Science Career Choices: Factors of personal work preferences to consider that are rarely spoken about  


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December 21, 2020 1:01 pm  

Over the the years I've seen quite a few posts outlining career options and paths for PhDs, and that's good. But few have really spoken deeply about some factors  that are more linked to personal work preferences than may be work considering and may be worth implementing into "informational interviewing" or "career sleuthing".   

I think one reason is few actually think about them until later on and many career pundits, well, don't think about them enough when guiding or recommending careers. They tend to be high-level.     So - looking back at my career - questioning past decisions and preparing for future ones here are a couple elements I think work considering:

1. Distance to Point of Service (POS): Usually this is about where a decision is make to either purchase a product or prescribe a medicine or to serve directly a "customer" or person, you can call it also Point of Contact and the impact is DIRECT. That is palpable cause and effect.   So in a career it worth while considering your relationship to POS and how happy you may be being more in direct or less in direct contact to the POS.  So for example, if you work for a pharmaceutical company, the POS is is medicine to patient. Technology to customer. The direct POS is the physician. The next level would a Pharmacist in a hospital, and another job closest to a POS in a company is a sales rep or MSL. You're informing a person in the direct POS.   Then is my job where most of my work services a brand team objective, that serves a corporate objective which then indirectly, very very indirectly have an impact at the POS - I never can really know what my individual, and I'll say even my team contribution, really does at the POS other than follow some surrogate markets (financial performance such as volume sales that can be a surrogate measure of patients at the POS finding value from the medicine I support).  We are very indirect service, that is, distant to POS.  

So the question one may need to consider is where are you happy POS wise. Would you be happy in an organization where your contribution to POS is distance far and you rely that meeting the corporate objectives has a societal benefit - would you be happy in a job where you're part of supply chain making direct contribution to drug distribution to the POS? or would you rather be closer to the customer and be happy being in the "direct service" vs. say "indirect service".    So where can you be happy here?

And this can easily link then to sector. Are you happy working for a corporating that is business driven but collaterally provides a benefit to people/society , or goverment, in the service of people with another objective, or non-profit.

And job type. Do you want to be cop in the direct service of people (I used cop as an example of a direct service job) or are you happy in an office. Are you happy to be a lab bench contributing to science (still a very indirect to POS) that may help somebody one day...or do you want to be a person directly giving a life-saving drug? 

2. Number of personal interfaces:  We talk alot alot of working in teams and need to be a team-player.  Some very advance conversations may even use the word Diplomacy. Rare rare rare rare you see any one talk about that as a competency because I starts to go into the realm of politics that nobody really likes to talk about when given career advice and career decision. Few know what diplomacy (to even talk about it) and it is used for (stake holder management).  That's advanced stuff. 

But the big foundation is its about working with people met YOUR objectives. At the end of the day the then the "number" of people in your daily and routine universe is something worth considering as those are the interfaces where your "diplomacy" skills, the embodiment of ALL your soft-skill competencies, cultural respect and personal empathy, not to mention "leadership" compencies all come other - tailored to each individual person in your universe. One must consider the diverse people you work with will NOT have your views, your compentices, your understanding, your personality, your workstyle and YOU, and only YOU, are responsible for aligning, harmonizing, and getting them to follow you (while of course following them). 

So in terms of number of people you would see in your work universe what are you happy with?  So take my universe, on a daily basis, I may have 15 people I'm interfacing with (and can be a different mix). On a weekly basis that can be 20 to 30 and if I look at my whole universe of those I engage with, that number can easily be 70 to 80 people.    Consider in your career you start with small universe and you grow into bigger ones.   

 So this is something to consider in your discussions and where you sit with number of people you wish to interface with and energy of excising your diplomacy skills. 

3. Control level: this one again never spoken about only sometimes in the context of Entrepreneurship.  Fully in control, your ship.  But beyond that, where in the frame of control do you want to be? individual? team? company?  Are you happy to be an employee  (this is not about leadership and team playing, this is about control level and authority). Where does your personality fit? 

4. Stablity: how will you maintain it.   Notice i didn't say achieve, because, that's would suggest an endpoint.   Especially in corporate.  Lets face it, corporate is not a stable place for varied reasons we won't go into. There is only one, you read that right, one way to have stability in corporate: continued development to maintain competitive edge. that's it. That can include jumping company every 2 to 3 years. That can include changing job every 1 to 2 years in-company, that can include continued investiment in education.   Or do you like government?  stable job for life. Or teaching. Job for life. Or do you like non-profit, less stable as government, more stable than corporate but maybe you like that sector.   

5. Pressure. Important question hard to quantify but you can start by comparing.  Someone said Business Development in another post.  What was not mentioned was Pressure. One is working against hard time-lines. and Financial measures. You are making a bet on asset and CEO maybe on top of you even in a big pharma you may have a member of the board right on top of you. Talk about pressure. Client services - enter the the business development aspect there (find new business/clients) and the all encompassing billable hour, and work load. MSL - gotta make the calls, sometime cold-call. How do you feel when you're not meeting call frequency or objectives? And so and so and so.  We ALL have pressure, what's imporant is where does it come from, Senior Management, interdependence on someone else (see personal universe above),  financial performance?  

So 2 areas were I don't recommend to focus on for Personal Preferences and career choice:

1. Politics.  Unless you're a Navy Seal or Small business owner with no board of directors and no HR staff - accept there is politics. I've see 3 different sectors - academia, industry, and even a bit of government. Know what? same "crap".  It WILL come your way. you will GET BURNED. You will SURVIVE. You will LEARN (see diplomacy). And you will THRIVE.  So - don't consider Politics or type of politics in your career choices.  Even our dear Chimpanze relatives play Politics it's human. Yes - lets not label things corporate politics, it there all the time. 

2. Living Standard: ok this one is controversial.  Find your happiness first. Then the cards will play out.  I've see others prioritize this over happiness, and sure they got whatever material ambitions they wanted - at a cost: the are miserable folks you don't want to be around. Enough said. 

So a few things for you to think about ON-TOP of subject matter, career type and the other stuff mentioned on this forum.

Had some of this stuff in my head but if you look at  some of the headings, these are thing you need navigate in you career.  These are some of the things we talk to coaches and psychologists about.  Any maybe not called out like this.  But generally, in this direction.  Some things I didn't highlighy is from organization behavior perspective, where do you want to be in terms of transparent accoutabiliy? happy to be in a company where decision making is murky as accountability or do you want transparency more?   anyways, another topic one day. 

Thoughts and feedback!