- Parent Category: Activities
- Published on Thursday, 10 March 2011 12:22
A spur to action: It is Your Future, Your Choice!
Know your talents! Reflect on your work and yourself! Dare to try new things! These were the most heard pieces of advice at this year’s PCDI Postdoc Retreat. Over 100 postdocs and final-year PhD students gathered at Kapellerput in Heeze from February 16-18 2011 to reflect on their current position, explore possibilities for their next career step, discuss developments in the scientific world, broaden their horizons, find out how varied careers in the different areas of the Life Sciences can be and how important it is to think ahead and choose a career path that suits you best. ‘Your Future, Your Choice!’ was therefore the theme of the fifth PCDI Postdoc Retreat. To give postdocs a head start on career development, PCDI offered them three days packed with keynote lectures by successful (ex)academics on their personal careers, workshops to discover and enhance their talents, a forum discussion and networking sessions with PhDs who pursued different career paths within and outside the Life Sciences.
Follow your own path!
Should I continue in research? Am I good enough? Inside or outside academia? These questions, which many postdocs struggle with, were addressed by the keynote speakers. Often with unconventional but inspiring career stories, allowing everyone to extract valuable tips for success in their own career. In the first session, we learned about two contrasting career paths. Prof. Ritsert Jansen, a renowned academic, gave a whole list of practical tips on developing one’s talent for science and Dr. Roel Breuls, who had much more doubt about pursuing a career in academia, conveyed what he had learned from his research experiences and used that in his current career as a coach and advisor to scientists. ‘Follow your heart!’, ‘Don’t be afraid to make mistakes’ and ‘Discover your own path’ were some of the messages he gave to the postdocs.
The next two speakers stressed the importance of maintaining a good work/private life balance. This is something which, as most hard-working postdocs can confirm, can be quite a challenge. Prof. Susanne Pedersen talked about her unusual career path to becoming a PI and Dr. Katarina Radosevic spoke about her challenging climb on the career ladder at the biotech company Crucell. She called the postdoc into action with her inspiring advice: ‘Dare to try new things!’ and ‘You have the power to change!’. Prof. Peter Peters in his talks stressed the importance of knowing what your transferrable skills are, as they are important assets in any career path one chooses. Many researchers were surprised to learn about the many transferable skills listed in his presentation. The last two keynote speakers shared their insights on the challenging journey leading to the foundation of their own companies. Dr. Christianne Rijcken was right in the middle of the process of founding her own company, whereas Dr. Chrétien Herben had already left his company and is using his experience in science and his expertise in starting a company to shift his career towards knowledge valorisation.
Know your talents! Acquire new skills!
Have you ever read a job posting and thought ‘I can’t do this job’ or ‘I don’t have these qualities’? But if you look critically at the skills you have obtained during your PhD and postdoc period you are likely to find out that as a young researcher, you can do so much more than you give yourself credit for. Solving complex problems, project management skills and people management are only few of the important acquired transferable skills. Being aware of your valuable transferable skills, hidden talents, and core qualities is very important and therefore was the central theme of the first session of workshops. Besides that, it is also vital to know how to ‘present yourself’, the focus of the second parallel workshops addressing the style of presenting and the many (online) instruments available to land your dreamjob. In the last workshop session participants improved or learned a (new) transferable skill of choice: non-verbal behaviour, grant writing, negotiation, project management or networking.
Politics, Reflection and the Bigger Picture
The final day of the retreat was aimed at broadening the horizons of young researchers and discussing with them, beyond their own research project, about the future role of scientists. Prior to our forum discussion on the ‘Scientist of the Future’, two forum panel members, Prof. Frank Miedema and Prof. Bas Haring, explained their views on the future scientist. Frank Miedema mainly stressed that politics plays a large role in today’s science, and that the PR aspects of a scientist’s job is becoming increasingly important. Bas Haring used the art of storytelling, with stories serving as metaphors for important characteristics he thought the scientist of the future should have: scientists should be able to see the bigger picture of their research, and scientists should not only work to produce as many papers as possible, but also regularly take time to reflect on their career and research.
These keynote lectures energized the audience, as many of the participants queued at the microphone to share their opinion with the forum panel and the audience in the subsequent forum discussion. A lively discussion ensued, focusing mainly on the politics at academic institutions and self-reflection (or the lack thereof) of postdocs. For more on the forum discussion, read the report from one of PCDI’s bloggers, here.
To give postdocs the opportunity to make informed choices about their next career step, the retreat was finalized by PCDI with a networking session which allowed the participants to talk to 30 representatives (all PhDs in the Life Sciences) from a diverse range of potential professions within and outside academia. Four alternative career paths were represented: (i) non-research in academia, (ii) small/medium and (iii) large biotech companies, and (iv) government, non-profits and education. The postdocs eagerly made use of this opportunity to discuss with the networkers what steps they took to give direction to their careers. One of the most heard comments in the networking session, echoing similar statements by some of the keynote speakers, was that many of the representatives had followed their heart when making career decisions.
PCDI as a starting point for shaping your career
Find on this website lots of information on personal and career development for young scientists, and participate in other PCDI career activities e.g. workshops, Life Science company visits, and other networking events.
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