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Career Planning: Why Your Family Matters

By: , Posted on: August 4, 2015

Given the right conditions that you create, your partner and your immediate family and friends can positively impact your professional development during the various stages of your career path: your time as a student, as a junior faculty member or as an employee in industry. Although it is your ultimate decision, they should be consulted as you put your dynamic career plan in place, especially when you are considering significant changes. Considering how to plan with your family is as crucial as planning your research training and job searching. Your career-planning road is long and the understanding and the financial and emotional support of your family is important to your success.

How do you create the conditions for a supportive family? Clearly explain your career path, financial expectations and anticipated lifestyle to your partner and family. Show them your love of life sciences. If you share your sense of joy and wonder at being part of the chain of scientific discovery then they will be more likely to applaud your endeavors. Make the time to take your family and children to the science center on the weekend to experience the wonders of science. If you are proud of your choices and communicate the reasons for these effectively to those who love you, they will be much more likely to support you through thick and thin.

planning a career in biomedical sciencesMake sure you consider and tend to the needs of your partner and children. Your partner may have his/her own career training path which involves educational and job opportunities and these have to fit well with your own plans. While you train, your family needs to live in a community that serves their needs. Your children need appropriate daycare and schools. Your partner may need appropriate employment. By including these factors in your career plan, you will have a satisfying training period for all.

I [M.G] was fortunate. It was no accident that my research scientist father [A.G.] provided me with real pictures of pancreases ravaged by diabetes for my grade five speech, and it was no accident that he helped me prepare my winning science fair presentations in junior high. He wanted to share his love of science with me and teach me what science was really about from the inside out. Although his calendar was very full, he wanted to share himself with me and my sister. By doing so, he ensured my support of him and at the same time enriched my life.

Those of you who read this blog post as the child of a scientist-in-training or a junior faculty already know that you and your siblings may sometimes come in second to a bunch of cells in a Petri dish that need to be fed; however, there is a flipside to the coin. One of my clearest childhood memories is the intramural Pathology Department softball games in the summer. My father, already a young scientist with a lab of his own, played ball with his students and colleagues. The camaraderie was infectious and it was clear to me that a science lab was a good place to be, the kind of place I wanted to be in when I grew up. Try to create these memories for your loved ones.

Beach barbecues in San Diego with the families of other trainees, departmental hay rides at a senior colleague’s farm just outside Toronto, and departmental summer picnics at Toronto’s Centre Island, all made me feel lucky to be part of the science community and I saw the merit of sacrificing time with my father so that he could succeed in his career. (The presents my father brought home from conferences did not hurt either.) Ultimately, I did not opt for a career in science [M.G.], not because my father was a scientist [A.G.] but because I was not.

To sum up, you will gain meaningful support from your partner and family by actively including them in your career plan. Be clear in communicating your goals and desires. Let them suggest how they themselves best fit into your plans and where compromise may be necessary. Share your love of science with those who love you and create positive memories for them to cherish. Remember that they have interests that require your support of them and that “compromise” has to be a frequent consideration in planning a future together with your family.

Read more on career planning from Avrum and Meshulam on SciTech Connect

About the Authors

Avrum GotliebAvrum I. Gotlieb, MD is Senior Academic Advisor to the Dean; and Professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology at the University of Toronto in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

His book, Planning a Career in Biomedical and Life Sciences: Making Informed Choices is available for purchase on the Elsevier Store. Use discount code “STC215″ at checkout and save up to 30% on your very own copy!

Meshulam Gotlieb, MA is an Academic Translator and English-Language Editor based in Beit Shemesh, Israel.

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