So I’ve realized that in any career change, there are three questions that one needs to have the answers to as they move along in their transition. The first question refers to your area of work—why are you in the current field. The second question will be why this company/sector, and then the final question would be where do you see yourself in five (or ten) years (which isn’t necessarily a “why” question—but is related to the “why this company” question—most companies want to know that you are going to stick around for a good amount of time).
So I’ve been able to make a few baby steps forward in my job transition—namely slowly starting to define my “why” of being in science (or more specifically scientific research). I won’t even get into the reasons of just being around scientific research my whole life and just “falling” into it. This past week or so, I’ve been asking myself this question of “why am I in science (specifically in scientific research)” as I had been going on about my day. The answer I kept coming back to was some form of the following: I want to help figure out a cure/treatment for cancer and/or help improve the food production/distribution for the world—in other words I’m in research because I feel a need to help better society by helping to find solutions to pressing issues through the use of scientific research.
This is still a very broad “why” as I haven’t narrowed down the industry sectors or companies that I would potentially like to work for. I just realize that I want to be part of a team that helps answer a pressing question or concern using science. To help narrow down the industry sector and companies that I would potentially like to go work for, I will need to try to answer another “why” or “how”: what do I want to learn in the new position? Not to say that I’d apply for a position that I’m unqualified for—but a position that would allow me to grow within the company. As a “learner” I need to figure out the type of positions that will allow me to continue to learn and grow both as a scientist and as a business professional. This has been one issue with some of my past positions—once it became more routine repetition, I lost some interest in the position (I continued to do my job, but it became more automatic and I counted down to the weekends).
Though if I look at my why of being in science in a more broad view—I also want to help educate and train the next generation of scientists. Currently I think the best way to help do this is through online mentoring (as I’m not sure how many companies offer summer internships for undergraduates or high school students), writing blog posts/articles, and creating online e-courses in different subject areas. Once I’m in an established position I will try to work with the company in terms of trying do community outreach to help bring a better understanding of complex science issues to the general public.
The writing of blog posts/articles can also address the issue of community outreach, where certain topics are addressed in basic, common language where there is a limit on the amount of scientific jargon used (which is one problem scientists have when trying to communicate their work—they forget at times not everyone is a specialist in a certain niche). Topics that I could see me trying to write over include: GMOs (and why they won’t kill you), why organic isn’t necessarily better for you, why vaccines are good, and those are just topics that are current in the media (both mainstream and social). This particular method has been slow going, only because I’ve been trying to do all the graphics by hand (or PowerPoint) and that is slow going (only because of my limited artistic abilities—though I am trying to improve those this year).
So I can say that I would like to potentially stay within research, or a position that touches on it somehow (such as potentially doing market research analysis—still research, just on the business side), and at the same time try to figure out how to deal with the idea that at some point I could possibly have an entire “desk” job—I’ve realized that I get antsy during the week if I’m sitting still too long (don’t seem to have a problem on the weekend—probably because I’m trying to figure out and plan for the coming week).
As to the second question—why this company? I won’t be able to have a good idea on that until I really narrow down my previous why statement for being in research. I will have to make a decision on whether to go with small to mid size companies (ones that grow mainly to be bought by larger companies) or larger companies, where there could possibly be more job security but less learning other areas of business. Which then will bring me to the final question of where would I see myself in five or ten years?
This five (or ten) year question is one that everyone suggests you think on and have an answer to both in terms of job searching and then for job interviews (companies want to know that you’ve done research and have figure out how you would be able to fit in and progress and where you’d be within a time frame).
Currently I’d say that in five years I see myself working as either a senior research scientist (some amount of management, but with the hopeful potential of still being in the lab for at least one day a week), high ranked data analyst, or potentially a senior scientific (or medical) writer. I do see myself working my way up the business ladder, but at the same time not working too far up—as that isn’t my personality. This answer still needs fine-tuning (mainly in determining how to break it into numerous statements and part of an elevator pitch). The above answer is also broad—but since I haven’t really narrowed down my original why, and haven’t started really looking at different companies I think it’s a good start on the “where do you see yourself in “x” years” question.
So I think that I’ve managed to make a few strides in the right direction. I’m going to also try engaging more on various platforms (such as linkedin) and start trying to network enough that I can possibly start asking people for informational interviews within a few months to also start helping to narrow down the “why” of my career choice, but also start working on narrowing down some of the companies as well. Not bad for it only being January–I’m further long in a few short weeks than I was all of last year.