Recent Grad with Job market Questions

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Hello,
I recently graduated from my university with a B.S in Astrophysics, and a minor in Mathematics. Through my undergrad I have done undergraduate research on pulsars, and even developed and coded an app to help catalog and database pulsar candidates, with the help of graduate students and a few professors around the country. I exited my university with a 3.1 GPA, not fantastic, but with the difficulty of astrophysics I'm not ashamed of it.

Having been extensively broke, not at all helped by the current situation, I decided to push off graduate school for a few years to get an entry into the job market to finally have a positive cash flow. I have applied far and wide across the job spectrum, with no regard to location because I would be happy to relocate. I have never heard back from ANY job listing with regard to my field or my education. I have fallen as far to apply to be an online tutor for Chegg, and as it stands at the moment, they are the only company to ever reply to me.

My brother, a PhD in biomedical engineering and gainfully employed, has looked over my resume and assured me that it looks fine. I haven't taken the passive approach of simply applying online and waiting. I have personally emailed hiring personnel, written cover letters for each job opportunity I find interesting, and made sure to continue my growth by taking advanced coding courses in my downtime.

My question boils down to this: As someone without 8+ years in the field, or without a PhD, how on earth do you get started in the Physics/Astrophysics or even the science industry as a whole?

Thank you
 

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  • #2
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It seems that you chose a field of study for which there is a very limited market at the BS level. That leaves you two options:
1) Find the finances to go on to graduate school to get to a markeable level (probably nothing less than a PhD)
2) Look for work outside your chosen field.
This is simply the reality. Did you not think about this as an undergraduate?
 
  • #3
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The job market is pretty bumpy, even for those with experience and skill sets in demand. My opinion is that you're going to have a brutal time getting your foot in the door almost anywhere.

It's possible in the US to get your masters or PhD paid for, and even get a small stipend to spend each month. If I was in your shoes, I'd consider it.
 
  • #4
StatGuy2000
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The job market is pretty bumpy, even for those with experience and skill sets in demand. My opinion is that you're going to have a brutal time getting your foot in the door almost anywhere.

It's possible in the US to get your masters or PhD paid for, and even get a small stipend to spend each month. If I was in your shoes, I'd consider it.
To both you and @Dr.D ,

Both of you are advising the OP to consider applying to graduate school, but the important point both of you miss is that the OP only earned a 3.1 GPA, which is not at all competitive for graduate schools in the school. The OP really should have had a GPA of 3.5 at a minimum, with an even higher GPA in senior level courses in their subject matter (most graduate students who successfully enter grad school paid for would have even higher GPAs). The undergraduate research projects help, but that may not be enough to overcome the lower GPA, unless they have a truly outstanding GRE or PGRE scores (assuming that the OP has an interest in graduate school in physics or astrophysics).

To the OP:

Unfortunately, you are applying into one of the worst periods in the job market in the US (with the US in effect in an economic depression, with very high unemployment), which means that entry-level positions are difficult to come by and highly competitive. The upshot is that any position you apply for will take a long while to come through.

I have a few questions for you:

1. Besides your undergraduate research projects that you've mentioned, what other types of job experiences do you have? Have you ever completed any internships in the private sector? Since you didn't mention anything in your thread, I'm assuming the answer is no.

2. You mentioned coding the app to help catalog pulsar candidates. Have you archived or saved the code in GitHub, or some other repository, to show to potential employers? What other programming skills do you have?

3. Related to question #2, do you have any experience in or course background in statistics, given that you mentioned you have a minor in Mathematics? If so, have you participated in any data science competitions like Kaggle?

4. How far are you in your application to the online tutorial site Chegg?
 
  • #5
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Both of you are advising the OP to consider applying to graduate school, but the important point both of you miss is that the OP only earned a 3.1 GPA, which is not at all competitive for graduate schools in the school.
@StatGuy2000 I'm not really advising him to go to graduate school. I was only presenting the only possible options I see open to him. While I agree that most schools will want a higher GPA, that is not always the case; there are exceptions.

Actually, I think the OP is in an awkward position. He chose an under graduate major for which there is little market at the BS level, but did not prepare himself well for graduate school. I do not envy him his position, but that's the way it goes.
 
  • #6
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Both of you are advising the OP to consider applying to graduate school, but the important point both of you miss is that the OP only earned a 3.1 GPA, which is not at all competitive for graduate schools in the school.
I didn't miss that. I do agree it won't be easy.
 
  • #7
Zap
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One of my physics professors once told me, "Anyone can get a job at Los Alamos. You just have to know the right people." I've no idea if that's true or not, but I was told that by a professor who used to work there.
 
  • #8
CrysPhys
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One of my physics professors once told me, "Anyone can get a job at Los Alamos. You just have to know the right people." I've no idea if that's true or not, but I was told that by a professor who used to work there.
If anyone can, then you (Zap) can. So instead of sending out 50 -- 100 job applications a day (as you stated in another thread), why didn't you just send one to Los Alamos, and be done with it? Your professor should have been able to point you to the right people if he's so "in the know".
 
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  • #9
StatGuy2000
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If anyone can, then you (Zap) can. So instead of sending out 50 -- 100 job applications a day (as you stated in another thread), why didn't you just send one to Los Alamos, and be done with it? Your professor should have been able to point you to the right people if he's so "in the know".
@CrysPhys , you are assuming the following about @Zap :

1. That he was interested in applying to Los Alamos to begin with.

2. That he put much stock in what his professor said about Los Alamos.
 
  • #10
CrysPhys
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@CrysPhys , you are assuming the following about @Zap :

1. That he was interested in applying to Los Alamos to begin with.

2. That he put much stock in what his professor said about Los Alamos.
1. The usual dilemma faced by newbies is, "Most job posts ask for experience. So how do I get experience, if no one wants to hire someone without experience?" If you are in dire enough straits to be blasting out 50 - 100 job applications a day, it would make sense to start out at Los Alamos just to get experience, even if it's not your target place to be. [If indeed anyone can get a job there.]

2. If Zap doesn't put much stock in what his professor said, then why is he passing it along as a helpful tip to the OP of this thread, also someone in dire straits with respect to gaining employment?
 
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  • #11
Zap
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I believe what the professor said, but he used to work there like over a decade ago. I also don't think it's as easy as walking up to someone you just met or barely know who works at Los Alamos and asking them if they can help you find a job. I had already done that. I think you really have to know the person working there, not just know of them, and they probably have to be in a certain level position.

For example, one of my peer's dad works at Los Alamos, and he was immediately hired after graduation. It's rumored that that place practices nepotism. The professor I mentioned is kind of a nut job, but I do tend to believe the rumor.

Additionally, since you're probing me for more information. I had already at that time, for the most part, given up on a career in science and had started my pursuit of an IT job. I got hired, and it would have worked out well for me, if my new job hadn't been impacted so much by COVID-19.

It just happened by chance that the job offer I got a few weeks ago is actually in science. I lucked out. I actually prefer this new career path that I'm on over the one I was on pre-COVID. And the kind of crazy thing is that my experience in IT working in hospitality actually helped me get the science related job, since it involves data science stuff, which most people with a chemistry degree don't have any knowledge of outside of calibration curves in MS Excel. So, what can I say? It's the luck of the draw, for me, coupled with some last minute planning. I don't have any close relationships who hold any high level job to help me, but they would be nice to have.

I would encourage OP to broaden their search. I was told that it would be impossible to find a job in science once I start a career in IT, but that's exactly what I just did. I wouldn't force myself to go to grad school when I don't want to. I did that, and I had a terrible experience. It probably did help me find a job afterward, but I wish I had studied something different and above all else it was an awful experience. I definitely would have gotten more out of it if I had actually wanted to be there.

I was able to get a job during the pandemic more easily than I did a few years ago. So, it's not all doom and gloom with the economy. This is just my experience, of course. Take it with a grain of salt, whatever that means. This is my subjective experience only. With restrictions on immigration and H1Bs, I suspect IT to be hiring.
 
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  • #12
Joshy
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Just an idea to toss into the hat.

Can you sign up for a community college? You might be able to apply for internships that are geared towards or exclusive to community college students. An example I can think of quickly is SULI is very well-known; it's community college counterpart is CCI. I was in SULI, but the students I met who come from CCI worked on very interesting projects too. That might help with building a network and gaining some experience.

There are lots of rules about how to calculate your GPA so of course you'll have to check with whatever you're applying to. Some places want classes from every institution you've attended. If and when that is the case: It might be a chance to pad your GPA a little bit too.
 
  • #13
#OP
I am having the same problem as OP getting that entry level job is tough dont feel to bad I meet at my school people with bs in computer engineering who struggle to put food on the table.
 
  • #14
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An example I can think of quickly is SULI is very well-known; it's community college counterpart is CCI. I was in SULI, but the students I met who come from CCI worked on very interesting projects too.
SULI??
CCI??
I doubt that these initials mean much to most folks. This is communication failure.
 
  • #15
Joshy
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The link in my post didn't work?
 
  • #16
gleem
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I have personally emailed hiring personnel, written cover letters for each job opportunity I find interesting, and made sure to continue my growth by taking advanced coding courses in my downtime.
Keep in mind that many companies have resume filtering software that will toss out applications that do not fit certain criteria or not have keywords in them. You have to be specific about the particular job to which you are applying. You cannot just say here I am with this education or these skills will you hire me.

Sending emails to hiring personnel may not be very productive. Custom cover letters are a must. Do you include in these letters anything about the company and their products/services that you find interesting, something that will pique the interest of the reader, how you see yourself contributing to their goals or how your personal goals can help them? In short, are you effectively selling yourself?

On another note, this is a difficult time for businesses with the pandemic and all. They are probably evaluating their business practices and may have put hiring on hold.
 
  • #17
Joshy
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What do other people think about cover letters? I personally never write them. Could that be something that is kind of outdated or field dependent?
 
  • #18
gleem
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All that I have read in the last couple of years with regards to applications strongly recommend that you research your intended employers' company and strongly state how you will contribute to their goals and objectives, how you will fit into their culture and help them achieve those goals and how that company will benefit you and your goals.
 
  • #19
Choppy
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What do other people think about cover letters? I personally never write them. Could that be something that is kind of outdated or field dependent?
When I've been on hiring committees, we expect them. And when a candidate doesn't provide one, we're left to wonder how serious they really are about the position. Do they really want to work with us or were they just firing their CV blindly at a posted position?

A well-written cover letter helps us identify unique aspects about the candidate, helps us gauge what they understand about the position, their motivations, and clarifies information that may not be easy to understand in CV format.
 
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  • #20
Zap
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I usually include a cover letter when applicable, but I keep it short and I don't spend a lot of time on it. Just think of how you would answer the question "tell me a little about yourself" during the interview.
 
  • #21
gleem
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Cover letters are always applicable. It is recommended you be succinct and to the point. When telling about yourself you need to note your strengths, special skills and accomplishments applicable to the position. The cover letter is an advertisement for your suitability for that position. It is your first opportunity to set yourself apart from the rest of the field and get a foot in the door.
 
  • #22
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You're going to get radically different opinions on cover letters. My opinion is that they aren't necessary in general, but can sometimes help. In particular, smaller business or institutions may look for them, and a few larger places (e.g. hospitals) seem to often have a culture that demands them. Lots of large companies don't consider them useful.

I'm a hiring manager for a medium size department at a very large company.When folks apply through the webpage, cover letters don't even reach me, partly because no one in the department is interested in reading them. When random folks target me through LinkedIn or email, something equivalent to a cover letter is necessary to help me understand why they're contacting me. If I think they're a neat candidate, I send them to the web page, at which point the cover letter is lost in space.

Despite being employed, I'm in a casual job search now. I never send cover letters, and the search has been going reasonably well (meaning I've gotten offers, but I'm being very picky). Would it be going even better if I did include a cover letter? Maybe, but I really couldn't tell you what someone would read in my cover letter that they couldn't immediately glean from my resume. Until I figure out what the point of having one is, I don't think my letter would be particularly good anyways.
 
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  • #23
gleem
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@Locrian, you may be correct that not all companies put much emphasis on cover letters or look at them but I have seen so many recommendations to put effort in writing a cover letter that I must assume that most employers do look at them and make decisions based on them.

When you go out to buy an automobile do you only look at the spec sheet (like the resume) or do you look at the sales brochure (like the cover letter) to determine what you will consider.

When random folks target me through LinkedIn or email, something equivalent to a cover letter is necessary to help me understand why they're contacting me. If I think they're a neat candidate,
So you see value in cover letters. If that person sent this through the website you might not have gotten his resume. Does your company use screening software to filter the applicant? Do you know the criteria?
 
  • #24
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So you see value in cover letters. If that person sent this through the website you might not have gotten his resume.
Yep - the important context there being that they didn't respond to a job ad, they just sent a random email/message, so i need info on what they want. When someone responds to an job posting, I don't need a letter explaining they want a job in my dept. Because, you know, they responded to a job posting. Note too that when people contact me cold, there is nothing I can do for them until they apply at the website.

Does your company use screening software to filter the applicant? Do you know the criteria?
Very light screening on the website; some more screening from HR. Absolutely I know the criteria.
 
  • #25
Joshy
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I'm not trying to discourage cover letters myself. Without a doubt as Locrian is pointing out: I think context matters and I agree there are probably a lot of opinions with no absolutely "right" answer.

My personal experience sounds more similar to Locrian as someone in a big company (I've worked for three of them full-time and two of them are considered Bahemoths of their field) although I'm an entry-level electrical engineer with only a bachelors. I was applying to a lot of internship positions and diligently writing a cover letters that was catered to the role or project. I noticed that a lot of the phone calls I got back it sounded like they did not read the cover letter because they were asking me questions I already answered in the letter.

It occurred to me, that I like when they call. So I experimented a bit. I don't know what happens behind the scenes or the details of it, but I did notice that I was personally receiving more calls when I did not include the letter. Cover letters just like the analogy they felt like brochures did all the talking... I wouldn't expect any company to stop using a tool that is low-cost and easy to distribute like brochures, but I really wanted them to talk to the sales person (me) so that I could seal the deal and possibly accessorize them ;) I'm sure there a lot of people who don't want to talk to a sales person and would like just use the brochure alone before looking at the specs or maybe the sales person isn't any good at the talking parts, but personally that company would not be a good fit for me anyways.

edit: Grammar/typos
 
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