How do you see your career path? Is it a confusing maze with too many choices and conflicting directions? Or is it steep and rocky, with lots of opportunities to trip up? Maybe it?s wide and grassy and easy to navigate. Lucky you if it?s the latter, but the message we get from Next Wave readers who e-mail us or come to meet us at events around the country is that, when it comes to the whole process of job hunting and career changing, you?d like a helping hand.

Which is why today Next Wave UK is proud to introduce you to our very own CareerDoctor. Every second and fourth week of the month she?ll be here with an advice-packed column tailored to YOUR needs. How can we tell? Because YOU will be asking the questions!

Some of you might remember (if you subscribe to Next Wave e-mail alerts) that we floated the idea of a CareerDoctor some months back. We were overwhelmed by the number and range of your questions, which included

  • What if I don?t know what to do with my degree qualification?

  • How can I keep my options open after a PhD?

  • How can I use my PhD in careers outside the lab?

  • What opportunities are available for scientists who want to stay at the bench?

  • What opportunities are there overseas, and how do I return to the UK afterwards?

  • What are the main differences between a job in academia and one in industry?

  • Which jobs in science pay well?

  • Can you give me some guidance for covering letters and CVs?

So it is about time for me to introduce Sara Shinton, who will be wearing the CareerDoctor?s hat and whose job it will be to answer these questions and many others. She?s well qualified and has been there and done that in many ways during her career. Now an independent careers consultant, Sara knows only too well how it feels to be stuck in the career maze. After a degree in chemical and analytical science and a PhD in physical chemistry at Swansea University in Wales, ?living by the seaside suited me so much that I continued in research in Swansea, completing a postdoc before realising that after 8 years of chemistry I fancied a change,? she explains.

?With some help from the careers service,? she continues, ?I settled on the vague idea of a career in education or science, but not lecturing or research.? The Royal Society of Chemistry rescued her from this professional fog by offering her the opportunity to develop chemistry students? communication skills. Sara took to heart her role of helping young researchers in their careers and eventually became a careers adviser looking after science undergraduates, research students, and staff at Newcastle University. As an independent consultant she is dedicated to issues and projects relating to PhD students, contract researchers, and scientific careers.

So, you have at least two reasons to feel in safe hands with your new CareerDoctor. First, she is one of us, and second she?s been through it.

So this is your chance. What are the issues you want the CareerDoctor to address? Whether it calls for specific or more general advice, Sara would like to hear your concerns and requests. For a more tailored answer, let her know a bit about yourself and your background. That way she can truly lend YOU a helping hand.

E-mail the CareerDoctor today!

Elisabeth Pain is contributing editor for Europe.