Archive for the ‘Unemployed scientist’ Category

It actually happened shortly after I finished my postdoc. It was encouraging to have something lined up.

So first, the phone interview. I sat there, waiting for my phone to ring, and 10 minutes past the time they’d told me, I began to get antsy. Did they forget? Did they decide they didn’t want me? Did I get the time wrong?

Finally, ring. The lady on the other side was one of the company’s two senior scientist. Nice, polite, we had a good chat and she mostly told me what they do, what their mission is etc. It lasted half a pleasant hour (phone interviews are generally more relaxed than the real thing), and I got comfortable enough to crack an inside joke about cell culture labs having windows with a view (“my last lab was like a tomb!”). She laughed genuinely, I laughed professionally, and she said they’d be in touch.

So, more waiting. It’s what will drive you up the walls in job-hunting process. You send off tens of applications each day (ain’t nothing like the online application) and then you basically sit twiddling your thumbs, while you watch your bank account dwindle to dust. You try to occupy your mind with a variety of other activities, but between stressing about your future and the gangrenous loss of your leisure funds, well, you pretty much spend each waking hour waiting for that phone call or that email. But we’ll talk about that more later.

So, two days of waiting and the email arrives. Got an interview for the coming week. I’m told it will involve a sit-down and a 20 min presentation of my previous research. Now, presentations are tricky, especially for researchers like me who’ve committed the grievous sin of DIVERSIFYING. What’s that? I did my PhD on one field, then a postdoc on another. BZZZ! Thanks for playing.

The benefit of diversifying, of course, is that I’ve got more fields under my belt – maybe not publications, but I definitely know my way around the lab. Thus, for this interview, I whipped up a PowerPoint presentation on my postdoc work: Lots and lots of graphs, with more graphs, and more graphs as a conclusion. Fortunately, my work fell right into what the company did.

The interview went pretty well. Two hours ten minutes (rather short for this type of work) of talking; by the end of it, I was exhausted and my throat hurt. They asked me everything under the sun, from how I’d manage a project to whether I’d object to occasional traveling to pick up samples. And the presentation was great; I even concurred when they disputed something in my methodology and showed how the Man had forced me to do stats in a different way that I’d done originally (“I know, that’s what I told them!”).

But here’s the problem: When they advertised the position, they said it was permanent. But halfway through the interview, they told me that “oh, that vacancy has been filled; this interview is for a 6-month contract.

Now, they admitted it was their bad, but what was I supposed to do? It was still early days and I was looking for something at least 2 years long (these days I’ll take anything). I was confused and I had to think fast – in the middle of the interview. So, I don’t know, I must’ve pulled a face or squirmed involuntarily or something because even though I later told them several times that I had no problem with the brevity of the contract, I could see doubt in their faces.

A week later (oh, that waiting!!!), I decided to email the boss man and ask him if they’d “reached a decision regarding this position” (that’s good lingo by the way).

A week after that, they said no. But thanks for playing – oh, and all the best with all your job search. Maybe at your next interview they’ll have you juggle live grenades on a unicycle over a shark tank.

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This was supposed to be a blog with information about how to navigate around the treacherous world of the Biosciences.

Well, that’s over. Why? Because the treacherous world of Biosciences has also betrayed me; thus, I thought it more ethical to avoid being the blind leading the blind.

But I still have the blog and the username, so I thought maybe I should use them to at least chronicle my own days of living in the Bio twilight.

Welcome to the words of a moonlighting biologist.

What do we have so far?

The last time I saw the inside of a lab was no less than 7 months ago. Actually, that’s not true: the last time I saw the inside of a lab was three weeks ago, when I had an interview. More later.

Fact is, I finished my postdoc in October, and despite moving to one of the most scientifically fertile areas on the planet, I haven’t been able to get a job. It kinda makes sense, given the competition, but still.

So, it’s been 7 months of application after application – I think I’ve gone past 200 by now, but I’ve lost count. In all this time, I have had 4 interviews and a truckload of “interview” work for a journal that was looking for a Reviews Editor (didn’t pan out – I’ll tell you some other time).

There is much I can say about this. For some, it’s still a shock: “You mean you have a BSc, an MSc, a PhD, postdoc and industry experience and you still can’t get a job? What’s wrong with the world?”

Answer: Money. Along with the rest of the globe, the recession took a big bite off scientific funding too. It was bad already, what with too many PhDs and too few jobs for them. And now it got worse. Funding was lost and reduced, and the streets filled with PhDs wearing signs saying “WILL DO SCIENCE FOR FOOD”.

I’m one of them. You might pass me on the street every day and not know me. But if you see that sign, do spare some change for my people.

Next time, I’ll tell you about my fascinating interviews.

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