So I majorly freaked out after Uni. I think this happens a lot; exams are over (thank goodness), you’ve survived the procession at graduation, and then you’re thrown into the world feeling completely unprepared.
Quick tip: If you’re still at Uni, make the most of it. Grab it by the balls! Join societies, volunteer at events, get drunk too often, and work hard. Once you graduate, a lot of these opportunities become harder to access.
I studied BSc zoology at Reading, and graduated in 2014, with what I felt was the cruellest possible result; a high 2:1. High enough in fact, that if I’d scored just a few more marks in one exam, I would’ve got the 1st I so desperately wanted. Gutted was an understatement.
However, looking back, I don’t honestly believe that this has affected my prospects. So, to anyone in the same situation, don’t beat yourselves up over a few marks, focus on getting experience instead (easier said than done, I know; I’ll attempt to tackle this in a future post).
So what have I been doing in the 3 years since I graduated (Time really does fly)?
I was the definition of a mess for about a year after graduating, mainly because my expectations were unrealistic. I was so desperate to do a PhD that I took the self-funded route. This meant taking on a ridiculous number of jobs in attempt to save for the fees/rent etc. I had 8 jobs simultaneously, and worked around 70 hours a week. All I remember is sleep deprivation and manically cycling across Reading. I also didn’t really have a proper place to live…anyway. Back then, student finance didn’t fund masters degrees, so that wasn’t a realistic option for me either. Unless you have parents with deep pockets or serious savings already, don’t kill yourself trying to self-fund a PhD. Also, I think it’s worth waiting until the right research project arises; you should be passionate about the PhD you take (which is partially why I am still yet to apply for one…).
UPDATE: So about a month after writing this post, I got offered a flipping PhD! Read all about it here!
Anyway, that was the worst year of my life (so far). However, although it was tough, I did get some useful experience. Bat surveying was excellent ecology experience (you’ll see in future posts that I’m rather fond of bats…), and I also became a biology tutor. Tutoring is a great side earner; I still do it now! I also worked for Proctor and Gamble for 6 months, and although the role wasn’t directly ‘sciencey’, it was valuable experience as I had to manage over 50 men shaving (don’t ask!), whilst following strict protocols similar to those used in labs. So if you end up in a job that isn’t scientific for a while, you may still develop skills that are transferable!
After cancelling my self-funded PhD (lots of tears), 2 years ago I made the best decision I’ve ever made. I moved to Bristol! I only had a few pals down here at the time, so it was a scary experience, but so far I’ve found that change is rarely bad.
I then worked for a year for an online research company (mostly PR for certain news outlets that I don’t like, so definitely still not science) whilst I found my feet in Bristol . I took advantage where I could; for example, I had to write blogs for the company, and I mostly wrote articles that were zoology related. I wrote one on bats, and one on how the public are losing touch with nature. The bat article somehow became popular on social media, and resulted in me writing an article for the Bat Conservation Trust, becoming an invited speaker at a conference, and getting mentioned in a book (getting published next year)! So although I didn’t enjoy this job, it did require stats, data analysis, and client handling too, so I did gain some valuable experience by sticking at it for a while.
Here we are, 2017. Still flailing, but I’m finally working in ‘proper’ science! For the last year, I’ve been working in the life sciences building at the University of Bristol. I’m a research technician within the veterinary parasitology and ecology group, and I’ve currently got my first research paper submitted for review (very excited!).
More about this in a future post, where I’ll outline what I do as a research technician (UPDATE: and once I start my PhD I’ll be writing all about that too!).