After close to eight years of putting words out there, I’m wrapping up writing for Careers Café. I’ve valued the chance to write about common themes that I saw with clients, and hope that some of those shared experiences from other job seekers and career explorers helped you along the way.
You can’t be in the field of career development without frequently examining how you dedicate your own time. For now, it feels like fundraising for an organization I deeply believe in is the best way to spend my spare time. But naturally, I can’t resist emphasizing a few final tips.
One is to stop to consider your best survival job options, should you find yourself in need of immediate employment. While it may be naïve to assume you can always “follow your passion,” there’s an odd human tendency, when facing imminent unemployment, to conflate practicality with whatever work you find least fulfilling and are least equipped to do. I’m not sure why that is, but it is. So, if you are overwhelmed by detail and a need for accuracy, love all things abstract, and thrive in highly social roles then, no, retraining as an accountant is probably not practical for you. Start with the survival options that are most appealing and work down from there only if you need to.
The next is to examine – and cross-examine – the notion that it’s “too late” to make whatever career move you’re considering. Really test that assumption before you make decisions according to it. I’ve seen people change careers mid-life – and people in their mid-20s convince themselves that they were locked into a career already. (If you’re in the latter group, it’s worth reading about the sunk cost fallacy as it relates to careers, or even to your scientific career.)
In a similar vein, trust your ability to research over your ability to form predictive assumptions. Give all of your assumptions hypothesis status and test them – not just by looking for corroborating evidence, but also by looking for contradictory evidence. Apply this to assumptions about non-academic work, the private/public/non-profit sector, any particular job you’re considering, the nature of relationships and communication between managers and employees…the sky’s the limit.
Finally, thank people along the way. Anyone who has helped you is invested in you. They’re interested in knowing how you’re doing. End their suspense by staying in touch.
’Nuff said. I wish you a fulfilling career, in the broadest sense of the word. May you always have meaningful work, in all parts of your life.