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(OT) What should I do with my life (career advice sought)?

by scain (Curate)
on May 27, 2002 at 21:18 UTC ( #169648=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Hello Fellow Monks,

I have recently become unemployed. I come to you seeking advice, and perhaps a little solace. There have been many "what should I do with my life" posts before, and I have read most of them and participated in many, as I tend to always have an opinion. When it comes to my own life, though, it seems that I am in need of a little guidance.

I have spent the last three years doing bioinformatics. That is to say, writing lots of Perl parsers, glue, and db connectivity tools, in addition to scientific analysis. Really, if you where to take the word "bioinformatics" out of my resume, it might look any other developer/low level manager (I ran a small group: me and two other programmers). So the question is this: do you think it will work for me to do just that (remove bioinformatics from my resume) and get a job as a group leader doing development work in another field? It's not that I don't enjoy bioinformatics; I do. It's just that I am not ready to leave Ohio right now, and there is precious little need for bioinformatisists here.

Things potentially working against me are that I have a PhD in Chemical Engineering. Plenty of prospective employers may look at that and toss my resume. Also there is the very scientific bent to all the coding I've done until now. Sure I can use DBI and design databases, but they have all been for a scientific purpose. A general business employer may look at that experience and not see how it applies to his situation.

Things working in my favor are that I have experience coding in several languages and with big databases, as well as some experience managing a small group.

So, what do you think? Can I "refactor" my resume to look like a more general developer/manager?

Thanks for your insights,

  • Comment on (OT) What should I do with my life (career advice sought)?

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Re: What should I do with my life (career advice sought)?
by emcs (Scribe) on May 27, 2002 at 22:13 UTC

    I am an old guy who is taking early retirement at the end of the year.

    Currently I work with computerized energy management control systems; I am fortunate to be employed at work I love to do.

    My advice is to only work in a field where you can get up in the morning and know that you are going to enjoy your day. You have to WANT to go to work. Consider any other work temporary employement, that you have to do, in order to reach your goals in life.

    When you have found your calling, stay the course, until you reach your ideal.


    The dogs bark; but the caravan rolls on.
      Confucius said:
      Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.
      I consider him the wisest job-seeking advisor of all times and peoples.
        well the guy with the Confucius thing is a real fag. just go with life's flow and find something that works for you
Re: What should I do with my life (career advice sought)?
by cjf (Parson) on May 28, 2002 at 00:33 UTC
    Things potentially working against me are that I have a PhD in Chemical Engineering.

    Now that's one thing I wouldn't mind having work against me :).

    I wouldn't view a PhD in an unrelated field (if there is such a thing) as a reason to reject a job application. If anything it would be a plus.

    If you are certain it could work against you, have you considered listing it as just a small side note on your resume? Prominently list off what you view as relevant to the job you're applying for then add an "oh yeah, I also have a PhD in Chemical Engineering" (not in those exact words though ;). The fact that you (seemingly) value your other skills higher than a PhD would make them look even more impressive, and might also show your interest in the area of the job you're applying for.

    Then again this may all backfire, it all depends on who's looking at your resume. I'd include everything and wouldn't view any education (except maybe a philosophy degree) as detrimental.

    Best of luck with your new career, whatever it turns out to be :).

Re: What should I do with my life (career advice sought)?
by jepri (Parson) on May 28, 2002 at 00:36 UTC
    Scott, sorry to hear about your employment troubles. I can't comment on the effects of removing a degree from my resume since I just got my first one and I am trying to announce it everywhere I possibly can :)

    However I can mention the career of my father, which went particle physicist, cane farmer, system administrator, accounts manager, project manager. He didn't make a big show out of the PhD, but it was there on his resume, and he would usually sign things as 'Dr'.

    I don't know too much about the American attitude towards education, but I get the feeling that a PhD is still respected, and suggests that you have qualities not directly related to chemical engineering like intelligence, hard working, goal orientated, etc etc.

    Besides, if you edit your resume so you look like a Dilbert style manager, you're going to get hired by a Dilbert style company, and you don't want that, do you?

    Personally if I had a PhD, I'd be walking around going 'Have you seen my.... PhD? Cha-Ching!', so you might want to discount anything I just said :)

    I didn't believe in evil until I dated it.

Re: What should I do with my life (career advice sought)?
by ajt (Prior) on May 28, 2002 at 10:23 UTC
    Well I can understand your situation. I have a PhD in Evolutionary Ethology, and after that worked in the US with Delphi (Pascal) trying to model the evolution/behaviour of small moths that eat stored grain for UCR.

    For personal reasons I returned to the UK, but decided not to continue in academia. First I worked for a content management software vendor, and now for a medical devices manufacturer.

    In both cases I was able to get the job without too much of a problem - once I got to interview. The labour market was tight for the first job, and for the second the first job helped a lot.

    Like you I had no formal IT/Comp Sci qualifications, I was self taught, in the wrong topics, and for the second job I didn't have the advantage of a tight labour market.

    You have to look at your skill set, and ask yourself what will a potential employer want from me? Build up a list of skills you have that you think are in demand, and start with that.

    • Know foo and bar (that's the easy bit)
    • Team player (everyone likes that)
    • Can work to tight Deadlines (another PHB favourite)

    Then look at your academic (and in my case now useless) skills, and try and use them to your advantage, I learnt X quickly, therefore I can learn Y equally quick. Don't think it's dead, turn everything to your advantage.

    The hardest thing I found was getting past the recruitment agents, they often don't understand the job, or you, and seem on the whole to be an impediment to the whole process. See Davorg's use.perl column for some more comments - go back to January 2002 to find the ones that relate to jobs...

    One of the hardest things I had to do was put down buzz words on the CV so that I got past the filter to interview, without looking a fool at the interview.

    I can only wish you the best of luck - and having been there, I know how demoralising it can be at times.....

Re: What should I do with my life (career advice sought)?
by amarceluk (Beadle) on May 28, 2002 at 12:56 UTC
    My 2 cents on the Ph.D. issue:

    Having a Ph.D. in any field is not a drawback, it seems to me. A Ph.D. indicates that you're a very hard worker, very dedicated, and obviously very intelligent--all things that are desirable in any field of work. I think it indicates to an employer than you can learn quickly and thoroughly, so that regardless of what work you've done in the past you can easily acquire the skills required for a new position.

    On your resume, or in an interview, you might say something like this: "After receiving my Ph.D., I honed my skills (insert skills here) in the field of bioinformatics, where I (insert important things you have learned or achieved). Now I am seeking a position where I can apply these skills in a more general field, and believe I am well-suited for (position you're applying for)." Be positive, and emphasize how the work you did in your specific field provided you with skills and training you can apply more broadly.

    Good luck!

    "Abby-somebody. Abby-normal."
    Young Frankenstein
Re: What should I do with my life (career advice sought)?
by graff (Chancellor) on May 28, 2002 at 05:07 UTC
    I wouldn't obscure the fact that I have worked in a particular field -- certainly not that I've attained an academically professional status in a particular field (which I haven't, personally, but no matter). If your resume does not currently explain the common, recognizable problems that you handled while working in your field, in terms that are generally understood, then that is the only thing you need to add.

    Anyone who's looking for a general-purpose coder/manager will not be put off by seeing signs of field specialization. Personally, I'd hire someone with a PhD in an unrelated field over someone with just computer science on the resume, no hesitation.

Overqualification and Undercompensation
by gnubbs (Beadle) on May 29, 2002 at 14:52 UTC

    Sorry to hear about the job loss. Now I feel a bit foolish about leaving a perfectly good job just to move out west. Any one looking for a Network Administration position in Cleveland?

    Realistically though, there are potential problems with having a PhD on your resume. At many corporations, your level of education has a big impact on your income, so they may not be willing to pay the compensation that your degree would grant you at that company. Many will see Dr. Scott and assume that you are looking for a higher level of pay than they may be willing to give.

    The flip side is that a PhD is a respected degree, and could get you into some interviews you might not have gotten. Plus, don't undersell Bioinformatician. As long as your resume describes the systems you actually worked on, the job title should not scare anyone away.

    Now is not the best time to be looking for a job, but it could be worse. You could be just another kid with a compE degree and no work expereince -- like me.

Re: (OT) What should I do with my life (career advice sought)?
by indapa (Monk) on May 28, 2002 at 18:40 UTC
    I'm sorry to hear about your recent unemployment. I'm also involved in bioinformatics/genomics research and I don't think having a Ph.D on your resume/cv is a hindrance. Take a look at this article to give you a new perspective.

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