Hello there bloggies! Welcome to Trainee Tuesday.
As the research community starts to more and more accept that there are many career paths for PhDs, grad students and postdocs are realizing that a well-rounded background in research, communication, teaching, business, among a number of others. All of these things take time though. And for a PhD student or postdoc, that means time away from research and his/her thesis projects.
While this time away from lab and research may be justified to the trainee, that may not be true in the PI’s mind. I have been fortunate in my time as a trainee in the lab. My PIs have supported my participation in various committees in professional societies, going to various career panels and presentations, and other programs.
Unfortunately, not all PIs and bosses are so understanding. Many still view research as the only important thing grad students and postdocs should focus on is research. Successful experiments, high-impact publications, and grants are the avenues to a successful career. Learning how to teach students, how to communicate scientific discoveries to other scientists and the public, or how to work in a business setting would help you get your own lab.
What happens if your PI is hesitant to let you explore these various avenues?
To me, communication is the key. Research is an important aspect of the PhD and postdoc. It needs to remain a major part of your life. Make it a point that your research productivity doesn’t fall off. Tell your PI this.
Manage your time effectively. The more activities you add to your schedule, the more important time management is. For me, to-do lists are the way I prioritize what things I need to get done in the short and long term. It’s a way to revisit the progress on all of my projects (both research and otherwise) and kept track of what opportunities are available.
It is important to find a way to respectful stand up for yourself and the things that matter to you. The relationship between you and your PI is important. You should be able to honestly discuss each other’s thoughts and feelings on things. It leads to better science and a more well-rounded colleague in the future.
I think it is also helpful to keep in mind that your mentor may not have a lot of experience in these other areas. Take advantage of other opportunities online, through your institution, and through your professional societies. You may have to dig a little harder for them, but they are there waiting for you!
Thank you for stopping by the edition of Trainee Tuesday! Have you found yourself in a tricky position exploring other career skills and opportunities? How have you dealt with it? Comment below or on twitter @DrFsThoughts.
See y’all later!