Kathryn (commercial company)

Background

Following a B.Sc. and Ph.D. in Chemistry, I ended up working as a postdoc. I realised during my Ph.D. that I wasn't really cut out for lab work and the postdoc was a moment of weakness. I found the work really frustrating. I'd been very self-directed as a Ph.D. student and suddenly I was very much working on someone else's project.

What gave me the impetus to look for alternatives was knowing that I didn't want the insecurity of short term contracts, having to move around all the time. I also knew I definitely didn't want to spend ANY time in the U.S. - which seemed to be compulsory.

I became an avid reader of the Guardian (Creative, Media and Sales - Mondays and repeated on Saturdays) and successfully applied for a job in science public relations. I spent the first 12 months unable to believe that someone was paying me to do this great job! The draw back was that it was incredibly stressful. There was always far too much work to do and it was very reactive. Eventually, I moved on and am currently the editor of a web-based science magazine. Again, good for a nosey person, but at times frustrating because you are constantly flitting from topic to topic. The role is much more proactive, but you don't build up relationships with people in the way that I did in P.R.

I've now changed careers twice, which has made me realise that changing and doing something completely different is a) possible and b) wonderful in terms of personal fulfillment.

Transferable skills

During my postdoc, I started to look for opportunities to develop new skills and I got involved with a Women's Science Forum. Through organising events for them I realised that promoting science was what I wanted to do. I wanted other people to discover the same fascination I had and not to think science was too difficult for them to understand.

The main research skill I use in my current role is understanding science culture. I also use the presentation skills I developed in academia. This was actually something I hated in the academic setting but which I now enjoy.

Useful sources of information

Messages

Recognise that you have an incredible range of transferable skills. Many employers have no idea what 'being a scientist' is all about and how many things you have to do as part of your job. You need to be prepared to spell it out to them. Really work out what it is you want to do - and get some experience which proves it to your potential employer.

If you're a scientist - READ NEXT WAVE!. It exists to help Ph.D. and postdoctoral scientists with their career development. If you don't know what you want to do, first person stories can give you ideas - and if you do know what you want to do, you can read how others have done it and get some useful advice.

Things to do now

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  • Careers Centre
    Carrington Building
    Whiteknights
    Reading RG6 6UA
  • Email:
    careers@reading.ac.uk
  • Telephone:
    +44 (0)118 378 8359

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