Don't be afraid to try something new

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Jen_Floyd's picture
Don't be afraid to try something new

 When I think back to this time about three years ago, when I was still working as a postdoc in an academic lab, I remember being nervous about leaving to work in industry.   I was sure that I was not happy in my situation but everyone was questioning my decision and I started to second guess myself.  When I asked my PhD supervisor for a recommendation his reply was "Are you sure this is what you want to do?"  I'm not in exactly an ideal situation as I am about to be unemployed when my postdoc finishes in about a month but leaving was easily the best thing I have done for my career.  
Working in academia, you see only two options:  professor and industry.  This is a false choice because industry includes so many jobs that you cannot begin to imagine when you're working in the academic lab.  Leaving gives you the space to explore and think about what you really enjoy and what you really want to do in life.  In fact, I would say that I have the opposite problem of what I faced three years ago.  I have too many choices.  Do I want to stay at the bench?  Do I want to write?  Do I want to manage?  If I stay at the bench, do I want to do research?  Drug development?  Pharmacology?
So, my advice to the reader is don't be afraid.  Leave your postdoc if you're unhappy.  There are jobs in industry where you can do research.  Some are postdocs and some are scientist positions.  Some of them even claim to allow postdoc experience count as the required experience.  Think outside the box.  Read books and blogs and forums.  A better job is out there, you just have to make the leap.

Ivan Delgado
Ivan Delgado's picture
I couldn't agree with Jen

I couldn't agree with Jen more. If your post-doc is not making you happy then there are a lot of other alternatives, and many of them are in industry. After two post-docs I was recruited to work in industry and I have no regrets after over 4 years of great experiences.
Having said that, do keep in mind that a post-doc, especially at the beginning, is likely going to be a tough experience. In many ways it should be seen as a right of passage. In other words, if you are the kind of person that truly loves academic research and all the freedoms that brings, do make sure to give it a fair chance before looking elsewhere. The last few years academic research has received very little funding so the post-doc experience has been less than ideal. I predict that things will pick up in the next few years; maybe not soon enough for current post-docs, but nevertheless I am very hopeful that it will pick up soon.
My advice: learn as much as you can wherever you are. Being open to change and well prepared to tackle anything will make any move all the easier.