Is Another Degree Necessary After Your PhD?

Posted in Career Advice

There was an interesting article in Science Careers Magazine this week entitled “Should you consider another degree after your PhD.” The article traces the journey of several people who earned PhD degrees in science-related fields who transitioned into new careers including law, regulatory affairs, business development and science writing.

The gist of the article is that if you can afford the costs of earning another degree, it may be worth it for persons with PhD degrees who want to get “out of the lab.” However, based on my own experiences and those of the persons mentioned in the article, most graduate students and postdocs lack the financial resources to enroll in professional degree or certificate programs after completing their PhD programs. Consequently, most of the people showcased in the article were able to leverage unpaid internships and volunteer work into new jobs that paid for additional training or professional degree programs.

I have long posited that obtaining another degree after a PhD degree may not be in a  best interest of PhD degree holders for a variety of reasons. First, as mentioned above, the financial obligations of a degree or certificate program may be too onerous  or unrealistic for graduate students who worked for minimum wage for many years to obtain their PhD degrees; the funds simply are not available. Second, by the time a PhD degree is award and postdoctoral training is completed, most science PhD degree holders are in their mid 30s to early 40s and ,in many cases have families,which may not be conducive to going back to school full time. Also, who wants to be a student for most of their adult lives? Finally, the mere exhaustion and stress associated with spending close to 10 years in a laboratory may discourage even most ambitious individuals from pursuing another degree or certificate. Put simply, there may not be “enough gas left in the tank” to obtain another degree in the hopes of possibly a changing a career trajectory.

Based on my experience as an instructor in a program offered to PhD students and postdocs who had already decided that a research career was not for them, internships, volunteer work and an unrelenting pursuit of an alternate career is probably the best way to navigate a career change. What I observed about all of the students in this program (over 70% of them obtained non-research jobs after completing their PhD degrees with no postdoctoral training) was that they were highly motivated and did whatever was necessary to network and leverage the resources offered to them by the program (which included mixers, invitations to professional meetings, and guest speakers outside of the research world including pharmaceutical executives, venture capitalist, medical writers and clinical study managers) to get “where they wanted to go”.  For example, one student, who was interested in regulatory affairs, went to the dean of her medical school to get the funds necessary to go to a national regulatory affairs meeting rather than attending an annual society meeting to present her research findings. Today, she is a director of regulatory affairs at a major biotechnology company. Another student, wrote reviews for an online financial services company regarding the technology behind various private and publicly traded biotechnology companies as a graduate student, now works for a financial service company as an analyst. Finally, another student who was interested in technology transfer was able to leverage an unpaid internship in his university’s technology transfer office into a full time job (he is now a director of the office).

The bottom line: while obtaining another degree or certificate may better position you for a possible career change, it may not be emotionally or financially possible or likely. That said, rather than fantasizing about what may have been if you simply chose law or medicine or business over a graduate career in science, you best shot at changing the direction of your career may be to identify alternative career options and obtaining the necessary skillsets, qualifications and real life experience to make it a reality, Once you have identified those things, the next step is to devise a financially-viable plan to obtain them and then spend the majority of your waking hours successfully implementing the plan. It won’t be easy but as the old adage goes “if there is a will then there is a way.”

Until next time……

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!


The Job Market: Dressing For Success

Posted in Career Advice

Last month, while I was presenting my seminar “Interviewing Insights and Tips: Winning That Next Job” at the Experimental Biology Meeting in New Orleans, LA, I realized that I hadn’t covered what to wear to a job interview. Until the meeting, I didn’t think I had to  mention— that while interviewing men—must wear suits (and appropriately-colored, professional-looking shoes) and women should wear suits with pants (or a skirt with an appropriate length) and shoes with reasonable heels (usually less than 3 inches). I saw more cleavage, bare thighs and high heels, not to mention men with atrocious footwear choices at the meeting than I care to admit. Not that I am a prude or complaining about the cleavage, thighs or high heels that I observed—what red-blooded American male would?  That said, it is vitally important to remember that there are professional dress codes that everyone is expected to adhere to while on the job or at national, regional or local professional meetings.

Phyllis Korrki, who writes the Career Couch for the New York Times, wrote a great piece on professional attire in this past Sunday’s Times that I think every prospective job candidate or employee ought to read. And, when it comes to cleavage, exposed thighs and high heels in professional settings she had recommendations similar to mine. She wrote “Women think they have to dress sexy to get noticed in the work world. It’s what they see on campus and what they see on TV and in movies. Cleavage is not a corporate look or what you want to be remembered for. The same goes for very short skirts and extremely high heels. Also, make sure the top of your thong, if you wear one, doesn’t show above your pants.” 

For you guys, as a rule of thumb, wear black shoes with gray, blue and black suits and brown shoes with all others. It doesn’t get much easier than that!

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

While we scientists are trained to ignore appearance and not pay attention to dress codes—the reality is—the way you look may make the difference between having a job or not!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!


Job Hunting in a Recession

Posted in Career Advice

I think that it is safe to say that we are in a recession. Even though unemployment is rising to record levels, there are still jobs to be had. To be successful in tough economic times, job seekers must manage expectations and modify job search tactics. To that end, I came across an insightful article that provides jobseekers with a variety of suggestions and tips that may lead to employment during the current economic downturn.

Until next time….


Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!



Personal Branding and Developing an Online Presence

Posted in BioJobBuzz

Peggy McKee wrote an interesting piece on her Medical Sales Recruiter blog about personal branding and developing an online presence to find a job. For those of you who haven’t heard about personal branding, it is de rigueur and the hottest thing on the net these days. Put simply, you, the jobseeker, are the brand and to be successful (get a job), the brand must be vigorously promoted! Personal branding can be easily achieved by creating profiles on social networks like MySpace, Facebook or Linked In or creating your own promotional website using your name as the domain name.  However, there are a few things that you ought to consider before you embark on your personal branding campaign. Peggy offers a few pointers and recommendations when it comes to both personal branding and your online persona.

Employers and recruiters research prospective candidates online to get more information about them before an interview is scheduled or an offer is extended.  This can work against you if your MySpace page is filled with “party” pics (or worse), but it can work for you if you have an effective online persona

Web Worker Daily rounds up several tips for developing an effective online presence:

  • Check your Google profile.  What comes up when your name gets typed in?  Know what’s out there so you don’t get suprised.
  • Own your domain name.  Even if you don’t want to do something with it now, you might later.
  • Develop your personal brand.  Set up a LinkedIn profile.  Write a blog.  Be a guest writer on blogs specific to your industry (maybe you could write a post for me – describing your job, etc).   If you’re not sure what personal branding is or how to do it, there’s a lot available out there.  Here’s 3 articles to get you started:

The 6 P’s of Personal Branding (Persona, Positioning, Packaging, Presentation, Promotion, and Passion)

Three Keys to Building a Strong Personal Brand.  “A good brand has 3 main features:  clarity, consistency, and constancy.”

Dan Schwabel’s podcast, Top Social Media Tools for Turning Your E-Brand into a Powerhouse.  Let Dan show you how to choose what to use.

 Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting (personal branding can’t hurt)!!!!!!!