We are fortunate to have numerous opportunities to pursue various careers in science. Yet when it comes to navigating the field, little is available to support people when choosing their path. Other professions have resources dedicated to staffing, such as external recruiting firms whose sole job it is to find quality candidates. We rely on job boards, word of mouth and cold calling.
I am currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, and my research is focused on studying the underlying biochemical changes that occur in complex mental health disorders. As a postdoc, I feel the need to constantly think about my career trajectory. I have attended numerous career and skill development events over the years where I am always reminded of the importance of networking. During my first few meet and greets, happy hours and social events as a postdoc, I felt immense pressure to network and develop advantageous relationships to propel my future career.
Needless to say, I felt my efforts fell short. I realized the key issue is the absence of an atmosphere where people actively want to provide help and guidance to others. The scientific field has a very exclusive nature, and fields are severely segregated. Many people uproot their lives to new cities and have trouble getting their foot in the door when they get started. Our field lacks a support network when pursuing a career in science or working through challenges in their current role.
I reflected upon my journey to where I am today, and how my friends and colleagues were my biggest support network. I realized if these science professionals can help me to navigate the scientific field, why can’t they provide advice for others? This is when I created The Social Scientist. I first reached out to my colleagues and friends, and found they were supportive of my initiative to provide career and life advice to others. From there, the initiative has steadily been growing.
We are a nonprofit networking and outreach community of scientific professionals. Our volunteers are dedicating their time to answer questions that will benefit your interests, including a view of their work, environment and what it took for them to get there. We want to provide an accessible and engaging atmosphere to help both scientists and science enthusiasts looking for guidance in an informal setting. From the high school student interested in science but unsure where to start, to the associate editor working towards editor in chief, we want to provide support for all those in the scientific community.
Our goal is to continue to grow our community of dedicated volunteers. We give back by helping both prospective and current science professionals. Currently, we have science professionals in the fields of academia, industry, writing and editing, and government, as well as an alternative careers section for those whom have transformed their science background onto a different path.
Tarjani Agrawal, a data scientist with a background in neuroscience, is not only a volunteer on The Social Scientist but additionally has contacted another volunteer via the site. “This community can help [our colleagues] overcome their inhibition of interaction by connecting them with successful volunteers who can guide them in their careers. This is a great initiative and I am glad to be part of it.”
An essential component for our initiative is to enlist the right kind of volunteers. We have found that the best advice comes from people who have a real passion for their field and work. We all have different backgrounds and experiences that have influenced our career path. Discussing both our struggles and achievements is invaluable when providing guidance for others.
We have responded to numerous inquirers who have contacted our volunteers seeking advice. The first inquirer that contacted our site was looking for advice in the industry setting. Now, Jacob Johnvedakumar is a volunteer on our site. We were ecstatic to have helped Jacob with his career pursuit and now are excited to have him on the team.
We are aiming for the initiative to continue to grow in both volunteers and inquirers. We want to provide a community for all STEM fields, and therefore to accommodate each field. I hope within the following years that The Social Scientist will grow into a large community that everyone can turn to for support. I picture a LinkedIn meets Life Coaching for STEM professionals.
In the scientific field, we pursue a degree because we want to understand more about the world. We need to support one another so we can continue to make great strides in scientific discovery. The Social Scientist is a new community dedicated to provide the support that has been lacking in our field.