I like direction. I like knowing what has worked in the past and how it can help me accomplish my current goal. Whether I am baking cookies from scratch, building an Ikea cabinet, or job hunting, I prefer knowing the general rules of success. As a second-year genetic counseling student, I was grateful for the classes and conversations dedicated to transitioning from graduate school to my first job. We covered where to find openings, when to apply, how to prepare, questions to consider asking, and salary negotiation. I thought we had talked about everything, until two years later when I found myself not knowing anything about how to end my first job.
I wasn’t actively looking for a new job. I was happy with my compensation, support, workload, and coworkers. But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to transition into an interesting specialty. I’m well aware of how small our field is, so it was intimidating to pursue something that could make people perceive me as being selfish or abandoning my clinic. Ultimately, reminding myself of cliches like “all good things must end” and “nothing lasts forever” outweighed those fears.
I felt lost and needed guidance, so I reached out to my mentors for tips on professionally navigating a shift in employment. I was shocked at the advice to give at least four weeks’ notice. I didn’t know who to tell first, my boss or all my colleagues together. I didn’t have an answer about my plan to finish the rest of my charts or realize I should let my patients know that someone else would deliver their results. I had no idea what would happen to my health insurance or retirement funds. But most of all, I was not prepared for the guilt I felt about celebrating; although I was excited, my colleagues were sad that I was leaving. It was nothing like announcing my first job.
This experience made me realize that the norms of our field are changing. We used to hear stories about genetic counselors who stayed in their positions for 15, 20, even 35 years. I changed jobs less than two years after graduating, and I was the third person from my class of nine to do so. With an increasingly dynamic job market, genetic counselors must also shift our mindsets and adapt to it. The NSGC Student and New Grad SIG only accepts members up to three years after graduation, so if two years post-grad is still “new” to the field – should graduate programs be providing guidance on the transition into our second jobs? For now, while we might not be lucky enough to have a lecture on how to find a job when you have a job, consider this a lesson that your friends, classmates, colleagues, and mentors are there to support you. Utilize your resources, feel your feelings, and get that job!