Early-career scientists who are starting to build their careers often take inspiration from the environment around them. As a student, you look up to your teachers and professors. On the one hand, this can evolve into a beneficial mentor-mentee relationship that helps to boost the first steps of your scientific career. On the other hand, it might result in overlooking valuable career opportunities outside academia, given the traditional focus on this career path. Only a small percentage of PhD students become professors, and graduate student and postdoctoral programs must evolve to leverage the versatility of their trainees beyond academia.
Importance of a global approach to science
We need science communicators, advocates, managers and policymakers. We need close collaboration with governments, industry, hospitals and teaching institutions. We need a global approach to science, as it is stated in Goal 02 of the Lindau Guidelines 2020: “Cooperate Globally on Global Problems”. We can build state-of-the-art experimental facilities, invest in large computing centers, create revolutionary theories and ideas, but without support for the next generation of scientists, a society which understands the need for basic and translational research, governments that support research endeavors, and a diverse and inclusive work community, we — and, indeed, humanity as a whole — cannot expect to achieve any long-lasting progress.
Role of Early-Career Associations in Career Development
Early-Career Associations can play an important role in educating their members about all possible career paths. Young researchers often lack good sources of information about different career options, even within academia. There are many possibilities at national labs, research universities, teaching institutions, and the ideal candidate profile in these institutions can be very different and strongly dependent on the country.
Moreover, we need real career-development education – personalized, inclusive, practical, well-organized and led by experts. Probably, almost every one of us had a chance to participate in some career-development workshops, but can we say that it was a life changing experience?
These are a few examples of events that Early-Career Associations can run to help Early Career Scientists explore careers in science within and beyond academia:
Mentoring programs within academia and industry Alumni network (see our “Mentoring” section)
Creating an Alumni network, giving opportunities for members to find inspiring role models
Career panels and sessions with representatives of academia, industry, science policy, and other non-academic career paths
Advocating for an inclusive and extensive career development workshop program addressing needs of postdocs. Examples of such a program could be: a faculty application bootcamp with a series of hands-on workshops on creating application packages, fellowships, grant writing, faculty interviews, chalk talk, benefits negotiation, scientific leadership; or a similar bootcamp for industry application. The most important factor here is to truly understand your early-career scientists community, their needs, goals, career preferences, immigration status, etc.