Thursday, April 10, 2014

Alternative Careers in Science: A Speed Networking Event

The Cambridge-Boston area teems with science students, graduates and post-graduates, all brimming with the potential to push science forward. However, not all science graduates will stay in academia and pursue the career of a research professor. Increasingly, graduates are exploring alternative career options in science to put their numerous sought-after skills to use in the workplace.
As part of the Cambridge Science Festival 2013, a networking event about alternative careers in science was held in conjunction with the Massachusetts Association for Women in Science (MASS AWIS). MASS AWIS is a national non-profit organization, the mission of which is to promote the interests and career development of women in all STEM disciplines.
The event took place at MIT and over 75 early career scientists attended to hear from some of the 25 speakers that were on hand to share insights from their chosen career paths. A wide variety of career paths were covered, including medical writing, business development, research and development in the pharmaceutical sector, consulting, technology transfer and teaching. Speakers were from a mix of early and mid-career phases, to give participants an overall sense of how a career in their field of interest can evolve.
After registration, some light refreshments and introduction of the speakers, the bell rang and speed networking commenced. Participants spent 15 minutes with each of six speakers, learning about their typical day-to-day activities, the qualifications and experience that are important in their role, as well as about the future prospects for this career. After some time for questions, the bell signaled time to move to the next speaker. The atmosphere was electric with speakers and participants enthusiastically learning from each other and many connections were forged. The evening ended with some general networking, more refreshments and a chance to recap and reflect on all that was learned and to meet some new friends.
The feedback from participants afterwards was very positive and many learned about career paths that they had never previously considered.
I am still a graduate student, and I don't know much about what types of jobs are even available in academia. This event was priceless in that it introduced a lot of careers that I didn't know existed, and gave some insights into what other kinds might be out there that weren't represented at the event.
I thought this was a great way of meeting other professionals without the pressure of feeling like you need to impress the person to get the job right away. 
The diversity of the panelists was better than alternative career events that I've been to. I really liked that there were both established individuals as well as panelists who were new to their positions.
Following the success of the 2013 event, MASS AWIS continues to partner with Cambridge Science Festival and, in conjunction with the Office of Professional Development and Postdoctoral Affairs at the Boston University School of Medicine, will host another Alternative Careers in Science – A Speed Networking Event on April 22, 2014. You can read all about it here Register today and learn about the exciting career paths open to science graduates of all levels.

Contributed by Máire Quigley, Ph.D. 


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