I've just bumped into a friend of mine. Haven't seen him in ages, probably a year at least, not since a mutual friend left town for pastures new. (Field application specialist I think, biotech or there abouts.) This bloke works nearby, nice guy, good scientist. Married to a scientist. Both of them. Scientists. Working at the same institute. Them and my friend, the FAS, started about the same time.
I've been in this town for 6 years this week. I've known them for most of that. What's wrong here?
"Hello mate! Not seen you in ages."
"Yeah, I think not since Mike's leaving party, right?"
"Yeah, bloody hell, that was a good night out. What, a year ago last September wasn't it? 18 months at least?" I'm boisterous, louder than normal. I want to know what's going on in his head. It's the Tidelinterogation. I have an ulterior motive: he's in a good lab, and so is his wife. They're both very talented scientists and I want to know what's next. How is our sister institute prepping people?
The blogosphere has recently been all flutter about the archetypal disgruntaldoc and how a postdoc doesn't prepare you for anything and yadda fucking yadda yadda. Guilty as charged. My post based on a long chat with an unhappy postdoc inspired Prof-Like's query and I forced him to wear the meat pants again. Clearly they ain't doing him any damage, and neither is the feeble gnashing of the disgruntdocsphere.
But the feeble gnashing of the disgrunts is making noise out in non-blog land...and I fear that link might not work because it's to a LinkedIn chat on a closed circuit.
Scientists are human too and no one wants to see their dreams taken away. It's the basis of most decent tragedies, TV, stage or otherwise. But it happens. As M'Learned colleague has spake:
Academic Science is not Care Bears Fucking Tea Party
"So what's next? What are you guys planning? You've been here a while right?"
"Yeah, four and half years. So we've got at least six months left. We're planning and stuff. Y'know." At which point he is fixed by the steely and unhappy glare of a furious Tideliar. "Six months? So, what are you going to do? Academia? Industry? Bench? Non-Bench? Regulatory Affairs? Curator? Instructor? Policy Advocate? Legal Affairs? Tech-Transfer? Tenure track? Science Writing? Professional Development? Academic Administration? Editor? Research Communication? Librarian? Research Assistant Professor? Technician? Director of Animal Welfare? Informaticist? Teacher? Fucking Bartender? What are you doing?"
A laugh. A shrug, and disarming grin, "Well, I probably can get another year out of my grant. So maybe 18 months," For you, think I, what about her? "So maybe academic, maybe industry. Y'know. Thinking about it. Networking."
A shaft of light! Networking. "So, you're going to conferences, shaking hands, publishing, giving guest lectures, offering to review manuscripts? At least...right?" Right?
"Yeah, y'know. A bunch of emails." That confident, empty grin once more.
I've been there. Get your fucking arse into gear. Just because you got a bloody doctoral degree doesn't mean you're owed a job. Rememeber the fear you had about looking for your (first) postdoc appointment? "Am I good enough?
Amplify that by 70,000. Seventy Thousand.
Because that's how many postdocs in the US are competing with you for every damned job. You're on a treadmill and it's speeding up.