I went to a professional development panel today for young biochemists. We got to see this infographic multiple times:
I hope most of my fellow trainees already recognize that the odds of getting a tenure track job these days are pretty tiny. As a result, we heard from PhDs who have a variety of professions — scientist at a basic biotech company, regulatory expert at a pharmaceutical company, seller of scientific equipment, professor at an undergrad institute, researcher at a med school, and editor at a journal.
I noticed two themes in considering non-academic jobs: be prepared to try out jobs but also think deeply about what you want. Regulatory affairs is not a career path people generally think of, but if you have the skills and want to try it out, you might find you love it. Similarly, the editor at Science told me that she gave herself a year to figure out if she liked the position, and she was willing to leave if it didn’t suit her. As it turns out, she loves the job, but that willingness to try a job for a year or so really impressed me. Any job is a chance to better define what you want from a career and make the contacts to help you get that position.
I still dream of an academic job, but it was really useful to hear that perspective. I imagine career paths as being linear (grad school to post doc to professorship). Realizing it doesn’t need to be that way is helpful.