Please enjoy the first of our series of podcasts. The first topic: Shall I do a postdoc or not?…
Author Archive | NaturalScienceCareers
We interviewed an HR manager at a chemical cooperation in the Netherlands.
What does the standard interview process look like?
Firstly, I phone people up. Just to get a first impression and find out more about their motivation to apply. Usually, I have a few things I want to clarify about their CV before making any decision. For example, it can be that they possess the technical skill we need but pursued a completely different career path thus far. Then this is their chance to tell me their story and why they want to change paths and join our team.
It can also be that I am not sure if the applicant will be a good fit with us and the call will help to get a first impression.
During this call I always ask them for their salary expectations. Sometimes the salary expectations are unrealistic and then it doesn’t make sense to continue. After the calls we make a selection of people we will invite.
Then we usually have three in person interview rounds. The first with HR, the second with the manager you will be working with and a team member, and the last interview is with the manager of the manager.
Usually, we don’t send people through assessment centres as it is a very costly thing to do. Of course, for some very specific functions we might use the assessment centre on top.
Do you, as the HR manager, have as much influence on the decision to hire or not as the technical manager?…
In a seminar, we are discussing the application of a female postdoc. “You just said you never intended to have a career in academia. Why did you start this postdoc then?” “My PhD supervisor told me to. She said it would complete my academic portfolio. As the research focus of my PhD was very specific it would be better to develop a second area of scientific expertise.” “Well, can you tell me what kind of job you would like to do?” “I’d like to be an application specialist for an instrument manufacturer. I enjoy tinkering around while collaborating with other people at the same time.” “For positions like that your research topic is irrelevant. What is more important here are the methods you used and, even more than that, your soft skills. Was your supervising professor aware of the fact that you do not want a career in academia?”
To reach the position they are now in, professors have overcome impressive intellectual obstacles. The inherent danger is that they are mistaken for omniscient oracles.
But there is one thing you should not expect from your professors: to act as your career advisors. Their point of view is way too specific for that. Due to the selection criteria, the path to a professorship is usually straight forward and strictly academic, with little room for a detour to the world outside of academia. Plus, professorial self-interest can always get in the way during such informal conversations: Securing the supply of PhD students and postdocs is of course an advantage for the universities.…
“I can´t imagine that these jobs would be family-friendly,” judges Maya, a PhD student. In our Women and career seminar, she already mentioned that she´s planning to start a family in the next few years. I observe how she is creating space for kids which don´t even exist yet. With a thick pen, she crosses out the options “Consultancy”, “Academic career” and “Sales” on her handout. Instead of asking her if she´s sure that she and her partner can get children at all. I interject, “What exactly makes for a family-friendly job for you?” “One in which I don´t have to travel, or at least not several times per month. And ideally with flexible working hours.”
I interrogate further. “Of course!” another participant bursts out as if this would be the most ridiculous question in decades. “You can´t even bring your kids to bed yourself”, Maya adds. “Maybe it´s not even that bad, if you don´t do it every day”, I reply. “Your partner can then enjoy the bedtime story and all the kisses for himself. And you can enjoy a dinner and a night of sleep without interruptions.”
This seminar is not an exception. Discussing careers often goes into the same direction. We ignore entire professional sectors because we think that we can´t be successful in them while at the same time care for our families. The main reason for this rejection is that we elevate the perfect work-life-balance, the magic 8-8-8, to a mantra. We try to spend 8 hours each for work, sleep and private life.…