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Melanie Sinche

Melanie Sinche

Melanie Sinche currently serves as Director of the FAS Office of Postdoctoral Affairs in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University. In this role, she serves over 1,000 postdocs across a variety of disciplines, assisting with their career and professional development, and advises university administrators on issues pertaining to postdoctoral scholars. Melanie is also currently serving on a committee for the National Postdoctoral Association to improve data collection on postdoctoral scholars across the U.S. Melanie came to Harvard from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) where she served as a Consultant and Career Counselor. In this role, she assisted in the design, planning, and implementation of the first NIH-wide career center for intramural trainees. Her duties included defining services, recruiting staff, developing workshops, creating content for the career center website, and authoring a careers blog for scientists. Prior to this, Melanie served as the Founding Director of the Office of Postdoctoral Services at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has also delivered career development presentations and training sessions for universities, government agencies, professional associations, and non-profit organizations across the country. Melanie earned a Bachelor’s degree from Colgate University and a Master’s degree from the University of Michigan. Melanie completed a second Master’s degree in counseling at North Carolina State University and possesses the National Certified Counselor (NCC) credential.

Conducted and contributed by Brian | May 2013

“What I try to stress to postdocs that I meet, that I talk to, and present to on different campuses, is that there are so many exciting choices. I don’t think that one job 'fits all' and I don’t think that there is one perfect job that for each person. I think there are several options that would be potentially a great fit for any given person based on their interests, skills, and their personal values. That is where I would like to change the conversation and make it a lot more positive. There is so much growth in science and different fields.”

Listen to the conversation podcast below (player should appear shortly).

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Featured songs: "Flute" by Hot Chip and "The Fall" by Rhye

Conversation Highlights

A wealth of opportunity at your fingertips. Are you starting to feel anxious about the future of your chosen career path? Are you seeking resources and guidance to help organize and weigh in on your options? Meet our esteemed guest, Melanie Sinche, Director of the FAS Office of Postdoctoral Affairs in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University. Melanie has interacted with and advised numerous individuals over her 15 years in the career counseling field. She stops by to share her wisdom and rich experience as we discuss career opportunities for postdocs, the importance of networking, communication, and postdoc education, and how to explore the world of alternative careers by being proactive.

“There are so many options for today’s postdocs”.

“It was an exciting time - our office at UNC predated the NPA.”

“At the time the NPA was formed there were 23 postdoc offices in the country - now there are 167. So, in 10 years that is how far we have come, and it is terrific! It’s been so exciting to see the development of this field and to work with colleagues over the past decade. It has been amazing!”

Building a network is one of the most important things you could ever do for yourself and your career and your development.”

“Every time it was a personal connection that made the difference for me. And so I do try to stress that to people that come into the office.”

“I hear a lot of frustrations from postdocs who have been applying for jobs, maybe some for months, some in the past year, without getting a response. That is not uncommon – when people are limiting their job searches to applying to jobs online.”

“Often time people are sitting in their labs applying for jobs online not meeting anyone.”

“They spend a lot of time developing a strong CV and cover letter, and send it out - and that does take time. But, not hearing a response is an unfortunate byproduct to the movement of online job recruiting.”

“Every time I have a chance to have a conversation with someone, I will just encourage with them to spend that time instead leaving the lab and going to talks and reaching out to people, even if they start out online. Just to make personal connections is much more meaningful.”

[On the 3 useful pieces of advice for postdoc job seekers]
“Build or improve their LinkedIn profile. In career counseling literature, approximately 90-95% across all sectors are using LinkedIn now - not to hire people, but to identify people who have a particular skill. For a postdoc not to be on there, they are missing an easy, painless and free way to connect with an enormous network of professionals.”

“People are happy to help, almost 10 times out of 10, if you contact someone just looking for information about their job.”

“Think broadly about your network. Some postdocs don’t necessarily think about what they might have access to. For example, looking at your alma mater.”

“This job is such a gift!”

[On ‘what to do next’] “Graduate school is a very expensive time-consuming and stressful way to figure out what you really want to do. I think the same can almost be said about postdocs because postdocs, historically, have been so easy to find.”

“We still have a lot of work to do, but I am encouraged by the changes I have seen.”

“So, 15 years is not that much time for me to have seen so many significant change and growth that I find encouraging, and I think that trend will continue.”

Melanie’s closing tips: “Get out there, network, volunteer, join the NPA.”