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Event summary: Let’s talk Polar Careers outside Academia

Wait, what was this?

On January 17th 2024 we held our first “Let’s talk!”  seminar of the year, this time on the topic of polar science careers outside of academia. Why did we need to talk about this? As early career scientists it can be difficult to figure out next steps or long term career goals, especially when we don’t really know what else is out there. Polar sciences encompass many research branches that are particularly academic heavy and let’s be real, not everybody wants to or can stay in academic research. So we wanted to know what options there are for polar scientists to work outside of academia.

There were more people and questions than we could get to. So this won’t be the last seminar we organize or resource we share on the topic of polar careers. We are working on a follow-up!

Cool, who was there?

We invited four panelists to share their perspective on, experience with and advice on searching for jobs with a polar or climate science background, moving in and out of academia and their general motivation for their chosen career paths: 

  1. Maria Zeitz – Project Manager in Footprint Analysis at KlimAktiv
  2. Andreas Alexander – Glaciologist, Polar Expedition Leader and Science Communicator
  3. Rainer Lehmann – Polar Scientist and Educator at Uni Flensburg, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and others
  4. Ingo Hartmeyer – Scientist and Project Manager at GEORESEARCH Austria

And then there were all of you! 

With a record of over 200 attendees, this topic really struck a chord especially with PhD students, masters students and postdocs. But we were also excited to welcome so many people from different backgrounds and levels of expertise or job experience.

So what did we learn?

The questions and topics of discussion were about as widespread as all of our individual strengths, interests and desires for future careers. 

There is no predefined blueprint for crafting your own career path, but there are a few things that can help in gaining perspectives and setting yourself up for success.

  • Find out what matters to you. Figure out your personal interests and determine what you need in a job. Some people were very interested in continuing polar fieldwork or lab work, others cared more about team structure, flexibility of working hours, diversity in research topics or combining work and childcare. 
  • Explore what’s out there. Explore job boards, sign up for newsletters and mailing lists that share job opportunities and search job portals. These jobs don’t need to fit you (yet), but it helps in generating ideas of what you can do and broadening your horizon.
  • Talk to people. Networking is crucial, the earlier you start the better, but also don’t worry if you haven’t talked to somebody in a while. Most people are happy to reconnect when you reach out. To establish new contacts, look for seminars, conferences or casual after-work meetups and stay in touch (e.g. via LinkedIn)
  • Dare to shift. Depending on your discipline, there may not be a directly related industry branch with a link to climate or polar sciences. But maybe your skills are transferable to another industry sector? Or maybe you want to shift towards outreach or policy work? See where else you fit in and build connections. 
  • Believe in yourself. Sappy? – Yes! True? – Also, yes! You are the expert on your skills, motivation and interests. Take initiative and communicate to others what you want to do and chances are, they will remember you when they come across the right job for you. You will get better at self-promoting with time. 

Here are some of the resources and links that came up in the chat:

I wasn’t there, can I rewatch the seminar?

We got this question from a number of people and are sorry to say that this is not possible. Since our “Let’s talk!” seminars cover personal subjects and experiences of our panelists and other participants, we choose not to record them so that everyone can share freely.

If you want more insights, also check out this 2020 EGU Webinar on the topic of Careers outside academia available on Youtube.

A huge thank you! ❤️

To our panelists Maria Zeitz, Ingo Hartmeyer, Rainer Lehmann & Andreas Alexander
for sharing their experience and providing thoughtful answers to our many questions,

and to all of you
for being a part of our community, sharing your perspective and questions and supporting each other.

This panel discussion was organized by Elisa Peter (GFZ), Lena Nicola (PIK Potsdam), Saskia Eppinger (TUM München) & Hanna Schwinck (Uni Hamburg) as a joint event by APECS Germany and PYRN DACH

Events such as this seminar are organized voluntarily by APECS Germany board members in their spare time. If you are motivated and want to delve further into the topic, please reach out to our board via! We are always happy about new members and project ideas.