If I do not want the status quo, I must not do what is “normal”.
I’ve heard many quotes similar to this and I think they are pretty accurate. Although I respect it immensely and really have a soft spot for academia, I do not want to be an academic professor in the long run. Therefore, I have not pursued the post-doctoral route for my next position, which feels like a blessing and a curse. My hope is to enter the biotech/biopharma industry straight out of my PhD program. I have no illusions that it is in anyway easy to skip the post-doc, and I also understand the value of doing a post-doc. However, when I ask myself if it matches my short- and long-term goals, the answer is typically “No”.
And there are many factors entering this decision, but primarily, I want to experience R&D in a company. I know it is different than in academia. Along with this, I enjoy supporting my fellow researchers as much, if not more, than conducting my own personal experiment. If the work I produce goes on to help more people than just myself, I consider work worth doing.
Will I be able to combine support, science, communication, and strategy into my next job? I am currently on the job market, interviewing at a good pace, so I expect to hear back about a couple of opportunities in the very near future. A post-doctoral research position is supposed to be the ultimate training position, just prior to becoming a new laboratory head and/or faculty member. Although I am forgoing a post-doc, I will consider my next position to be a professional training position or sorts, perhaps with more at stake. That’s perfect, I perform better with more on the line.
Writing a daily blog post is my attempt at reinforcing a habit through repetition. In order for me to be my most productive self, I must set goals and take tiny steps towards them whenever I have the chance. My experience in the biology laboratory also confirms this; My biggest results were rarely from a large, one-off experiment. Instead, the data I obtained usually came from performing the same or similar experiments multiple times over the course of months. At the end of each given experiment, there was usually not enough data to make any clean statements. Ultimately though, this body of work was built piece by piece into something to be proud of.
I want to this methodology to continue in all my endeavors. As I continue my job search and the right company, I hope to be able to work in these incremental steps efficiently and deliberately. Thankfully, I am not limited to the realm of profession. My hobbies also allow me to work on skills, to build up experience, and to create with intention. I am currently learning Python (a programming language) through Codecademy.com. While this site is sufficient for providing background knowledge and skills, I will need to use Python in a project in order to really solidify my understanding.
The principle of “real world experience” is why I am eager to get back into full-time work. I feel at my best when helping others and generating something useful. Until then, I am honing my thoughts, processes, writing, and creativity.
I remember having the original Game Boy by the age of 7 or 8. I received my first Walkman when I was about 10 or 11 years old. From that point on, I always had the ability to fill my downtime with music. In other words: I was never bored (unless I was out of batteries).
Now I have audiobooks and podcasts constantly playing in the background in my life. Sure, I pay attention to them and synthesize my own thoughts sometimes. Unfortunately, being constantly entertained from before puberty, I wonder just how much my brain developed with that program. Now I have the constant urge to stay occupied instead of simply just “be”.
On the other hand, I’m grateful to have noticed this about myself and actively take steps to create the empty space in my life, if just for a few minutes at a time. The most important reminder is when I treat myself to Chipotle and I am waiting in line. What is more obvious than each person in queue on his/her smartfphone? Solitary or in groups, young or old (but especially young). Take a minute to stop and smell the burritos, my friends.
I am among one of the most privileged people to ever walk on the face of the earth. Odds are, you are too. Many of us live lives only kings used to dream of: cold beverage on-demand, a diverse menu of food available at any given moment, all of the information in the world at our fingertips, an understanding of Germ Theory and medicine, etc.
However, it’s easy to lose track of this point of view. I believe that I do a great job at keeping this in focus, although it can be draining if done constantly. For myself, the key is to devote time to remembering how lucky I am to live at this time in history, how loving my family & friends are, and how much potential I have for the remainder of my life. With this time of gratitude set aside for the appropriate settings (meditation, fellowship, journaling) , I give myself space to pursue purpose and intention for the rest of my life.
Change is good. When necessary, it can reinvigorate and inspire. As I struggled what to do with my personal site over the last year, it straddled my personal and professional lives (if there is such thing as complete separation). Now I begin a year of adding short thoughts, creating a focus for my day or simply evacuating an idea from my mind.
I’m not much for clutter, yet it consistently finds its way into my life. It is usually the result of procrastination. There may be no clear action to take on a certain item, so it accumulates… on my desk, on my computer, in my notebook. Eventually I purge the item but the damage has been done. The longer there is clutter in the empty spaces of my life, the more energy it takes in my simply acknowledging it.
In other words, when that business card I received from a new acquaintance is still there on my desk, I continue to look at it out of the side of my vision. How many times to I need to acknowledge that it is there before I file it? How much energy have I wasted recalling why it’s there and what I should do with it?