Skip To Content

Taking the dive into the unknown after we’re PhDone!

José Agustín Moreno-Larios, OSA Student Member, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

Now that I’m nearing the end of my Ph.D. program, one question is always on my mind: what will I do after I’m PhDone? One option and probably the clearest path for Ph.D. students is to look for a postdoctoral (postdoc) position, conform by doing really short-term jobs and hope to get a professorship.

Easier said than done, especially if you are doing research in a country like Mexico where there are limited opportunities and is in the midst of an economic recession due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fortunately, I, along with other students, are lucky enough to stay at home and continue working on our research despite the grim situation. It is true that everyone is struggling: the isolation, the news, mental and physical health, family and working from home has become the “new normal”. Nevertheless, we can harness this time and tear down the borders to continuously engage with our colleagues and our Society.

The Optical Society (OSA) has partnered with Cheeky Scientist by providing really engaging webinars! The kind of talks reserved for the big conferences! Who needs travel now!?

Isaiah Hankel, founder and CEO of Cheeky Scientist presented Preparing for the Virtual Market & What a Recession Means for Technical Careers and provided recent data on unemployment and shared his experience during the 2007-2009 market crash, where he dealt with severe funding cuts to academia. During this time, many people were unable to teach or gain postdoc positions. Hankel’s presentation used lessons learned during the market crash to better help Ph.D. students facing similar uncertainty now. Hankel taught us how to prepare for the new normal where the job market is shifting; companies are way more risk-adverse and will pick the best, safest applicant they can find; and that remote interviews will be more common than we thought.

Typically, applicants like to be able to talk to companies face-to-face and network during the conferences to share knowledge and expand our circle. The digital platforms tend to make this process a bit difficult and Hankel is well aware of that. People say that first impressions do matter and during the webinar I learned a few things that can help make a lasting impression such as having a copy of your resume available when you are interviewed by phone, dressing professionally and looking straight into the camera so people can see you over video interviews to help establish a great first impression.

I also learned to prepare the room where the interview will be conducted and that practice makes perfect: we need to test the sound of our microphones, the picture quality of our webcams, the room illumination and what appears in the background. We are talking to several people at the same time, people that hopefully will be our coworkers.

These and many other tips are great for us technical people because we just focus on our work and nothing else. We want to be well-rounded, trustworthy people and  learn how to be the best candidate during the job hunt.

I applaud OSA for providing a virtual platform for informative content such as Hankel’s Cheeky Scientist webinar.  This content helps ensure that OSA members can thrive in the new normal by having access to the tools, skills and experience from worldwide experts and, more importantly, it helps us stay connected with our peers. If you haven’t checked the OSA virtual content, stop reading this post and check it out already!

You can view full offerings, here -

Image for keeping the session alive