There’s always another option… There’s always another one…

 In PhD/Postdoc Blog

The PhD/Postdoc blog series features scientists at different stages of career development as they explore and plan for their next steps. Over the course of six months, Edward van Opstal, Ruchi Masand, Corina White, and Darcie Cook will give monthly updates on their progress. Check back every Wednesday for new blog posts!

Current position: Postdoctoral Fellow studying obesity and fat metabolism at the Cardiovascular Research Institute; Chief Technology Officer for My Resolve Health, a bay area start-up.

Program start date: September 2015

Institution: University of California, San Francisco

Hi folks! Welcome back!

A lot has happened since the last time – a paper submission, a trip to India. But I’ve worked on a bunch of other things too, including the startup, writing short pieces here and there for myself to sort of get into the rhythm of writing regularly, and I recently even explored consulting again. However, today I want to focus on what I found out about administrative careers.

Last time I mentioned I was interested in a career helping other people in our situation explore alternative careers outside of academia. It’s something my MIND peer team helped me realize I would be good at. Although, until now, my only relevant experience, if you can call it that, has been helping my younger brother’s friends pick majors in high school! But I imagine helping another person realize their own potential and figure out the direction their career should take would be quite rewarding. And going by what the people in the field have to say, it’s all that and so much more!

The people I talked to at length spoke about how rich, unique and rewarding every one of their experiences had been. How they got to watch ideas emerge, firm up and take shape. And while not all of them had any counseling experience, they were able to relate because most of them had walked in the same shoes at some point in time. Turned out the moment was just right for me check this road out too, a position in the area just opened up.

I decided to see if I could actually get such a job, because, you know, that looming sponsorship issue again! I set up an interview with someone who has dealt with visa issues for scientists before. My main expectation form this interview was to try and figure out the sort of positions for which visas can be sponsored, other than scientific positions of course.

The answers I got however weren’t the ones I had hoped for. So let me break it down for you. While PhDs are preferred for such positions because they were in the same situation not so long ago, a PhD isn’t a requirement for these positions. The result – no visa sponsorship! On the other hand, to be able to justify sponsoring a visa, your designation has to be higher, warranting a much higher salary, none of which will ever happen. So again, no visa! And finally, such positions are not specialized enough to justify an international hire instead of a local one. So again, the result is no visa.

What is most bizarre though, is that at a university, the only positions apart from faculty positions, where visas can be sponsored are fellowship or postdoc positions which require a PhD and somehow need to be paid less than 50K a year according to the defined pay scale! If and when you manage to figure out how that is logical or fair in any universe, I would love to hear about it!

In the mean time, while this career may be wonderful and tremendously satisfying, with a chance to work with some great people who just want to make a difference; its BYOS (read Bring Your Own Sponsorship!). However, for any readers who do not require a visa, I am told it’s a hugely rewarding career path that pays a lot better than a post doc. So if you fall in this latter category, I encourage you to talk to someone who is in the specific position that interests you and maybe volunteer to get some hands on experience. Most universities are very open to helping their students and post docs get hands on experience, especially when they do not have to pay for it! All I would say to the former group is it’s better to know sooner rather than later!

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