Signs from the Universe

Some background first. I am a PhD scientist and have been out of work for almost two years. People often think that with a PhD I should never be out of work and make a good living, well unfortunately many PhDs are underemployed, unemployed, have left the lab or left science all together. The reasons for this are many and I will leave it for another time. Suffice to say, right now I need to make some money and at the same time figure out my next career move.

Lately, I really think the universe is trying to tell me something, but what that something is I am not sure yet. But I do know the universe is having a good laugh at my expense.

Universe Joke One: I applied for a part time job with an online tutoring site, they were looking for someone local to help at their new office, they are expanding. The job consisted of writing and formatting math problems on Word. I looked them up and they seemed legitimate and reviews looked good. Mainly, I would be working at home, it was part time for 6 months, with opportunity to go to full time after that. So I “interviewed” online, which was basically doing some formatting of math questions for an exam. I complete the “interview” and am offered the job as long as I can clean up some details, which I do. Yea! I will finally have some money coming in! Then I don’t hear anything for 24 hours, so I write another email, asking if my work was satisfactory and are we still meeting on Friday. Nothing for 24 hours, I send one more email asking again about my work and meeting. I never heard from them again. Ha, ha, funny universe joke!

Universe Joke Two: So one of my dear friends works at the local university as an academic adviser, he is very good at his job and well respected, he has a Bachelor’s degree. He has been given the opportunity to teach two freshman classes this year about how to succeed in college. Yes, that is great for him, I’m proud of his work. But really!? Ninety-nine percent of the faculty at universities are PhDs. Here I worked my butt off to earn my PhD, am very well qualified, have applied for teaching jobs and nothing. Yep, the universe in laughing now.

I don’t mind too much if I am not offered the job, just let me know my work sucks or am not a good fit, don’t leave me hanging. As for teaching, well that is par for the course, my PhD is in microbiology, not student life, ok, I get it, kind of. Like I said, I am not the only PhD looking for work, I know plenty of poor souls like myself, websites abound for us unemployed types. So I’m not complaining (too much), I’m just wondering why the universe finds me so gullible. So I figure the universe is pushing me to really go out of my comfort zone, I do a few things well and I think I have definite possibilities. But I also have lots of questions, I don’t even really know where to start, but I’m thinking entrepreneurship.

So I read several articles on Medium about startups and recently about the problems at Zirtual. One article I read stated that over 90% of startups will fail, we just never hear about them, we only hear about the successes or relative successes. I plummet to the ground from the high of thinking I can start my own business. Everyone is afraid of failure, that is part of being human. And I guess it is how much that fear holds you back or pushes you on that will determine success or failure. Most people with science PhDs have failure under control, we fail all the time in lab, with our wrong hypothesis or failed experiments. We will often do the same experiment or assay hundreds of time, changing only one little thing, before we get it right. So we are used to failure, it pushes us on. But starting a business is different, a whole new way to fail. Now I have to come up with brilliant business ideas, ask people to give me their money for my product or service, make cold calls, convince them they really need my business. In the lab I only had to convince my professor to let me try something new. Yes, I networked, like a good grad student should, but it was with other grad students, professors, or scientists. It is not the same as in the business world, or at least I’m thinking it’s not the same. Please feel free to correct me on that assumption.

So I think the universe does want me to go out on my own, forget about working for others. Sometimes we PhDs are considered bossy and know-it-alls, heck, that is what we are trained for, then we are told, nope don’t like those traits. But we are also trained to work independently, to solve complex problems, to analyze data, to think of things no one has yet. We come up with a question, we decide how to answer the question, then do the work. If we fail, we are happy to start again. From what I do know about business, these are traits a good business owner needs. So then maybe I am at least a quarter of the way to starting a business.

Maybe the universe is showing me some tough love, so I can get off my ass, take the plunge and start already. It is a funny story, kind of, I just want to be in on the Universe’s Joke, I want to laugh along too.