A Young Scientist’s Guide To Gainful Employment

A recent article that ranked #1 on the Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America‘s Top Ten was led by Anita Morzillo, a former student in Fisheries and Wildlife at MSU. The article, entitled ‘A Young Scientist’s Guide To Gainful Employment: Recent Graduates’ Experiences And Successful Strategies‘ is based on a workshop supported by the NASA-MSU Professional Enhancement Award Program and has some wise words for any junior researcher starting out on their academic career. It’s written with ecologists and biologists in mind but much of the advice is likely to apply to other fields.

The paper is organized into four areas:

  1. Self promotion. What can I do prior to and during the job hunt?
  2. Personal considerations. How will both my professional and personal lives affect which jobs I should apply for?
  3. The application process. What should I expect when applying?
  4. Keeping it all in perspective. What if my application is rejected?

Section 1 considers publications, the importance of experiences beyond research, the ‘elevator speech’, getting your name recognised, and your network or personal connections. Section 2 discussed the necessity (or otherwise) of PhD and post-doctoral experience, issues around the geographic location of jobs, balancing professional and personal life, and issues regarding the careers of ‘significant others’. Section 3 then addresses the job application process from learning about the process before applying to phone and on-site interviews. The final section reflects on extraneous situations such as competing against ‘superstar’ applicants for positions and the need for perseverance in certain circumstances.

The paper concludes:

“Since we all are responsible for taking the initiative to forge our career path, our goal was to share our perspectives on and experiences with several broad themes involved in a job search. Do not hesitate to start thinking about the job hunt early in your career as a graduate student. Each position that you consider will offer unique opportunities to build your resume or curriculum vitae, and will present personal and professional trade-offs. Take time to think about and proactively discuss both professional and personal factors, but also keep in mind that you control only so much of the process. Good luck!”

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