A reflection on four years as careers editor
Four years is a long time in science. It’s entirely possible that, when I started editing the careers section way back in November 2015, you might have opened Chemistry World for the first time as you started a postdoc, PhD or new job in industry. Now, 44 months later, it’s my last issue. I doubt you are the same person you were then, or even in the same position in life. I know I’m not. Too much has come to pass, both in the world and in my private life, to stand still. And, at the risk of sounding self-indulgent, I’m going to take this one last chance to impart a few pieces of career advice that I’ve picked up along the way before I close this chapter.
Be kind. The best position to take is always the one with the most compassion. It’s all too easy to lose this essential human trait in the fraught world of science, but it is the raw ingredient that supports intellectual curiosity and inspiration.
Learn Mandarin or learn how to code. If you can do either you have my undying respect. If you can do both you’ve got a wonderful future in research.
Do not assume ignorance or knowledge. Ask if a person is familiar with a piece of equipment or concept before offering your wisdom. You will often be surprised.
Experiments can be reset but fingers, eyes and limbs do not grow back.
Diversity will prove the lifeblood of modern science. If we are going to solve our problems, we need a mix of voices, ideas and solutions. The best way to ensure that is to tap into a wealth of talent offered by people of all ages, ethnicities and gender identities. A good team will enrich your life in ways you cannot imagine.
You do not have the definitive experience of life in all its kalaedoscopic wonder. Do not dismiss something because it’s never happened to you, or think you speak unelected on behalf of anyone. We all have different rhythms and people do better when you play in counterpoint.
You’re never going to please all reviewers or grant committees. Nobel prizes have been awarded for papers that were rejected by one journal only to be published in another. Sometimes you can do nothing wrong and still lose.
There will come a time when you are offered either more money or more happiness. Choose happiness. The money may come in time; the happiness will not.
Good luck out there.