70% of people openly admit that they did not have a clear career path in mind when they started a PhD (see the blog post by Mili) but the decision to start a PhD studies was a decisive career step. Not to mention that many people changed their idea about their dream job for various reasons over the course of their PhD. For some people, their value system changed (while they grew older) and they realized that they appreciate stability above challenge of academic career. For many (especially women, but not exclusively!) personal life and starting a family became more important. Some got tired of moving between countries and starting all over again and longed for long lasting friendships and being closer to their families. Many discovered new passions and interests during their 4 years of hard scientific work. For example, one of my Dutch friends became a science teacher in high school after defending his thesis on high field MRI. I have never before seen him happier than now when he talks about his pupils and the challenge of teaching in high school. But how can we find a career path that suits our values, interests and knowledge?
This question is of pivotal importance taking under consideration that only a small fraction of PhD students can stay in academia and pursue academic career. There are simply not enough positions in comparison to the number of PhDs who are being educated each year. No matter if you want to stay in academia or leave to so called “normal job” you need a smart strategy and quite some knowledge which has not much to do with the topic of your dissertation. I have a feeling that this statement stresses majority of those who are currently doing a PhD or a postdoc. This happens because we often lack the knowledge about the job market and our selves; however, what we are really educated for (and good at as scientists) is making rational knowledge-based decisions. So instead of stressing ourselves, we should just reach out for support in making informed choices and an adequate job market research. There are various ways to get help. For those of us who want to stay in academia, it is strongly advised to get a mentor who can help us out in making strategic decisions. For those who want to leave, KI has a career service that organizes interesting events such as the workshop on Making Effective Career Choices. If you have missed this, Postdoc Association is holding a career seminar on the 11th of June. Don’t forget to subscribe!