Science is a calling and a career, here is a career planning guide for students and postdocs

Jeff Leek

Editor’s note: This post was inspired by a really awesome career planning guide that Ben Langmead Editor’s note: This post was inspired by a really awesome career planning guide that Ben Langmead which you should go check out right now. You can also find the slightly adapted Leek group career planning guide here.

The most common reason that people go into science is altruistic. They loved dinosaurs and spaceships when they were a kid and that never wore off. On some level this is one of the reasons I love this field so much, it is an area where if you can get past all the hard parts can really keep introducing wonder into what you work on every day.

Sometimes I feel like this altruism has negative consequences. For example, I think that there is less emphasis on the career planning and development side in the academic community. I don’t think this is malicious, but I do think that sometimes people think of the career part of science as unseemly. But if you have any job that you want people to pay you to do, then there will be parts of that job that will be career oriented. So if you want to be a professional scientist, being brilliant and good at science is not enough. You also need to pay attention to and plan carefully your career trajectory.

A colleague of mine, Ben Langmead, created a really nice guide for his postdocs to thinking about and planning the career side of a postdoc which he has over on Github. I thought it was such a good idea that I immediately modified it and asked all of my graduate students and postdocs to fill it out. It is kind of long so there was no penalty if they didn’t finish it, but I think it is an incredibly useful tool for thinking about how to strategize a career in the sciences. I think that the more we are concrete about the career side of graduate school and postdocs, including being honest about all the realistic options available, the better prepared our students will be to succeed on the market.

You can find the Leek Group Guide to Career Planning here and make sure you also go check out Ben’s since it was his idea and his is great.