or the email route a few people mentioned.

I also agree about the fact most government job postings are only for looks since they most often already have someone in mind. I asked my boss at one of my former gov research position (they are gov I was contract), why we were interviewing since I though "C" already had the job. This person told me since they are a federal establishment they are required to hold a certain number of interviews if there are qualified applicants, or advertise the position for a certain amount of time to show they gave everyone an equal shot. This is just for show, since they already knew who they were going to hire.

I'm not sure how true what she told me is, or if it was more my specific institute. Are you in a position to move if you need to?

If I hear of anything in immunology I'll let you know (two students in my lab are immuno grads so they know what all is going on in that world most of the time).

Hermitage said...

Harrrrumph! Watch your language arch-nemesis. I still have anti-zeppelin warheads at my disposal. My only suggestions is hitting up your PI, PhD students, and post-docs for contacts they have. Don't be shy. If they <3 you and you're only leaving because they can't afford to go on anyway they should be happy to spread the word for you about a super smart dude looking for work.