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Physics Will taking a unrelated job help or hurt your resume?

  1. Sep 28, 2016 #1
    This summer I was able to get a job working in the Physics department experimenting with soft robotics and I really enjoyed it. I'm fairly certain I want to major in Computational and Applied Math, but I still might try to get the minor in Physics. My primary career interest is something related to robotics and I think I might up with a PhD in Computer Science or Engineering to get into such a career. The job this summer went very well and I was offered a position during the academic year but wasn't able to tell me what kind of project I would be working on until today until today. The funding he has available is for a project on aleatory architecture which is more physics/materials science based and, at least to my knowledge, not exactly a potential career prospect for me. This job would obviously be a big time commitment so I was wondering if it would be in my best interest to take the fellowship or to politely pass on it as I am unclear as to whether it would further my career or significantly add value to my CV.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 28, 2016 #2


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    I think it is better to be working in a scientific field, even if it is unrelated to your eventual career goals, than to do nothing or work in a non-science related job. Do you have a realistic prospect of finding another job more related to you eventual career goals? If not, I would take the one you've been offered.
  4. Sep 28, 2016 #3


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    I agree with Phyzguy.

    As an undergrad the point is that you're doing something productive and learning while you're doing it. Most people don't even have that opportunity. Many have to get by delivering pizza.

    If you think you would enjoy the work and you think you would learn something while doing it, then it sounds like a great opportunity to me.
  5. Sep 28, 2016 #4


    Staff: Mentor

    I agree with @phyzguy. The job sounds good.
  6. Oct 1, 2016 #5
    I spent a couple summers as an undergrad flipping burgers and working in restaurants. Sure, any research job would have been better, but I did not have those options. In the long run, it did not hurt my career or grad school applications.

    My advice these days would be to stay active in some sort of research project or skill building on the side even of working a non-physics or non-lab job. If nothing else, build your programming skills in some area of numerical analysis or data analysis.
  7. Oct 1, 2016 #6
    Probably neither.

    If you have the option, better to look for an unpaid activity that is somehow resume-worthy or can be used during an interview when they ask about your activities alongside your education.
  8. Oct 3, 2016 #7
    Wait, I see now it is a job in science. So how is it unrelated? I thought it was something like flipping burgers or returning rental cars or something.

    And you are asking if it will hurt you to take this job? Maybe you won't have the motivation and energy, as it seems like quite a commitment .But besides that, why would this look bad on your CV?
  9. Oct 3, 2016 #8
    I've never felt it was necessary to list every job held while I was a student on a resume or CV. Once I graduated from college, I never listed burger flipping, dishwashing, and bussing tables. I also often left off my freshman year work-study job which was working at the LSU Agriculture facility (crawfish farm). Technically, this was a lab job, but it was in a lab with crawfish, so I tended to leave it off.

    Fast forward 20 years, and I developed a growing interest in fisheries and fisheries science even after earning a PhD in physics. I've now published a number of papers in fisheries. I wonder how many seeds were planted in my heart and mind in that freshman lab job. At the time I was just chomping at the bit to get out of there and into a physics lab, so I was off like a rocket when my Modern Physics professor asked me to work in his lab after the first exam sophomore year.

    Did the crawfish farm job help me into graduate school or help me get my first few jobs afterwards? Probably not. Did it give me an expanded basis for thinking and interest in fisheries and food webs? Definitely. Do I list it on my CV now? Yes.
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