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Career advice is needed I feel I'm failing.


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#1 Goggi

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 10:01 AM

Dear Friends. I would like to ask you for advice for future possible career. Actually, I'm feeling right now that I'm failing and do not have any career perspectives.
I'm doing a PhD in mol.biology in Germany. I'm at my 3rd year of work. I'm completely disappointed and depressed. During my time I told my boss several times that the project is poorly designed and research I'm doing is lacking sense. It is a partly repetition, partly unnecessary surplus to what was already done. I do not have any supervision from my boss, he absolutely doesn't case about me or other phd students. I feel like I being dropped completely alone. Neither I have any supervision from postdocs working in the lab.
I tired of things that permanently do not work, I'm tired of being depressed every evening. I hope that I will be able to get my degree at some point (not actually sure if I'll be able to or is it worth to). I'm looking forward to move away from this lab.
The problems I have: 1) even if I have my degree at the end, there will be no publication whatsoever; 2) I'm from 3rd world country and non-native English speaker (I feel greatly restricted by this) and I do not want to go back ; 3) I don't want to do a Postdoc because I don't feel any physical and mental power to go again into same sort of troubles. At the moment I feel completely exhausted.

I don't know what to do. What should I do? I completely disappointed in academic research. I'm constantly depressed, 'cos I do not see any possibilities for myself. What is the value of the phd degree without any publication record? I was told that without publication one cannot find a job neither in industry nor in academia (only in bad groups)? What job I can apply after except postdoc?

Edited by Goggi, 02 January 2013 - 12:22 PM.


#2 bob1

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 02:06 PM

First of all - the majority of PhD students go through similar depression during their projects, so you are not alone. Most students (actually all researchers) will have many of their experiments fail and everyone has to repeat results several times to ensure that they are not just random chance or due to something being done wrong.

With regards to your supervisor - there should be a person in your institute/department who is designated with the task of dealing with problems that students are having with supervisors. It would pay to go and have a talk with them about your problems and see if there is anything that can be done from their end - perhaps an extra supervisor could help.

You are correct when saying that it is difficult to get a (science) job without publications, especially a post-doc position. In my institute most people need two first author publications to get a job as a post -doc. However, we also have teaching fellows who don't have any publications, and these sorts of positions often are used while writing papers and/or looking for other jobs.

In reality, only about 5% or less of people with a PhD in biology will continue on and become academics, and most will end doing jobs that don't require any scientific expertise (e.g. management positions), much less a PhD. However, having a PhD opens doors that are otherwise closed -it shows that you are intelligent, persistent, dedicated and hard working - otherwise you would have quit a long time ago. These are characteristics that many employers look for in the people they employ, so the chances of you getting a job at the end are relatively high, though it might not be a research based job. There are often jobs going as free-lance paper editors, which require PhDs (so that you can understand the topic being written about), and are good for improving your english and writing skills.

BTW, your english is fine - really, we see a whole lot worse on here. You have a few sentences where they are written in a manner that a native speaker wouldn't use or are grammatically incorrect, but most of it is good!

#3 David C H

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 07:57 AM

It is normal to go through discouraging periods during graduate school. Take some time to figure out what you really want to do. Why did you enter a Ph.D. program? What is it you want to do now? If you were in a better work environment, would you feel better about the future, continuing with a postdoc, etc.?

If you want to continue with a PhD, consider switching labs, even universities. Look for a lab that is doing work that you find inspiring and that has an atmosphere you find inspiring. If you don't want to start over, that may be a sign that you don't really want to get a PhD. Your current lab does not sound like a good environment for you. If you want to stay there, find a good mentor or mentors -- someone who can give you help on lab skills and someone who can give you advice on managing lab politics. Find a way to get inspired about the work you are doing. Above, bob1 suggests looking into non-research careers. If a non-research career appeals to you, what can you do now to prepare you for that career? With business management or marketing training, your combined background would make you attractive in the Biotech industry.

I think you should be open to leaving your program. Think about what you really want, why you got into the program. If those reasons no longer resonate with you, consider leaving. If you want to stay in research, leave the program and look for work as a technician. If you can take a Master's degree, consider finishing up what you can to complete that and get out. If continuing with PhD is really going to help you get where you want to go, find a way to do it. But if you are unhappy and you can get where you want to go without the PhD, go that way instead.

#4 lab rat

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 12:11 PM

Hi Goggi:

I agree with Bob and David. Your writing is very good, and there are many opportunities for people without Ph.D.s. It is perfectly fine to take a MS (even if it is a second one) and "take refuge" in a technical position for a while. There are good people everywhere who will see your intelligence and talent, even if you don't realize it, and will be willing to serve as references if you choose to do something else.

Overhauling your career is an emotionally and physically exhausting process. Thoughts of defeat are part of that process. Use whatever emotion those thoughts provoke--whether it is fear of failure, anger at unfairness, or whatever--to fuel your drive forward to your final goal.

I wish you the best of luck.
42..."An immutable fixed-precision number of unlimited magnitude." <a href="http://en.wikipedia....amming_language)" target="_blank">http://en.wikipedia....amming_language)</a>, accessed 25June2009.

#5 Goggi

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 02:07 PM

There were various reasons why I decided to do a PhD. I definitely felt that my university education (I have a MSc degree) was not enough. I wanted to gain much more practical experience in the field than I had had at that time. I was curious to see the way the research is done, especially high-impact research. I believed that a PhD degree really opens the doors to various career pathways. I have to admit that I have achieved my goals to certain extend. I have seen different people, different groups from different fields. I have gained some hands-on experience.
However, I'm doubtful regarding my career assumptions. One thing if I can work without being mentored - I think I can, but other thing is if the work produces an high-impact outcome which is necessary for the further advancement. The last is a result of the combined efforts of many people. I don't know what to do if my boss doesn't remember facts from the presentation I've made a week ago. The only thing he is try to do is to mask his forgetfulness. As a result there is no "scientific" discussion, but rather "manipulative/provocative" talk. It seems that his mistreatment of phd students is known but nobody really wants to take any action. Anyway, it's not the matter I would like to focus at. I don't want to spend time discussing things that I cannot change or influence.
Now, a few words regarding career expectations. Though I respect the people that do the good research, I don't feel that academia is something for me. I cannot work productively in such a environment. The problem I see is that everybody is demanded to have excellent publication record to be able to apply both in academia or in industry. There are very few positions were you can get trained/re-trained/educated on-site nowadays (i.m.h.o.). A lot of positions require people with particular set of skills.
I don't really know for which sort of jobs I can apply. In other words, I don't see many options. Teaching is fine but I can lecture only in English.

Edited by Goggi, 03 January 2013 - 02:19 PM.


#6 Tabaluga

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 05:50 PM

Since more and more molecular biology programs in Germany are international, being restricted to teach in English shouldn't be a problem. However, I'm not so sure about the amount of solely teaching positions available, at least in my experience in most cases teaching is regarded as a side aspect to research and thus done by scientists in addition to their research here.

Il dort. Quoique le sort fût pour lui bien étrange,
Il vivait. Il mourut quand il n'eut plus son ange;
La chose simplement d'elle-même arriva,
Comme la nuit se fait lorsque le jour s'en va.

 


#7 Tabaluga

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 06:07 PM

And on the overall subject, you said there won't be a publication even if you get your degree. IMHO having a PhD even without a paper is definitely better than no PhD as it can open doors for you, I agree very much with bob1 on this. I think I can understand what you're going through now and how you feel. However, do you see a "light at the end of the tunnel" ? Can you estimate how long it will take you to complete it, or are you uncertain that it will ever be possible to complete ? If you see a possibility to go through with it, it might well be worth to invest the time and power (starting all over in another lab is certainly an alternative, but from your posts I guess this is not really an option - another 3-4 years, and you don't even want to stay in academia) . Just my 2 cents....

Il dort. Quoique le sort fût pour lui bien étrange,
Il vivait. Il mourut quand il n'eut plus son ange;
La chose simplement d'elle-même arriva,
Comme la nuit se fait lorsque le jour s'en va.

 


#8 Inbox

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 07:57 AM

I'm doing a PhD in mol.biology in Germany. I'm at my 3rd year of work. I'm completely disappointed and depressed. During my time I told my boss several times that the project is poorly designed and research I'm doing is lacking sense. It is a partly repetition, partly unnecessary surplus to what was already done. I do not have any supervision from my boss, he absolutely doesn't case about me or other phd students. I feel like I being dropped completely alone. Neither I have any supervision from postdocs working in the lab.
I tired of things that permanently do not work, I'm tired of being depressed every evening. I hope that I will be able to get my degree at some point (not actually sure if I'll be able to or is it worth to). I'm looking forward to move away from this lab.
The problems I have: 1) even if I have my degree at the end, there will be no publication whatsoever; 2) I'm from 3rd world country and non-native English speaker (I feel greatly restricted by this) and I do not want to go back ; 3) I don't want to do a Postdoc because I don't feel any physical and mental power to go again into same sort of troubles. At the moment I feel completely exhausted.


We all get depressed by not getting results expected. Positive results surely give impetus to try more but research is about testing hypothesis, we never know. Working without help of post-doc or any help will develop new person in you who can be confident to take on his research on his own or in group more efficiently. You can always leave whatever you do but that should lead you to ray of hope.

Best Wishes.

#9 science noob

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 04:38 PM

Hi Goggi, don't give up as it is very much part and parcel of research life. If experiments worked out like a charm all the time, it wouldn't be called 'research'. Find something to drive you (it can be interest in a particular aspect of science or trying to crack a code to understand a disease etc).

Sometimes we as PhD students tend to point fingers at our superiors for not 'guiding us' or giving us much 'help' or 'designing the project'. Yes, it is the lab head's duty to provide a project for you but we as PhD students should be the one's driving our projects, not post-docs or research assistants. From how I view a PhD project is that I am responsible of what outcomes result from my 3 years in the lab. If stuff doesn't work, find a solution or troubleshoot. If there's issues with superiors, settle it with them or via grad. school. we are very much responsible for how we complete our final thesis.

And it's also important to have mentors who we can talk to or seek guidance. This can be our supervisors or senior PhD students in the department. I find it crucial to have a network of people who are going through the same thing as us/has been through all this to be a sounding board. Doing research isn't just about labouring in the lab alone for hours but building networks which can be a good platform for us in the future.

One of my personal mottos in doing research is 'don't let a negative outcome bring you down, get motivated by the positives'.

A crucial question is have you seen this 1/2/3 years ago when you embarked on this PhD journey or in the middle of it? i.e. adequate supervision, project design and amount of support? Or has it only surfaced recently? It's very very very important to solve the problems at the early stage and not letting it rot till near the end of your funding/scholarship when you have to finish up.

Edited by science noob, 04 January 2013 - 04:40 PM.


#10 Goggi

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Posted 05 January 2013 - 05:07 AM

Doing research isn't just about labouring in the lab alone for hours but building networks which can be a good platform for us in the future.


It may sound unpolite, but I don't trust the people I'm surrounded with. I know that people do understand the situation in the group, however, everybody stands for his/her own benefits. Some time ago I have asked people around if I could help/contribute to any of the running projects to learn smth. new, to help move it faster and possibly to have my name on the paper. Obviously, to have somewhere at the end of authors list, but I wanted to have at least something after I understood that my project will not result in any publication. I don't know if it was a good thing to do, maybe not, but it was only option I had seen at that point. Obviously, I got a rejection for everybody wants to secure his/her own profit.

A crucial question is have you seen this 1/2/3 years ago when you embarked on this PhD journey or in the middle of it? i.e. adequate supervision, project design and amount of support? Or has it only surfaced recently?

It became clear gradually. Initially, the picture was very sweet (both in phd program advert. and in personal communication). But gradually I heard stories from other people, observed how people are mistreated, how problematic is to get a paper. I have learned that almost every phd student either was offended/had troubles to finish the thesis/ left the institute to nowhere. If I was told initially that there is a "hands-off" approach, that I would think twice about joining the group (I know that it's very naive point of view and nobody gonna disclose that sort of information). To understand that your boss has no idea whatsoever what is going on - is not an easy thing to believe to. Specially, when he tries to mask this by means of verbal manipulation. It would be much easier for me to be said clearly that there will be no supervision from the very beginning. Than I would develop a different strategy and there wouldn't be much of a disappointment now.
I have talked to another group leader that is kind of responsible for grad.students. However, he made it clear that he "has no power" to influence the situation.
***
Anyway, all of these things are circumstances that I cannot influence or change for better. I don't have power. Most importantly, I already do not have time. What is done, is done. I believe that research career is finished for me now. I need to understand what opportunities do I have now, what can I do with my skills etc. Unfortunately, the job market looks rather bad for the moment and I don't see the way it improves. Is is particularly worrying for me because of my foreign background.

Edited by Goggi, 05 January 2013 - 06:55 AM.


#11 Nephrite

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Posted 06 June 2013 - 05:39 AM

Hi, Goggi.......
I was looking around (sneaking for advicesPosted Image ), I saw your post and decided to write you....
How are you doing 6 months later?
I suppose your are less than 30, I see that your English is quite good and......you are in Great Germany.
If you don`t like science and feel disappointed, why don`t you start looking for a job in the farmaceutical industry? Like Clinical trial assistant or junior Clinical research associate? They don`t need PhD holders but young and energetic people.
If I only knew this few years ago.....I would not pass through the Hell named PhD.
However, I wouldn`t have met my future husband, too Posted Image

#12 Goggi

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Posted 21 June 2013 - 01:21 PM

Greetings!

Not any better then when I wrote the initial post.

I'm still at the same "place". Let's see if i could write something that looks like a "thesis". What I am doing? First of all, I'm trying to cope with the depression. It's quite a challenge! I'm simply tired of being depressed.
I call my PhD "a complete and undeniable failure". It's not something particularly bad. It is more a sum of unfortunate circumstances that completely melted me down. Just to point a few things... I was a member of so called EU "Initial Training Network" . I think the idea of I.T.N. is quite good in principle. Yet, I believe that such Initial Training more suits M.Sc. students that need orientation than research PhD's. Secondly, it was rather ill-organized. There were 10 or so partners, each of them had to organize a "workshop". Each workshop equals 1 week. I had to attend. I had to travel, I had to travel like "hell". Unfortunately, P.I. would like a prospective PostDoc to present papers and research breakthroughs, not a list of attended workshops! So for anybody reading this - beware of EU Initial Training Networks!
Is is quite amazing that during one of the meetings my P.I. told me that everybody admits the unnecessarily large amount of traveling and he will warn beforehand all future PhD applicants of him! Well, I am happy for the future PhD applicants, but what about me? Why didn't he warn me? The guy (the P.I.) is absolutely shameless! Add here the project that I had to start from scratch. Add no supervision. etc etc.
I tried to apply for some industry jobs, unfortunately, without success. Now I'm trying to get a postdoc position somewhere in Europe. So far, also w/o success.
I have a bunch of complications, like that I'm not an EU-citizen, I didn't manage to learn German (as I wanted to do). I believe my chances to get a job in bio-industry are 0. I'm monitoring the job ads and for most of jobs my skills simply don't match. For jobs like Clinical trial assistant or junior Clinical research associate you still need the corresponding education/experience.

Edited by Goggi, 21 June 2013 - 01:26 PM.


#13 Inbox

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Posted 05 July 2013 - 11:39 AM

Let's see if i could write something that looks like a "thesis". What I am doing? First of all, I'm trying to cope with the depression. It's quite a challenge! I'm simply tired of being depressed. I call my PhD "a complete and undeniable failure". It's not something particularly bad. It is more a sum of unfortunate circumstances that completely melted me down.

I never understand difference between good decision from bad one & i guess never will. I guess you try to do best you can, if you can't you don't say i did wrong, say I did my best! .

#14 Goggi

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Posted 05 July 2013 - 01:30 PM

I guess the topic could be re-named to "Advice on anti-depressants or alcohol is needed, I failed". speaking realistically , there is no valid career advice for me, specially in current economic situation.

#15 Tabaluga

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Posted 05 July 2013 - 03:27 PM

Although this may sound like an empty phrase, but when I look around me I see people writing tons of applications and sometimes it takes years but then they get a job, so: Keep going !!
There are many people out there in the same situation, so don't think that you failed. (Incidentally I can somewhat relate to this feeling due to things that happened during my thesis, but really there is always a better time ahead.)

Il dort. Quoique le sort fût pour lui bien étrange,
Il vivait. Il mourut quand il n'eut plus son ange;
La chose simplement d'elle-même arriva,
Comme la nuit se fait lorsque le jour s'en va.

 





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