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Jan
13

Rekindling that dream job fantasy in science

What would be your ideal job? “Good question” you answer, “not now, I am thinking”, “I already have it”. Do any of these responses fit the bill?

Often wondered what that dream job would be? Have you daydreamed in those idle moments, over coffee, beer, or some other tasty beverage? Perhaps you would fantasize about your own lab, company or just drift off thinking how those scientists in China / India / USA/Europe could do all the work while you hang out on the beach in Miami ( just joking on the latter – maybe).

Perhaps like many of us, you have been so consumed with just doing what we do on a day to day basis that we have just given up dreaming. The routine of family, job, schools has just left no time to dream, sapped you of inspiration, or worse you have no job, and you are stuck in the hunt. Have we lost the will to escape reality ourselves but instead we just delve into the virtual worlds of our mobile devices and Facebook, twitter, blogs, games or do something else?

As scientists we may pause because we are continually told it’s just a bad time to dream, NIH funding, VC funding, pharma mergers, biotechs running out of money..people just do not have the appetite for risk that they once had. How can we dream about a “dream job” when we are just lucky to have one. Full stop.

I was reminded of the aspirations we once had as younger scientists out of college just today. I was talking to a colleague, fresh out of a postdoc. She made me think back to that bygone age that once we all started with that excitement for a new job, that belief that anything is possible..that willingness to try something new. Maybe we were naive, unaware of the politics in both pharma and academia, or companies we joined, the need to serve time before promotion, perhaps this sounds familiar.

Some of you maybe never lost your optimism in science, your job, career or what ever you focus on. We just feel lucky through hard work, being at the right place at the right time, to have what we have. Ambition or dreams take a backseat to the reality of life.

Me, well science, what I do, is so intertwined in my DNA it’s hard to tease it out. It does not matter who I work for, a company, a foundation, a university, or myself. I cannot turn it off – perhaps for a few hours – during a movie, but that’s it.
So I got to thinking while writing this on the plane home, what would be my ideal job, am I close to it now or is that because I just accept what I do as my dream, unwilling to accept a new fresh dream. Is it constantly changing as I age or are we at some equilibrium, or worse stagnation? Perhaps this is the same for others as we are caught in the job-life-family balancing act.

So here goes my dream, I like to talk to people and have ideas, those people can be young or old and that don’t have to be scientists. I also then like to write about those ideas, maybe turn them into commentaries, papers or grants. Perhaps those ideas lead to new collaborations. probably as you can see from past posts here I like to go into new scientific areas frequently and really enjoy it when I am contacted by completely new scientists who want to explore an idea. I still have that appetite to learn. I like to travel to cities around the world but not for long, a couple of days max. I really only like to go to conferences if I have a poster or talk, otherwise I feel like I am slacking. I like to have the scientific freedom to go where my meanderings take me. Not being a career advisor I cannot think of a title or name for what I do. In many ways yes I am doing this, so am I just bottling this dream around my known reality?

Would you do the same – go on what is your dream job, scientific or otherwise.

I was reminded that change is all around us. I was pretty close to what used to be one of my favorite second hand record stores in the city I visited today, it’s now a Verizon wireless store. Life moves on, things change. If you had asked me years ago what my dream job was I might have said a record shop owner, but then I would be dreaming. Thank goodness it’s just that, a dream. It is good to have one.

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