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Additional training/degrees (and cost) after postdoc  

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Audrey B.
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July 6, 2018 3:12 am  

Dear Forum,

I am a 6th year postdoc looking to transition to a non-academic career. I have been very active with my university's postdoc association, sparking my interest in a program coordinator position either in a postdoc office, faculty affairs office, or at the undergraduate/graduate level. I want to create programs and policies that help academics thrive in their professional lives.

I am confined geographically due to life circumstances. Besides selling my volunteer/leadership experience, does the Forum recommend that I pursue additional training/formal education?

There are several other threads tackling this question of fee-based programs and additional degrees after the PhD/postdoc, mostly, it seems, siding on the opinion of *not* pursuing paid programs if can be avoided. My sense is that as more and more applicants pursue additional training, the standard is now that you must have at minimum completed a certificate program, spending hundreds to thousands of dollars, to transition out of bench science.

Thank you,
Audrey


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RLemert
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July 8, 2018 3:10 pm  

Right now your question is too open-ended. We have no clue as to what type of training or certification you're planning on seeking, and I'm not sure you do either.

You mention an interest in working in e.g. a 'faculty affairs' office. Why don't you go down to the one at your institution and talk to the people there. Ask them what they would look for in someone who is applying to work with them. Then check with people in similar offices at other institutions. If someone suggests you need additional training or certification, as them to be more specific - what training? which certificate? why?

You may find that your contacts are consistently recommending a specific type of program. If so, then you have the answer you're looking for direct from the people that could be making a decision about you.

If you're a sixth-year post-doc, that means you've been a student or a trainee for almost twenty-five years. At what point are you going to decide to use all that training. More education does NOT, by itself, mean you're going to have a better life. You must also be willing to use and apply that education.


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DX
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July 9, 2018 12:21 pm  

Hi Audrey,

No you don't need to invest in additional certifcate or degrees programs to transition from bench science.

What you do need is your own self-reliance, your own tailored tooling-up for the path you want and preparedness, your networking and informational interviewing, that does not included addtional investment in formal training.

Later on, once you've already left the bench and found your new path, you may find then and only then additional investiment in training is needed, and then and only then would i perhaps agree with the comment that additional training and investment in education "may" be needed for career progression, as warrented and as needed, per your experiences and evolved understanding. Once you have experience and sufficient knowledge for you to take that decision.

And at that point, then you can see where your employer can help and supplement your experience via formal training, be it internal or external.

So spend your time tooling up, networking, and talking to people, worry about additional formal training, if needed, in the future once you're on your path.

Best,

Dx


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Audrey B.
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July 9, 2018 6:22 pm  

Thank you for your replies. The additional certificates would be in Crucial Conversations (Vital Smarts), Situational Leadership II (Blanchard), Franklin Covey - Productivity Suite, and DiSC.

I would not be asking the question in the first place if I was having success landing interviews. I, too, would prefer acquiring training later, *if possible.* But, I am guessing that it's a combination of lack of formal training combined with lack of formal job experience in this area that is hurting my applications. I can only control one of those factors (the training part).

-Audrey


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PACN
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July 9, 2018 7:13 pm  

I am a program coordinator for a graduate program, and I did not have any formal training for the job before I got it. I did have some job experience outside of my postdoc as a journal editor, but many of my colleagues came straight from postdocs. In my experience, the things that make applications stand out are: 1. knowing people in the program (ie, networking); 2. leadership experience, such as in a graduate student or postdoc association; 3. teaching or educational experience; 4. an understanding of the position and fluency in the relevant issues. In interviews, I tend to look at people who have thought deeply about the issues relevant to the job-- professional development, diversity and inclusion, etc.-- and have a clear passion for working with students. The latter is surprisingly not present in a lot of applications. Relevant certificates might help at the margins-- universities tend to value coursework more than other workplaces-- but I don't know anyone among my colleagues that went that route to get a job. So it's definitely not necessary, and any benefit from my perspective is unproven.


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RLemert
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July 9, 2018 8:30 pm  

Audrey - Rather than spend a small fortune now with one of these for-profit certification programs, I'd suggest you take a serious look at Toastmasters. Annual dues are only $90, and they have programs that cover a lot of the material you're looking for. You'll also pick up a lot of other skills that will serve you well, and you'll gain a lot of self-confidence.

No, you won't get the same type of certification you'll get from these other programs, but you don't really need them to get started. And if you do eventually decide to do one of these programs, you'll already have some practical experience in the field that will help you make the certification process more meaningful.

(If you decide to go this way, please contact me by direct message and I can help you figure out how to get started.)


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PG
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July 10, 2018 5:41 pm  

The only training I would recomend to anyone directly after a postdoc is in areas were a specific certificate or exam is required to be allowed to work in that area. One possible example would be of you want to work as an attorney (maybe intellectual proprty and litigation) also certain states/countries requires you to have a specific license to do certain tasks at hospitals/laboratories etc.

None of the specific examples are within this category.

Instead you risk reaching a point were more training might not be viewed as something positive but rather people might start thinking that the reason for why you have been training for so long is that there is something wrong that prevents you from getting a job. I wouldnt say that you are there yet but I Think that you have passed the point were more training will be helpful unless it fits the criteria above.

My advice would be to use your time and energy for networking. If the result of that networking is that there is a specific training that your networking Contacts Thinks will give access to the specific type of position that you are interested in then you can consider more training. Personally I dont think that this is what your network will tell you.


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Audrey B.
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July 10, 2018 7:17 pm  

Additional training in the form of certificates and expensive continuing education classes is the trend that I've observed from my network moving into non-bench careers. However, these contacts were moving into regulatory, clinical trials management, and medical writing trainee positions. To get their foot in the door, they spent a year "retraining" in these specialities. I thought the same might apply for any non-bench position, but it sounds like academic and research administration is exempt from this trend (for now).

The resounding opinion on the forum is that networking will help me land an interview. I will take that to heart moving forward.


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Dave Jensen
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July 16, 2018 10:02 pm  

Additional training in the form of certificates and expensive continuing education classes is the trend that I've observed from my network moving into non-bench careers. However, these contacts were moving into regulatory, clinical trials management, and medical writing trainee positions. To get their foot in the door, they spent a year "retraining" in these specialities. I thought the same might apply for any non-bench position, but it sounds like academic and research administration is exempt from this trend (for now).

The resounding opinion on the forum is that networking will help me land an interview. I will take that to heart moving forward.

I have always enjoyed external training and certification programs. Dale Carnegie was life changing for me, but Toastmasters is close and 1/100th the cost. There are many others that would be worth considering as well, but the advice you received here is good. These are valued, but NOT expected in research or research admin roles,

Dave

Dave Jensen, Founder and Moderator
Bio Careers Forum


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DX
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July 17, 2018 5:54 pm  

Thank you for your replies. The additional certificates would be in Crucial Conversations (Vital Smarts), Situational Leadership II (Blanchard), Franklin Covey - Productivity Suite, and DiSC.

I would not be asking the question in the first place if I was having success landing interviews. I, too, would prefer acquiring training later, *if possible.* But, I am guessing that it's a combination of lack of formal training combined with lack of formal job experience in this area that is hurting my applications. I can only control one of those factors (the training part).

-Audrey

Hi Audrey,

One comment, albeit delayed busy on my side, is that alot of the courses you mentioned here, the subject matter and work is the stuff contained in alot of internal training programs, that is trainings you'll do once inside a company.

For example DISC, I can't tell you how many of these i've done or iterations of it, not to mention types of MTBIs. They are never stand alone courses and usually linked to a team-building or team working workshops where your work-styles and preferrences born out of those assessments are socialized and mapped against the team. Thus identifyin ways from a personality perspective a team can work more effectively (i.e. the team knows I'm ISTJ from a MTBI or an S with a bit of I from a DISC ext, how how would they engage me optimally knowing that).

Or your Situtational Leadership, stuff of internal training again - also hard to recall how many of these "leadership competencies and management courses" of done, more recent via a company leadership academy program with other fellow colleagues.

my point is alot of that stuff loses relevance if taken in isolation, won't do you much. It will work for you once you havea a frame of reference and you're doing it with others who are linked to you internally.

ON the upside, you've realized that you probably have some soft-skill gaps and that already is a massive leap in terms of your self-awareness of the skills you need to advance. So that's good. You already have some advice where you can build on that without taking a course that would probably be irrelevant because there is no context. What made DISC great for example was it was in the team I worked it - so you could "compare" and see how you could leverage understandig of your current DISC with other DISC profiles in the team ....and build on relationships from there- you get context, it means something. You don't get that in just a course.

And that's the general theme I'd say with course work - be attetive to do any without the ability to garner some context ideally from a past or current work or life situation.

Best,

DX


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Audrey B.
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July 17, 2018 7:19 pm  

Hi DX,

I have actually completed several of these trainings as a postdoc and have attended Toastmasters. The positions I am applying for would require that I *lead* these workshops, not just attend as a trainee. Hence, my question regarding additional training to be certified (as an instructor).

Overall, the message that I've received on the forum is that I can leverage my volunteer experience and network to find a position. Luck and timing are also factors, as these program management type positions are limited in number, and I'm also restricted geographically. Postdocs applying for these positions are relying on their transferrable skills to land them interviews. My fear is that entry-level work in these areas is dwindling, and employers are asking for job experience or some other (expensive) credential to make the transition away from the bench. The forum participants have argued against my read of the market.


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Audrey B.
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July 17, 2018 7:27 pm  

As a means to transition, I've also considered applying for Scientist positions, putting in a year or two, and then leveraging that industry experience to move away from the bench. Most of my colleagues go the industry route and then figure it out from there. Since I've decided that I no longer want to do bench research, I was trying to make my exit sooner.


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RLemert
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July 17, 2018 8:48 pm  

While I can understand your desire to "make a clean break" from the bench, keep in mind that by doing so you're trying to make two transitions at the same time - a move into a new position, and a move away from the bench. It can be done, but it's going to be more challenging to do so.


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Audrey B.
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July 17, 2018 9:02 pm  

Thanks for articulating this, Rich. I did not think of it this way. Graduate students and postdocs are told that their transferrable skills qualify them for a diverse array of jobs, including non-bench jobs. My question to the forum has been: is this really true without additional formal training. I think the resounding answer is yes, with networking.


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DX
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July 17, 2018 9:08 pm  

Hi Aubrey,

Well 2 comments - first there are many jobs in the industry (I’m in pharma for example) where one does not have to be at the bench and they have been discussed extensively on this forum - there is even a recent post where me and Caroline have contributed. Ok m in a “commercial-facing” role within R&D and until recent times was in Commerical.

Second most of those I’ve encountered teaching the courses you describe have also had thier experiences in the corporate world - carrying real-world experience which drives thier credibility in addition to any other credentialling they may have which is for them a tick box for them to engage in the practice - they get it later in life ie by entering say an in-house training or even HR function.

So my point - map a path to what you want and consider routes - you got advice here which I think is sound but it’s only advice and not fact. You take what you see here, merge that with your experiences and gut feeling and knowledge and take your decisions.

Best,

Dx


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