- Reflecting on Your Preferences
- Researching Your Options
Once you know what you want, you have to match it with what you find out is out there. "The first person many of us think of turning to when we want to talk about our careers is our PI, and you may have a productive conversation with your PI about your career, but it may also be that they really have a specific career in mind for you and so they don't want to have an open and honest and frank conversation with you... It may also be that they don't know a lot about other career options" outside of research, Blaser said. Searching Science Careers and other careers Web sites, reading books, talking to career service professionals, looking at job ads in journals, and networking are all good approaches to mapping the career landscape.
- Conducting Informational Interviews
- Making the Transition
Training expectations and career paths are different in academia and other sectors, so this is something that you need to find out. Assess the skills you already have and figure out what other skills you will need to get into your new field of choice. Volunteering, doing an internship, getting a fellowship, gaining additional training, and taking a part-time or temporary job will all help you get in.
- Talking to Your Supervisor
Some day you'll have to walk in and tell your supervisor that you don't want to stay in academia. "They've invested in you; you've invested in them," Weibl said. This is a "difficult conversation that you must have at some point with your adviser." It can help to realize that "this is about you, not about them", and that you are not the only person who has these doubts about whether or not to become an academic scientist. "It's not unusual for your adviser to actually surprise you with a very positive and supportive response, but you're going to have to talk to that person, and you're going to have to own that decision," Weibl added.
It may not feel like it at the time, but take this as a time of opportunity. "We have this plan maybe when we start grad school that we are going to be this great researcher, we're going to become an academic, get tenure. But things might go differently, and that' s not necessarily a failure," Blaser said. "It's a time to re-evaluate and figure out where you want to go."