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A special career resources guide

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Career resources
Compiled by David Applegate, Margaret Baker and Heather Golding

We are all pursuing careers, and we could all use some good advice. Bookstores have entire sections devoted to providing career guidance, but most are general and do not speak to the unique challenges facing nascent scientists.
 
This special Geomedia section highlights several books written for young scientists (one written by a geoscientist). The accompanying On the Web section contains brief descriptions of career-oriented sites that contain useful data and suggestions. Whether your own interests are in academia, government or the private sector, you should find in these sources what you need: some good advice.



Put Your Science to Work: The Take-Charge Career Guide for Scientists by Peter S. Fiske. American Geophysical Union, 2001. ISBN 0-87590-295-2.


This book is the second edition of Fiske’s popular To Boldly Go: A Practical Career Guide for Scientists, published by the American Geophysical Union in 1996. As Fiske notes, the landscape of science employment changed dramatically between the two books’ publication dates — the miserable job market in the mid-1990s giving way to low unemployment at the millennial turn. While the recent economic slowdown promises yet another cycle, Fiske’s advice is equally applicable to both the highs and lows, emphasizing the breadth of scientific training even in the face of the hyper-specificity that characterizes much academic research.
 
Fiske is a geoscientist who until recently was on the staff of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; he now works for a high-tech start-up that he co-founded. Fiske emphasizes that young scientists have a “huge range of career opportunities in front of them if they are willing to consider their training more broadly.” The book is geared toward helping readers understand how their skills and training are transferable to a wide range of pursuits. Chapters include such topics as the challenge of facing change, writing cover letters, going on job interviews and knowing the difference between a CV and a resume. The middle section of the book discusses career planning as a four-stage process, only the last of which involves job hunting. The other stages include self-assessment, exploring the world of work, and focusing in on specific opportunities.
 
The book is for both master’s and doctoral graduate students, although the examples tend to lean more heavily on the latter. The significance placed on a graduate degree may also sway a few undecided undergraduates who are contemplating when to face the real world. Fiske writes in a breezy, readable style that could relax even the most stressed-out graduate student fretting about the future. With an extensive reference list and short reviews of other resources, this book is a great first stop for any geoscience student.

David Applegate



Guide to Nontraditional Careers in Science by Karen Young Kreeger. Taylor and Francis, 1999. ISBN 1-56032-670-0.


Whether you are in the early stages of your science training or in the middle of your career, you’ll find Karen Young Kreeger’s Guide to Nontraditional Careers in Science a rich resource for looking at a wide range of opportunities. Excerpts from interviews with scientifically trained professionals are intertwined with sidebars to help the reader easily navigate the pages for specific information. Each chapter highlights a general profession, such as business or science education, delves into specifics on the types of careers available in the field, and provides contact information. Even before venturing into the professions, Kreeger offers two chapters of general information on how to mentally prepare for changing career paths, and she also outlines the actual steps required for a successful transition to a “nontraditional” job.

Margaret Baker

Careers in Science and Engineering by the National Academy of Science. National Academy Press, 1996. ISBN 0-309-05393-5.


This book is billed as “a student planning guide to grad school and beyond.” Although its examples are devoid of geoscientists, the book still proves useful for undergraduate and graduate students contemplating a science career. Produced by a committee of the National Academy of Sciences, Careers in Science and Engineering emphasizes the importance of out-of-the-box thinking in terms of career goals. It is a resource for information on graduate school and job hunting as well as advice on specific career-change scenarios. The book uses real examples of scientists who bridge gaps between science and other professions.
 
As the job market continues to become more competitive, an interdisciplinary approach to education and training is valuable for all geoscientists. This book offers suggestions and examples of an interdisciplinary job search. Several examples of both professional and graduate career obstacles are discussed, followed by sound career advice. And the guide stresses that tailoring your education to reach career goals is key.

Heather Golding

Alternative Careers in Science: Leaving the Ivory Tower, edited by Cynthia Robbins-Roth. Academic Press, 1998. ISBN 0-12-589375-2.


Ever wondered how a science-trained Ph.D. ended up in investment banking or how to build your strong writing skills? These queries, and many others are tackled in Alternative Careers in Science: Leaving the Ivory Tower. Chapters present personal accounts from more than 20 people who moved from academic science to “nontraditional” positions. Their stories run the gamut from science writer to venture capitalist to patent agent. Each author discusses what they do, how they made the transition, and what skills they need for their job, and answers other questions readers might have who are looking for different ways to use their scientific knowledge.

Margaret Baker

A Ph.D. is Not Enough! A Guide to Survival in Science by Peter J. Feibelman. Perseus Books, 1993. ISBN 0-2016-2663-2.


For those interested in a research career, Feibelman’s short and good-natured book offers advice specifically for careers in scientific research. Feibelman, a physicist at Sandia National Laboratories, sets out to provide the survival skills necessary to make the transition from student to professional researcher, emphasizing the need for and importance of mentoring. His book offers chapters on career paths and job interviewing one would expect in a career book, but Feibelman also dispenses advice on choosing the right advisor and thesis, giving talks, publishing papers and getting funded. While the book does not stray beyond research careers, Feibelman’s scope does include government as well as academic positions and, to a lesser extent, industrial research. Although this book was published eight years ago, the research environment has not changed substantially, and the book does not feel dated.

David Applegate


Other notable books:

International Relocation: A Practical Guide to Living and Working Overseas by Marc Bond with Rita Bond. American Association of Petroleum Geologists, 2000.
Although not strictly about careers, this pragmatic guide is timely given the increasingly international focus of the petroleum and mining industries, two traditional geoscience employers. Written by two experienced expatriates, International Relocation focuses on the obstacles that scientists and their families are likely to face as they pursue overseas opportunities.

Tomorrow’s Professor: Preparing for Academic Careers in Science and Engineering by Richard M. Reis. IEEE Press, 1997. ISBN 0-7803-1136-1
Peter Fiske calls this weighty tome “without a doubt the best resource for those considering a career in academia.” Reis discusses critical decisions and strategies, from beginning graduate school to securing a position to finding success in research and teaching. Tomorrow’s Professor should prove a good investment for any graduate student or professor aspiring for success in an academic research or teaching position.

Human Resources: The Missing Piece of the Energy Puzzle by William L.Fisher and Sarah Seals. Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, 2001.
For those working in the energy sector or for students who are considering jobs in the oil patch, this report uses historical trends to provide some perspective on the current employment situation.



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