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What kinds of jobs can I do?

  1. Aug 15, 2011 #1
    Hi all,

    I'm basically finishing a PhD right now (viva at the end of the month) in solar physics and have been finding it very difficult to get a job. I'd prefer not to stay in academia, though have applied for several postdocs as a job would be better than none at all! There aren't many positions going in my field, so I've applied for postdocs in other fields where I've got some relevant experience, but most of the time, I just get rejected as my experience is not enough. I've also applied for jobs in software development, but again, I don't have a whole load of experience.

    My research work has been focused on analysing data to investigate oscillations. A lot of what I've been doing is generating power spectra for time series (using Fourier transforms and wavelets, for example). This is done with IDL, but I've got a working knowledge of R, too and have used MATLAB a little bit. I don't do any statistics, or heavy maths (so I don't know any kind of stochastic calculus, for example). I've got some programming experience in C++, but am not an expert by any means. I've also taught myself a little bit about finite differences (in that I read a bit of Numerical Recipes and wrote a simple code to solve the advection equation in 1D).

    A lot of data analysis jobs require more experience with statistics and programming jobs require more experience with software development than I really have. It doesn't seem like there are any jobs for someone like me, who'll need to learn things. I know bits and pieces of things, but I suppose there's not enough of one thing to make me useful to an employer :(. I have no aversion to learning, but it seems that employers want people who already know things. I don't know anything about finance either, so I'd be hard-pressed to get a job there.

    I'd like a job where I get to use the stuff I know and get to learn new things, like other ways of analysing data, languages, etc. Edit: I'm based in the UK, too.

  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 17, 2011 #2
    Some hedge funds need people without financial knowledge. And a lot of companies are looking for people doing data analysis, which you can try as well.
  4. Aug 18, 2011 #3
    Oh, I assume croque is just a troll, going by their other posts.

    Well, I've posted my CV on some finance recruitment websites and we'll see if I get any interest (though I doubt it).

    I'm not sure where these companies are that require people to do data analysis and again, another's definition of data analysis seems to be different to my own; it seems people tend to think of it as doing statistics.
  5. Aug 18, 2011 #4
    I wouldn't be too comfortable with putting my CV online. As pointed out by someone on here (twofish, I think), you just don't know who exactly will be looking at it and that's not good. By my books anyway.
  6. Aug 18, 2011 #5


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    I think it depends alot on what job you seek, and what time frames you are looking at beeing employed. I know that many jobs has a several years learning curve that has to do with maybe special products or applications (stuff that just aren't textbook material becase it's proprietary stuff), and in that perspective your personality, and your ability to learrn is bound to be important.

    My experience is that many employers look for long term suitable persons. If the job has a few year learning curve it's very bad for the company to have people work only 2-3 years and then swap because the learning curve cost the company money. Such companies look at the whole picture if they think you are "suitable". Then learning some new math seems like a minor problem.

    I've seen people that initially was quite fit for their job, but during the years fail to develop and grow in their job to the point that they become a problem for the employer. Some employers knows this and tries to assess the big picture.

  7. Aug 18, 2011 #6
    Why is that bad? I thought that was a standard thing to do. What else are you supposed to do?

    OK, fair enough, I suppose. However, knowing that doesn't really seem to help me figure out where I can go :/. Again, I'll be finishing my PhD at the end of the month, so really I'm looking for employment from October onwards (which will give me time to do corrections, if I pass, as well as having a break) and just want a job doing similar stuff, really (so programming + data analysis).

    I'll probably try applying to the UK's Civil Service Analytical Fast Stream, though I think they're starting recruitment now(ish) for next year :/.
  8. Aug 18, 2011 #7


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    That's true. Hard to tell what opportunities exists at your location. I guess you just need to scan.

    I just wanted to suggest that I don't think you should feel less confident just because a particular job needs some extra detail that isn't already in your education as long as you are willing to learn and worst case even try to catch up with whatever you need to, in evenings or so. I think you would expect from someone with a phD in physics (thus beeing able to solve problems and do research) that catching up with some subfield should not be any problems at all - as long as the attitude and personality is there.

    Maybe it's also hard to get it all in your first job if you have like 1-2 months to get it it.

    Good luck.

  9. Aug 19, 2011 #8
    I'm not even sure what I should be looking for any more. I've applied for a ton of postdocs, most of which aren't in my field (or anywhere close), because they ask for skills that I (believe I) have (or could learn quite quickly, I think). A lot of the time, I apply for jobs and I don't even get shortlisted, but I suppose I can keep applying for such things :/.

    I guess I'll have to try and do some learning of something after my viva, then. The problem, I guess, is that they often want you to have experience using some particular skill. So, it's not enough just to read and understand the theory :/.

    I started applying for jobs in about January, I think, so I've been applying a bit longer than a few months :smile:.

    Edit: From what I've heard, it seems common for plasma physicists to go and work for companies like AWE. However, I really don't want to be making weapons, so I'm excluding that possibility.
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2011
  10. Aug 19, 2011 #9


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    Very true. But everyone has this problem.

    I was once rejected from a job because they say "you are well educated (more so than your competitors)" but you lack experience and we have another guy that has working experience with this job, we don't want to take the chance of hiring someone unexperienced...
    - I then instead got had a temporary job for one semester teaching programming at corresponding high school level -
    ... 6 months later they called me back as the first guy proved to have a personality unable to organize his own work during during high workload/stress and it all came out a mess and ask then I can start, I said I first need to finish the teaching semester then I can start.

  11. Aug 19, 2011 #10
    Fair enough. I'll probably try to look at some tutoring after my viva and maybe also try to ask my supervisor if he has any ideas for more projects I can do, where I can learn and use new things (e.g. regression).
  12. Aug 20, 2011 #11
    I found one quant job where they preferred candidates to play a musical instrument :/. Is that what companies are having to resort to now, because they get so many applicants?
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