A couple of weeks ago, I received one of the greatest shocks of my life. After 6 years of battling the Great Oxymoron--the academic job market--and 2 more years trying everything I could to persuade editors around the country that I could write about science, I received the phone call I never thought would come. The editor of a magazine called me and asked me if I would like a job as an editor. Unsolicited!
Well, maybe not entirely unsolicited. I had written several articles for "his" magazine and I had "mentioned" to other editors at the magazine that I would consider moving (yet again) to take a permanent job. So it isn't totally surprising that he thought of me when an opening came up. But, boy, did it feel GREAT!!!
And the job looked for all the world like the perfect fit that I had read about in books and dreamed of finding for myself. There was only one hitch. When I sat down and really thought about it, I wasn't ready to move again. If you have been following the Spy's adventures, you know that I have moved three times in slightly more than a year, counting the move out of my in-laws' house. I just couldn't bear another one so soon.
So I said no to my dream job. And for a week after that I was cranky and depressed. Sure, it was the right decision, but I still loathed having to make it. I was soooo close!
Then I got another call. The same editor wanted to know if I would be willing to do the same job as a consultant and telecommute from home. A few days of discussions about responsibilities and salaries later, I became the new consulting guest editor for foreign correspondents at (... a suspense-building drum roll please...) Science's Next Wave.
And this latest twist in my story brings us to the end of the Spy column.
Why? Two reasons. First, the point of this column was to chronicle one person's journey from confused student through the process of career change and, hopefully, on into a new career. Well, I am pretty much through that particular crisis in my life. I have found my new career.
The second reason is that it just doesn't make much sense to write an "anonymous" Next Wave column about working for Next Wave.
So it's time to say goodbye to the Spy. But before I close down the shop, let me introduce myself.
My name is Mark Sincell. I received a Ph.D. in astrophysics from the Johns Hopkins University and did postdocs at the University of Illinois and l'Observatoire de Meudon. Everything (virtually) that I described in my columns really happened. I really did leave academic scientific research in astrophysics behind and I really did find an incredibly satisfying new career as a science writer. If you don't believe me, search the Astronomy Abstracts Data Service for links to genuine refereed scientific articles by yours truly. Then if you keep your eye on Science magazine (and all its electronic outlets), you will occasionally see my name in the byline.
I'm telling you all of this to make a simple point. No matter how trapped you may feel in academic research, no matter how many times you hear that the job market sucks, no matter how many advisors tell you that the best thing in life is to be like them; there is always a way out. All you have to do is find it.
So get out there and give it a try! It could be the most fun you ever had.
Mark Sincell is a contributing editor of foreign correspondents for Science's Next Wave.