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hipstermermaid

Giving up (marine biology/oceanography)

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warning: probable rant ahead.

I'm frustrated, I really am. Marine science is my life, it is my passion and I fully intended to dedicate my entire life to it. However, my passion is currently flipping me off.

A bit of background, I have a BA in Biology, MS in Oceanography from TAMU, excellent formal and informal teaching experience, and 5 (count them) internships in research, conservation, and education. I spent a good portion of last year forging relationships so I could apply for multiple PhD programs, was told that with my experience and MS I was an ideal student. Rejected by all. Decided to forgo getting a PhD at the moment because I was looking for a longer term involvement in something (and I'd have to wait another year in order to apply for and start a PhD) and have applied to everything in marine research, education, and policy all over the country and even internationally. When I ask those in similar fields what a person can do to prepare themselves for the types of jobs I am applying for, they say "graduate education (check) and internships (check)." For the benefit of the doubt, lets say that my 5 internships plus entirely self funded and designed Master's was not enough, how the HELL am I supposed to continue to do UNPAID internships for much longer?

I'm at my wits end with everything. Every path I turn to is rejecting me. I consider myself a humble person but I will brag about my accomplishments just to get my point across that this process is killing my passion and my soul. I wish I was being dramatic. Don't get me wrong, I KNOW and fully accept that I have entered into a, what some would call, non-traditional career path and a difficult one at that. I have been told objectively from potential PhD advisors, hiring managers, collaborators that in many ways, I am an ideal applicant... so what am I doing wrong.

Does anyone have ANY advice on getting through this on any level. i.e. how to deal with this emotionally, how to actually find a damn job, how to get a damn PhD. I'm willing to do anything at this point. 

/rant 

Apologies if this is not the correct type of post for this subject area. I just hope to connect to other people who have been through or are going through these same issues. Unfortunately, most of my friends are either successful or still in school.

Edited by hipstermermaid
grammar

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I have been told they are.  During the PhD app process, I was told my LOR were fantastic along with my SOPs. My MS advisor is a moron who should have retired 10 years ago. He's not exactly eloquent but I've seen his letters and they are all positive if not entirely specific. As far as job apps go, I'm not even sure if my references have ever been contacted.

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14 hours ago, hipstermermaid said:

. As far as job apps go, I'm not even sure if my references have ever been contacted.

Many times references aren't checked until just before a decision to hire is made. If they never contacted your references it usually means that you did not make the final cut for some reason.

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Maybe it is a bit cynical but I do think that unpaid internship is just a way for employer to get free human resources. So, it rarely helps when it comes to Ph.D. application. You need to understand that the Ph.D. you are applying to is a research degree, not an applied professional degree. So, admission committees will generally look at your academic record, personal statement(how well you can articulate your proposed research project), and other things relevant to your proposed research project. If you are applying to a lab, you need to first find a PI that suits your research interests. You said you are dedicated to Marine science. Great, you are passionate about it. But more importantly, in what specific sub fields of marine science do you do more research on? You need to be more specific about what you want to do if you are admitted. That way, it is better for you, and for those who admit you. You don't want to get admitted and, after you start your program, find that the program does not fit your academic interests, and struggle for the next several years.

Edited by historicallinguist

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While I agree that unpaid internships are an abuse of free labor, I disagree that the intern cannot get anything out of it. For every job, MS, and PhD application, there were required skills or experience needed that I could not have gained were it no for my internships. I was hoping my extra skills gained as part of these internships would set me apart.

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On September 8, 2016 at 4:52 PM, hipstermermaid said:

I have been told objectively that in many ways, I am an ideal applicant...

I heard those same words from a PI I did research. I thought that was kind of her to say but know that the application process is not always what can be expected. I put forth what I thought was a very good application and can only hope that the admission committees at the schools I applied to want me to be a part of their programs.

I have applied to 4 out of 7 schools and will send out the other 3 applications within the next few days. I admit that I do worry and hope that I can get into at least two of these schools. I say two because I want to be able to have options. But if I only get one, I will be very happy.

On September 8, 2016 at 4:52 PM, hipstermermaid said:

I'm at my wits end with everything. Every path I turn to is rejecting me.

Since you have been told that your SOPs and LOR are good, I also think, as mentioned above, that you should consider finding specific research topics in Marine Science that interests you, find PIs who are currently doing research in those areas, and then rewrite your SOPs to include your specific interests.

You did not mention your GPA or GRE scores but could they pose problems for your applications?

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What was your undergraduate GPA? GRE scores?

Did you apply to programs that were a good match for your research interests? Did you talk to any PIs at your PhD application schools before applying

How many programs did you apply to?

In many fields, it is not uncommon for students to get "shut out" (aka rejected from all the programs they apply to) for an application cycle before trying again. Sometimes they don't apply to enough programs, or the right programs, or their statement of purpose and/or research interests are not as clearly defined as they could be. Sometimes they simply get unlucky.

Sometimes you aren't doing anything wrong at all and the career field you're in is simply very competitive. For example, in academia, a potential candidate can be pretty competitive and still not find the job she wants because the year was just bad for people in her field, there weren't enough openings in her area of interest, all of the places were in undesirable locations, funding was low...

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On 9/8/2016 at 5:30 PM, hipstermermaid said:

My MS advisor is a moron who should have retired 10 years ago.

This is a stupid thing to post on an internet forum. You are not as anonymous as you think you are.

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On 9/8/2016 at 3:52 PM, hipstermermaid said:

warning: probable rant ahead.

I'm frustrated, I really am. Marine science is my life, it is my passion and I fully intended to dedicate my entire life to it. However, my passion is currently flipping me off.

...

/rant 

Apologies if this is not the correct type of post for this subject area. I just hope to connect to other people who have been through or are going through these same issues. Unfortunately, most of my friends are either successful or still in school.

I feel you! I'm in a different field, but am finding my pedigree and excellent work experiences are somehow not enough (even though enthusiastic responses from professors last fall led me to believe otherwise.) I don't know what else I'm supposed to do. The whole process feels so tortuous. 

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Have you tried contacting the schools you applied to for feedback on how to improve your application? If you can get even one school to give you that information it can be really helpful so that you will know what to work on for next year.

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Undergrad in Marine Science with a concentration in Oceanography here, looking to get my MS and possibly PhD. What's an SOP and LOR?

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10 hours ago, Lilly Whelan said:

Undergrad in Marine Science with a concentration in Oceanography here, looking to get my MS and possibly PhD. What's an SOP and LOR?

Statement of Purpose and Letter(s) of Recommendation. 

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I'm in a different area of study and have felt many of these things before, it's very frustrating but also I like to keep optimistic

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Did you give up in the end? I have been working as a fish sellar since graduating, I'm starting my masters next ac-year, hoping to get a job in the end in the same field. Marine science and education brought me so much joy, I would love to pass this on and work in the field. But I have discovered the past year that it's simple impossible to get a decent job out of it, unless you're very lucky. My age is also playing along I think, because I started my BSc in the early twenties, I am competing with those who have been working in their twenties and have already working expierience. It does suck sometimes to keep getting rejections, while they say that my resume looks very impressive, but that they had better applicants with a Masters degree and working experience. 

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