Most scientists need guidance in figuring out their careers outside academia

career outside academia

Tobias Maier, scientist and Senior Consultant answers some questions on the career development course outside academia at hfp consulting.

Why would scientists need to consider a career development course?

When most scientists enter academia, they basically follow a well-trodden path: they had good marks at school, liked scientific topics, enjoyed university and ended up doing a PhD because it is often the path of least resistance. 

At a certain point, though, senior PhD students and/or postdocs realize they need some assistance/guidance figuring out what to do next, start making active decisions and consciously set the track of their own careers.

We aim to provide this assistance. But this course also serves as a reality check in terms of the expectations of a career in science. Since academia follows a pyramidal structure, the chances of landing a PI position might not be as high as initially considered and other alternatives need to be seriously considered.

Who should be responsible for training scientists for a career outside of academia?

From my perspective, scientific institutions and universities should have the responsibility of qualifying their research personnel for the job market and not only for the world of academia. However, the current system simply focuses on training people as researchers. Interestingly, while most institutions still do not invest in this aspect of training, it is often the world leading scientific institutes and universities that also offer their employees the best resources in career development.

Since most research is publicly funded, providing scientists with the tools necessary to serve society in the places most suitable for them, and not necessarily in academia, is a responsibility of the academic system.

The course focuses on “developing an intellectual framework to make informed career choices”; what does that mean precisely?

We identify decision making biases and fallacies which apply to career development. We work on identifying your personal core values, explaining why you are doing what you are doing, and  allowing you to identify possible alternatives to your current job. To this end, we then explore the job landscape, gather information, and structure the available jobs/types of jobs out there. We help participants discover their skills, some of which they might be completely unaware of, and help them translate their skillset to the needs of the job market. Finally, we also offer tips on how to write a non-academic CV and practice job interviews.

Any final thoughts?

As someone looking for a job, you should not consider yourself to be a powerless or inferior player, but consider the job search, and especially the job interview, as an opportunity to examine how and where you best fit in. By this I mean your match to your employer, and vice versa. An employer wants to hire the person who best fits their job requirements and their team, while you, as a future employee, should consider if your job expectations, demands and personality align with theirs.

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