Interesting new post on benchfly sure to start some discussion with coming posts on the glut of PhDs in academia, and the scarcity of jobs. Before all that comes, though, Alan says:
It’s very possible that only a small fraction of us actually start out with ambitions of a career in academics. If this is the case, then perhaps the scarcity of available academic jobs is not a troubling as it may seem. So dust off the cobwebs and try to remember the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed days of your early research experience in lab – what were you thinking in those days?
For me, it starts way back before the lab. I'd always loved science, but come from a tiny place where I never even realized people *were* academics as a "job." I didn't know any researchers or professors. I don't think my parents had any friends with these careers either--certainly none I've ever met, or that they have ever mentioned to me. However, my mother and grandmother were both teachers. Having younger siblings, I also was the family "teacher" throughout my childhood. I thought perhaps this would be my future as well. As
I fell more in love with science during high school, I was pushed toward medicine, as if there was no other alternative. Truthfully, I stumbled into research during college, since a year-long research project was required as part of my degree. When I found out that I thoroughly enjoyed research, I still hadn't quite made the jump to the possibility of research-as-career. That didn't really occur until my boss asked me what my plans were after graduation. By then, I was already mulling grad school, but still didn't quite understand what it really meant to be an academic.
Long story short, as an undergrad getting into research, I certainly wasn't thinking about how to get an academic job, or what a game of chance that may end up being. Even in grad school, I honestly hadn't thought much further than "I'll do a post-doc afterward" since I knew that was a necessity for an academic job in my field. I think it really wasn't until my first meeting with the professor who eventually became my post-doc advisor that I had any real clue about what I needed to do to end up with a tenure-track research job, and the realities of that happening (or, not happening).
The more I read blogs in this area, the more I cringe and realize just how naive and uninformed I was for way too long, and yet I managed to stumble into my current position nevertheless.