The Envelope Please…

While in graduate school, two close friends of mine hosted an Oscars party annually with glitzy dresses and formal wear, delicious hors d’oeuvres and drinks, and ballots with blank spaces for us to enter “Who Should Win” and “Who Will Win.” I remember that time fondly, and I still enjoy checking out the nominated films and watching the Oscars for the fashion, the personalities, and occasional drama.

As I thought about the show and the film industry in general, I remembered an article I read a while back in Science Careers Magazine about a scientific film consultant (A Scientist Goes to the MoviesExit Disclaimer). (Incidentally, the Science Careers siteExit Disclaimer has hundreds of similar articles on professionals in a wide range of careers.) The author, Dr. Sian E.M. Lawson, had worked with horses for most of her life. After completing technical training in a PhD program using motion capture, which included recording movement in a wide range of species (horses and humans alike), she took an academic postdoc. She decided that academia was not the best fit for her and began to reach out to the entertainment industry, as she knew motion capture was used there as well. What she discovered over time was that her experience with horses, both scientific and practical, made her highly employable.

When we think about career choice, we sometimes think of it in terms of a small box, containing only a few choices (faculty positions at universities or industry jobs in drug discovery, for example), or in a linear fashion, where degree A leads to degree B to postdoc C and job D. However, the type of job we eventually find may be a combination of our interests both inside and outside of work and studies. As the author above puts it, “I think that the key to landing your dream job…is the fact that you have experience in what you’re really interested in.”

So what’s in your “envelope?” What interests do you have outside of  work or your degree program? Have you considered combining these in a creative way to identify potentially satisfying careers? You might enjoy art or artistic expression outside of work, and could find a career in medical imaging satisfying. You might be a volunteer in a local school or in your house of worship with children or young people, and might find a career in science education very fulfilling. In this market, it is essential to be creative in your job search–but also to be true to yourself. Be on the lookout for ways to combine your work and education experiences with your true loves or interests.

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