Definite must-read tip for your job search!
I was in a restaurant when I took the call and was asked if I had some time to make an important decision. I asked the barmaid for a notepad and a pen so I could write down the proposed salary and…I accepted! I had a round of applications last summer, then a break when work got busy again over winter and now since my first application in June only 2 months went by – objectively a short job search but still it did feel like eternity to me. I have now accepted an offer for what can be described as my dream job. My CV did not have any gaps until now and also this time I’ll be moving on with still some months left on my contract. So, with such a successful career story, I must be able to turn around to give the best career advice and teach you students and job seekers my secret, right?
Well, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is, there is no secret formula that I can swear will guarantee you that job. The good news is, there is no secret. That is my secret. I did not plan it all ahead and then follow all the steps. I went with what I liked doing, what I seemed to be good at and when my chance came, I showed my best side during the interview process. I did not get life-changing advice from a new contact nor did I acquire that one secret skill. You know what that means, right? That means you have everything you need to get that job too!
Still, it does pay off to think about your next step when you are nearing a transition. In academia that means when you are close to graduating as a master, finishing your PhD or when as a postdoc it is time to apply for a starting grant – or not to apply. After my PhD I decided that I wanted to spend some time as a trained scientist, not a scientist-in-training, and on top of that gain some international experience. A while into the postdoc I knew it had been the right decision, but I also saw clearly that my path led outside academia. At the end of my PhD I got a good tip when thinking about a new career path: consider what you like in your position now and what you might be missing. As a researcher I felt quite singular in preferring my reading and writing hours above my experiments and in enjoying the larger conferences most so I could be inspired by science far outside my field. I decided to explore that by joining this blog and writing about research that caught my eye. That experience strengthened the feeling that I would find it difficult to pick one subject to become professor in and I started to look at science communication and publishing as my preferred career.
I set a goal to move on during this strangest of years and started applying in the beginning of June. Maybe my lucky star made sure that The Lancet was looking for an editor for a new journal now when I needed it and that they were looking for someone with exactly my profile. I had been worried that due to the pandemic there would be less positions or that the hiring process would take much longer. In the end the only noticeable change was that all rounds, including the last one, were virtual without any onsite visit. This has positive and negative sides but overall, I found that it quite suited me. On the day of the last interview that normally would have been in person, I got myself ready as if I were going somewhere – and then sat down at my kitchen table. In my trusted environment I could relax, and I did not feel any nerves once the interview was underway. At the end of the interview I asked plenty of questions about the environment and the people that work there to compensate for not being able to visit my new workplace.
So now it is your turn. If you are at that transition stage, take a moment and reflect on what you like and what you miss. Take it as a cue to get some new experience while still in your current position – if that is an option for you. Or if you are already between positions, maybe it is even taking you a while, do not despair. You have what it takes. I cannot promise you that your job is around the corner, but at least now you know ‘the secret’.