How to Make a Smart Midcareer Move
Career transitions are bound to happen as your professional and personal needs and interests evolve. Personally, I’ve made four moves, switching cities and states, titles, and responsibilities each time.
I know that just thinking about making a change can be daunting. But it doesn’t have to be.
To help me process my decisions, I considered the various factors and questions listed below.
Why make a transition?
- Family matters
- Local lifestyle: professional and personal
- Local scientific environment
- Personal advancement
How do you make a transition? Ask yourself:
- What’s missing for you?
- Where is that gap, and how important is it?
- What networks can you tap?
- What job ads can create leads? Visit SfN’s NeuroJobs site as well as other resources such as Science and Nature.
- What information can you access?
What’s important in a transition if you're:
- An assistant professor? Do you need tenure? Will you move to associate professor? Will the new place have tenure?
- An associate professor? Are you aiming for full professor?
- A full professor? Do you want to make a lateral transition? Do you want to become a chair, director, or chief?
What are current and future opportunities in the field?
- Over the next 10 years, many faculty members in research-intensive and teaching institutions will retire.
- Funding will likely remain competitive.
- The biotech and pharmaceutical industries and journalism and editing fields are growing career path options beyond the bench.
- Administrative elements to consider include positions opening at your institution and funding available from grant and science agencies.
How should you prepare?
- Read the advertisement and understand the job requirements.
- Tailor your CV or resume to that job.
- Rework research pages (keep them short).
- Make your cover letter short and highlight what you’ve done that’s relevant to the specific job.
- Do online research on the institution, such as a university, company, department, or institute, and do the same for the people you will meet with, including a search on PubMed.
What can you expect? Figure out:
- The details of the position and environment, including who will be your direct supervisor
- If the chair and dean will be there in five years
- How supportive the employer is of basic and translational research
- How supportive the employer is of basic research in your research area
- How long the employer will be committed to research and drug development on a particular disease
- The morale within the department and the morale within the entire institution
- How you will articulate why the employer should choose you and why you want this job
Do you want this new job?
- Is the new job a promotion?
- If you’re giving something up, are the benefits worth it?
- Will this transition work for your personal life?
What is important to consider when negotiating your move?
- New team members
- Downtime for the lab, publications, and other professional interests
- Resources to rebuild and improve your situation
Adapted from the presentation, "Midcareer Transitions: How Does It Work?” by Wendy Macklin, PhD.