Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Post-quiz analysis and reflection

That quiz I posted last week prompted a MAJOR spike in blog traffic.  Thanks to everyone who participated.  It was gratifying to know that I can drive traffic to the blog, if I want/need.  It's also pretty obvious that my usual low number of visitors is not the reason I am still searching for a job. 

Although I am leaving the quiz open for anyone else who wants to take it, I wanted to throw down a little analysis.  (So go ahead and add new answers, make my analysis irrelevant).  My big fear in putting together the quiz was that an overwhelming majority of respondents would say they had a brief job hunt with no struggle.  Unfortunately for everyone who had to sweat it out, this wasn't the case.  It's not rare to have a job with minimal job effort (you know, compared to the MAJOR effort that was earning the Ph.D. in the first place) (19% of participants report their job hunt was 0 months, 8/36 reported having no major barriers in their job hunt).  But it's pretty far from the norm.

On the other hand, people often tell me that being on the market as long as I have been is no big deal.  Again, more than half of respondents DID get their position in less than a year.  So it's ok to feel like this is taking longer than I thought it should.  I find it terrifying that a FIFTH of respondents said it took more than 2 years to find a job (22%), which is terribly long time to be seeking the stability of a job.  In a future post, I will have more to say about the STEM Skills Gap Crisis (15/36 reported having difficulty finding jobs that meet their qualifications), but for now it should be clear to us all that there is no "usual" way Ph.D.s get that first job- and it's probably because there are so many directions to go from here.

Today I got to chat with one of the other interns about her job hunt, she post-doced in comp bio, then took a staff position for a year and a half before deciding to leave academic science and has been looking for a position while doing some consulting for about a year.  She is hoping to spin-off with a company that she's been working with for a couple months.  She reminded me that lots of people post-doc while they are looking for a position, eventually everyone goes somewhere.  It helps keep your skills from getting stale, even if it doesn't add anything else.  Because how long can you be out of your field and still claim to be an expert in it?  As she was saying this, I was reaching for a paperbag to breathe into with one hand and starting to surf "post-doc uw" with the other.

But I stopped myself.

She has a really good point, you don't want your skills to get stale.  That's actually why I've been working so hard to get more communication experience as an intern and a contractor.  If I took a post-doc, I couldn't do that.  And then I would be letting go of the skills I've been working so hard on and I enjoy so much.  I asked my editor at Words and Numbers to be a professional reference for me, and she agreed.  I'm clearly not wasting my time, this is just MUCH slower than I wanted. 

I have a looming anniversary.  I defended my Ph.D. at the end of last June.  In just a couple months, I won't really be a 'recent' graduate anymore.  So I look back at what I've done with a year all to myself.  It hasn't been lucrative, but I've learned a lot, taken on and conquered some new challenges and developed new contacts and skills.  I don't know how long that will feel sufficient, but I'm not going to give up on this dream yet.

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