Experimental Error: OMG, So Many Science Careers

[Science Career Magazine, October 28, 2011]

By Adam Ruben
October 28, 2011

Last month, I spoke on two different career panels to roomfuls of young scientists. Every time a student raised a hand to speak, I noticed they all had the same question about jobs in science: “May I have one, please?”

As general as the panelists tried to keep their advice, the questions had a predictable undercurrent: Those aspiring young scientists didn’t just want to find out what it was like to work in science. They wanted us to say, “Okay. You win. I’ve got 50 open positions, and I’ll offer them to all of you today. Who wants health insurance?”

For example, there was the classic (and, in my experience, largely useless) question about how we each found our current jobs. I could tell that the students really wanted to hear stories about how we noticed a posting on Science Careers or Monster.com, answered an ad, and survived competition with 200 random applicants — because that’s their own best idea for how to land a position. Instead, each of the panel members talked about how we found our own careers through serendipitous meetings, friends-of-friends, and good old blatant nepotism.

And so we lectured to disappointed students — some of whom had actually come equipped with stacks of resumes — telling them how great our lives are, what a typical day at work entails (which was the opportunity for each person to say, “At my company, there is no typical day!”), and how they might find themselves in similar careers, most likely by killing us and taking our jobs.

What did impress me, though, was the breadth of careers available to scientists. Even though none of the panelists showed up looking to find new employees, apparently our science training prepares us for a number of semi-related careers beyond the usual few. For example:

[continue at Science Careers]



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