Young Researchers Should Consider These 4 Pieces of Career Advice

Researcher at microscope, pouring contents of test tube into a Petri dish

If you’re a seasoned employee and had the ability to reach across the expanse of time and provide a fresh-out-of-college professional with some career advice, what would it be?

While that breach of the space-time continuum hasn’t yet become a reality, it is still possible to provide career advice for those just making their first steps on a career path. At the online site for Science, researchers-turned-career-counselors offered four key pieces of job hunting advice to help those youngsters on their journey.

Open-Mindedness – Being open-minded was the first piece of advice offered by the seasoned industry veterans. Career consultant Michelle Frank said the perspective of open-mindedness will allow job seekers to consider roles that they may not have been initially looking for when sending out resumes. By being open-minded, Frank said job seekers will see more opportunities than they may have been initially considering. As an example, Frank said if a job seeker is only looking at one industry, but does not look for similar roles in related industries, it’s possible to miss a “perfect fit” job.

Pause for Reflection – Not only should people be open-minded when they begin to pursue a career, but there are also actions people should take while in the middle of their career, Frank said. It’s important for junior employees to maintain an understanding of how their careers are developing and how various factors might influence the progress, Frank said. During the course of her career, Frank said she taught herself to keep her eyes open for “changes that could have far-reaching effects.”

Some of those changes, Frank noted, could threaten her role at her job, or potentially threaten future prospects. As an example, Frank pointed to a time at the beginning of her career when she planned on applying for a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Before she submitted the application, Frank said funding levels were cut, which made her reevaluate the chances of receiving such a grant. It was a “checkpoint” moment for her and she realized her publication record was not up to snuff to secure the kind of funding she sought. She did not want to sustain her life in academia in order to publish more articles, so she began to look for jobs in the biotech industry

People Skills -- Another key for young life science job hunters is to hone people skills. In the article, Mike Moss, now a career adviser and manager of alumni careers at Oxford University in the U.K., revealed how within months of completing a postdoc he found himself in charge of a team at the job he landed outside of school. An introvert by nature, Moss said it was essential to learn management skills in order to perform his job. In order to be an effective manager and not create a negative work environment, Moss said it’s important to have a friendly relationship with colleagues in order to help drive the development of an asset or see to the completion of a project. Developing those collegial relationships can help you foment trust, he added.

“You need interdependence, deep collaboration, and loyalty if a team is going to face tough times and get through them,” Moss told Science.

No Assumptions – We’ve all heard the old adage of why you should not make an assumption. And that advice is also reiterated by Sharon Maguire, a career consultant with the University of Edinburgh. Much like the advice Frank made about being open-minded, Maguire said job hunters and those researchers early in their careers, should be aware of different career paths. Maguire suggests that those starting out should talk to people who have ventured along both the academic and corporate paths to get a feel for what kinds of roles are out there and what the job requirements might be. With the kind of information at hand the seasoned researchers can provide, those starting out can have a strong idea of what to expect.

Take these four pieces of advice and forge boldly ahead on your career path.

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