Illustration: John Overmyer
If you feel anxious and depressed about your prospects for landing a permanent job in science, you are not alone. Reports of a substantial oversupply of science-related Ph.D.'s have been featured in many scientific journals as well as in popular publications such as Newsweek and the Washington Post. In a recent poll of young members of the American Geophysical Union, a 33,000-member scientific society based in Washington, D.C., more than 60 percent describe the current state of the research job market as "lame," "dismal," or "hopeless." This mood seems to cut across all disciplines in the physical and life sciences. Nearly all of us have heard stories of people who have applied for hundreds of positions to no avail.

Like most other Ph.D.'s, I didn't think much about gainful employment until I was close to finishing my graduate degree. During my senior year in college, when all...

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