Tag Archives: jobs

Job Hunt, Part II

22 Mar

A few days ago, I was contacted with a job offer.
It wasn’t the job I had originally applied and interviewed for, but a similar starting position in a different department.

I was very torn.
The job seemed almost too good to be true, at least for a new grad entering the field. The benefits, perks, and staff are amazing. The college is famous for it’s well-funded science programs. However, it’s in a city where I know few, if any, people. It gets dark and extremely cold during the winter (-40F or colder), and the contract is for 3 years, which is longer than I anticipated. I would literally be facing my biggest weakness in the lab (microbiology), my biggest medical fear (depression), as well as my biggest fear in life (loneliness).
This is simultaniously exciting and terrifying.

I received a lot of mixed messages from friends when I told them of the offer.
Many supported it.
Others told me to keep looking.
Some reminded me of my dreams of traveling and helping in developing countries. Some pointed out that I was really looking for a job that provided blood banking experience, while others countered that there are very few blood banking jobs in this state. (Most of the available jobs are in general chemistry.)

There are also very few microbiology jobs. Clinical microbiology relies heavily on logical thinking, which I love. But also requires you to maintain a sizable amount of knowledge, which I suck at. That is why I both love it and fear it. It can be overwhelming. It’s much harder to start in the main lab and move to microbiology; If you don’t use that information every day, you quickly lose it.

It is also true that I do have aspirations of working abroad.
It’s one of the main reasons I went into this field. But in order to do the kind of work I want to do, you need either power, money, or experience. I have none.
I can’t do Peace Corps right away, as they don’t offer lab positions, (but would be an excellent choice if and when I decide to move into public health).
Doctors Without Borders takes people in my field, but only with experience.
Global Volunteer Network would take me, but it’s a trip I can’t currently afford.

Some reminded me of the risk.
Depression is a very serious condition that runs in my family. I am fortunate that I am not as prone to depression as others in my family. While some members of my family struggle with it every day, mine is very rare, typically mild, and always situational. However, the constant winter darkness does affect me, a condition known as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

But the simple truth is that, no matter where I go, there will be risks.
Physical, emotional, and psychological risks.
If I take this job, I risk depression, extreme cold, and loneliness. If I were to take of tomorrow to work in Sudan, I risk malaria, sleeping sickness, and witnessing genocide. If I go to Arizona, I risk controversial politics, sunburn, and skin cancer, which I am incredibly predisposed to.
(Seriously. My skin is basically a big game of “Find The Cancerous Freckle.”)

Ships are safe in harbors, my friends, but we all know that’s not what ships are for.

So I accepted the job.

Life is full of risk, and to spend your entire life trying to play it safe isn’t wise, nor really all that possible. The key is to identify the risks, and weigh them against the benefits. When I weigh the risks of this opportunity against it’s benefits, I realize that I have a lot to gain, and relatively little to lose.
To start my career in microbiology is an incredible opportunity that I hadn’t dared dream about. That’s why I stuck to searching for general chemistry and blood banking jobs. The fact that I could have most of my extensive student loans paid off in 3 years is another possibility I hadn’t dared dream about. That would provide me with financial freedom to pursue other interests, such as travel, grad school, or volunteering abroad.
With a microbiology background, I would also have a better chance of going being accepted in a public health program, which I would love.

SAD lamps, exercise, medication, and working in a lab with freaking windows (I still can’t get over that) can help me manage through the winter blues. Honestly, working in a positive environment doing what I love goes a long way in contributing towards my happiness.

And here’s a confession: These past few months have been some of the worse in my life. I have never been more depressed then these past few months while I was unemployed. I love working in a lab so much that not being in a lab was literally devastating. The process of searching for jobs, filling out applications, getting your hopes up, going to interviews, is emotionally and psychologically exhausting. On top of everything, there is the knowledge that despite the improving job market in the United States, unemployment rates for my generation are over 16%, and those who do get jobs are often underpaid. Many experts agree that my generation was one of the hardest groups hit by the global recession. There were days I physically could not get out of bed. I felt overwhelmed and helpless. While I’ve seen friends go through that level of depression, I myself had never experienced it before.

And as soon as I received this offer, my situation completely reversed. I was waking up, happily, at 7:30 every morning. I was getting dressed. I was eating balanced meals. I was smiling again, even when I was by myself. Just the idea of working in a lab again lifted my spirits.

For me, such a drastic improvement is well worth the risks.