This presented a problem when I needed to find a position after only a year of being a postdoc (due to funding problems outside my control). I was able to secure interviews, but wasn’t offered any positions other than another postdoc. Although I considered myself a capable scientist, I found myself competing with scientists who had remained involved in activities in addition to their research experience.
Now in my second postdoc, I’ve made a point to gain new techniques and expertise both scientifically and professionally. Scientifically, I sought a postdoc in a lab that does translational research to complement my basic research training. I’ve honed my technical writing by submitting a grant and my mentoring skills by advising a summer student. Additionally, I am involved with my local postdoc association and society chapters – two opportunities to network and gain experience in areas that I may pursue as a career. These opportunities would have been available during my first postdoc, had I spent the time to remain a ‘well-rounded’ individual and scientist.
A few easy ways to get started with your Scientista extracurriculars:
2. Professional organizations: While it can be expensive to join professional organizations, many offer both graduate and postdoc rates. Joining at these earlier stages of your career demonstrates dedication. Some organizations have student representatives or governing boards, which would provide leadership experience in topics that interest you.
3. Volunteer: Volunteering allows you to give back to the community (and often it is the taxpayers who are paying your tuition and/or stipend). You can volunteer in any capacity; whether it is by doing STEM outreach in local schools or even tutoring after school or be a judge at a science fair.
Bottom line, get involved and stay involved! Gaining many types of experiences will make you the ultimate scientist-of-all-trades and provide skills other than pipetting or building algorithms. Not only will it help you professionally by adding a line or two to your CV, but you will make valuable connections while networking. And often times, whatever activity you get involved with can be fun and enjoyable! There is a life outside of lab; go out and experience it…just be careful that your research doesn’t suffer!
What kinds of extracurricular activities do you enjoy? Share your thoughts in the comment section!
Amy Kullas is a research scientist studying infectious disease in the greater Washington, DC metropolitan area. Her interests include global health and science policy. Amy has attended “Research Matters” workshops and “Day at the Hill” events advocating for science funding. She is co-chair of a global health interest group at her institution. She writes for Scientista Foundation and https://sciencepolicyforall.wordpress.com.