This is the second in a series of profiles about recent NIH postdocs who have found an array of jobs, from academia to industry to communications and beyond, in the U.S. and abroad. What do they do now, and how did they get there? What challenges did they face, and what advice do they have? Read on to find out.
Name: Jennifer Crawford
Current position: Technical writer, Office of Communications and Education, NCI
Location: Macon, GA
Time in current position: 1 month
Postdoc: Tumorigenesis and prolactin signaling in breast cancer, with Barbara Vonderhaar at NCI
My story: I didn’t think I wanted to do research, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I thought I’d see what panned out. I joined AWIS [the Association of Women in Science] and went to OITE career events. I did a personality assessment with an interest inventory, and a lot of things came up in communications—talking about science rather than doing science.
I didn’t realize this right away, but I like to finish things. I want to point to something in my hands at the end of each day and say, “I did this.” Being in the lab, nothing ends. Even when you publish, there are always more questions to answer and more you could do. That’s great if that’s what you like to do, but if you’re like me, it can be frustrating. My favorite thing in grad school was sitting down for one month and writing my dissertation—saying why I did what I did and what it means. It made me think, well, maybe writing is something I want to do.
Network, network, network: I sent out a lot of emails trying to figure out what to do. I went on informational interviews. Everybody was really open to talking about what they work on. I talked to people who did policy, communications, journal editing… It didn’t require hours and hours—just meeting people for lunch or grabbing coffee and asking what their day-to-day is like, what they like and don’t like about their job. You’ve got time in your day to do that.
Change takes effort: People recommended that I get some experience. I got involved with the NCI Knowledge Management mentoring program and did some writing for OITE. That was the first year they had the career symposium, and I helped write and edit articles about it. I wrote an article about Community College Day for the NIH Catalyst. I did lots of small articles like that. I was surprised how many people were happy to let me write something for them.