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Career options for scientists

Biological age or academic age?

In my office I find the application of a female academic in her early forties. The file feels heavy, 22 pages. Once I see that she is applying for a full professorship, I also know why. Fortunately, there is a table of contents, telling me what to expect at one quick glance.

By now she has been unsuccessfully applying for positions as a professor or team leader for two years. As an example, she has attached a job posting she applied for. She didn´t even get invited for an interview, although she thought she was perfect for the position.

Career options for scientists

I immediately jump to item no. 7, the list of publications, which is still the most important selection criterion in academia. 13 papers, of which she was the primary author on 8. The really big journals, like Nature or Science, are not among them, but the journals in which she has published are definitely respectable. I flip back to the section “Education and academic career”: She had started writing her PhD thesis in 2000. 13 publications in 16 years, that is probably not enough to show for when applying for a full professorship, I think to myself, perhaps even the reason why her application didn’t make the cut. Then I start working my way through the documents. On page 5, I come across the section “Maternity and parental leave”.

She had been on maternity leave for 10 months for each of her two children. In the fine print, I discover the following footnote: “Since 2009, I have been working part-time (65%).” I do the maths: 16 years minus 20 months, 7 years times 0.65.…

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Women & career work-shop for life scientists

Seriously! Do I need to work?

Women & career work-shop for life scientistsWe are women, the women of the future! In Germany we have been allowed to vote since 1919 and have not had to ask our husbands for a “work permit” since 1977 (wow this is not THAT long ago!!!). Most of us also have a free choice as to whether and what we want to study. The traditional female role between stove and nursing offspring is slowly dying out in our society and women are seen more and more in their independent roles. It is an exciting time for both sexes. Women are increasingly expected to return to the labour market after having children, while we demand greater participation of men in child rearing and household duties. Not everyone is happy with this profound change in our society. In Germany, one recognises two hardened fronts at the extremes of the spectrum: some see the role of the woman at home with family and household as her almost exclusive role (as was the only accepted life plan in West Germany until the 1960s). If she wants to do something outside of the household, she can, for example, work in a bakery for a few hours a week (on a tax-free “450 € basis”) or do something charitable. The other front in this debate wants to see the woman as fully independent: she should play an important, if not the primary role in the family income, pay taxes, and stand on her own feet. They see “housewives” as a waste of human talent.…

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Professor_ NaturalScience.Careers

How to become a professor – what hiring committees are looking for

Dreaming of becoming a professor one day? Then it might be worthwhile to know what universities are looking for and plan your career strategically. We spoke to scientists who regularly attend hiring committees to find out what the first thing they look at when a CV lands on their desk.

We published the article in Chemistry World. You can read it here for free.

Here is the overview that belongs to the article:

Further recommended reading: 

Book: At the Helm: Leading your Laboratory by Kathy Barker

Book: Promotion – Postdoc – Professur: Karriereplanung in der Wissenschaft by Mirjam Müller

Article: How to become a professor by Sven Hendrix


Our recommended seminars covering part of this topic:

Women & Career

Hello academia 

Leadership skills

How to build your lab

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postdoc or not

Postdoc or not?

Shall I do a postdoc or not? That is a very important question that you have to ask yourself before starting to apply for jobs. We believe that in most cases it is relatively easy to answer this question. You should just ask yourself what you would like to do in the future.


Would you like to proceed as a researcher in academia and could you imagine running your own research group in the future? In other words, do you want to have a career in science? – Do a postdoc! Or, does your future career plan or dream job require you to have postdoctoral experience? If a clear yes, you should certainly do a postdoc. However in the latter case, we would advise you to contact one or more people who are active in your “dream career” if this is really a set requirement or if there are other ways to get there. Typically this is only the case in top jobs, e.g. as research team leader in a big pharmaceutical company. In some cases, experience outside of academia would be judged as more valuable than postdoctoral experience in academia. A postdoc can also be useful if you feel that you want to change/expand your field of expertise, be it that you see no career opportunities in the field you currently work in or that you´re just sick of it. In the latter case this is usually not a problem outside of academia as you will typically not use your core specialisation to the fullest extent anyway.…

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