An article out of the Boston Globe offered staggering numbers on the state of postdocs in Boston in 2014. 8,000 postdocs and fewer than 1,000 faculty positions.About five years ago, that was me. Wrapping up a productive postdoc with no idea as to what I should be doing or where I should be doing it. My lab at Harvard was dissolving due to our inability to renew funding. My husband had recently found a position in Boston after two years of living semi-cross country due to my coveted postdoc, so I couldn’t go back to the Midwest now! I applied for hundreds of positions—Medical Science Liason (MSL), medical writing, editorial jobs, clinical research—the list goes on. And on. I didn’t hear back from 80% of these jobs, so I could only assume my lack of experience outside of academia was my kryptonite.After a few months of searching, I started to focus on scientific publishing and found a position at a small local startup journal, JoVE. A small scientific publisher was seemingly a perfect fit. While my short time at JoVE whet my appetite for publishing, and in a grassroots manner, it was not a great fit for me. I explored other options on the side by freelance writing and editing for another publisher and other companies. It was sometimes very interesting work, but still wasn’t the right fit.
I continued my search, almost two years after my postdoc. I had the Cell Career Network, Nature Jobs, and Indeed.com all as favorites in my browser and my first stop, Every. Single. Morning.
When would I give up and realize I was one of the “lucky ones”? I’d completed a postdoc at a reputable institution with an advisor that I admired, a wonderful mentor who guided me and made sure I found a job before we dissolved our lab. But I’m me, and I couldn’t be happy until the fit was perfect. What I missed about the lab was my ability to mentor others, give guidance on their projects as the senior postdoc in the lab, and the everyday challenge of problem solving (except western blots—I really hated western blots). I realized I hadn’t been challenged in any of these positions since my postdoc. At all. And, in my three-month stint of medical writing, I really wasn’t using my scientific background either. So, I focused my search on positions that seemed challenging to me while also utilizing my training.
By networking, applying, and interviewing for a few positions at Cell Press, I finally found it.
My position here at Cell Press isn’t that of a typical scientific editor. I don’t run a journal or read your exciting, unpublished articles. I’m the only scientist in our business development department (not counting Emilie, our CEO). Not only do I run our scientific conferences, Cell Symposia, the Cell Press Webinar series, but I also get to consult on many projects that come out of Cell Press. It’s very exciting. Every day is a challenge, and it’s rarely ever the same from day to day. One day I’m consulting on which are the hottest papers to come out of Cell, the next I’m flying to Europe or Asia for a conference or meeting with my international colleagues. I also have the opportunity to work with my colleagues on our editorial team to plan Cell Symposia, do a bit of scientific writing and blogging, and consult on marketing, sales, and many other projects.
Photo Inset: Meet the Editors session at Cell Symposium: Hallmarks of Cancer in Beijing, China.
From left to right: Emilie Marcus, EIC of Cell and CEO of Cell Press, Debbie Sweet, EIC of Cell Stem Cell, Helena Yang, Deputy Editor of Cancer Cell, Jiaying Tan, Scientific Editor, Cell, and the author.
During my job search from postdoc until now, I stumbled quite a bit. Many days I felt hopeless. Yet, while these interim positions were not the right fit, I learned valuable lessons and skills that were necessary for my current position. It would have been impossible for me to land my current job without the experience that I gained from my previous positions.
What I’ve learned in these last few years is to embrace all of your professional experiences, even if they’re not the position that you really want in the long run. Chances are those skills will translate to that perfect position. Take stock in what it is that you really want. Do not get discouraged if you do not get your dream job at first. Remember what your that you’re probably luckier than you assume.