Good students gets on Santa’s list, less good students gets the job

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(Mood: Determined)

”How will a get a job after my PhD?”

This is the most common question I get when talking to people at KI. I guess it’s because I’ve been working with recruitment and career support the greater part of this millennium.

From my experience this is often the case with PhD students (and others) at KI:

  1. Brilliant person with talent, motivation and skills get appointed at KI.
  2. Things goes great. “Maybe I’ll win the Nobel Prize?
  3. Inspiration flows. The same student works, works, works and works. Hard.
  4. A feeling of desperation raises when things are starting to get really challenging. Experiments fail. Support is nowhere to be found.
  5. The person feels like a disappointment. “Am I really fit to be a Student/PhD/Postdoc/Academic?
  6. The person works harder.
  7. Success! Years of studies and work resulted in a degree/thesis/publication. Celebration!

In the end of the doctoral studies (or very often, after defending the thesis), the student starts thinking about the next step. What should be the career path from now? Looking back at the last four years, an academic career seems so hard, or even uninspiring. Maybe a job outside academia would be right? But what jobs are out there and how to get them?

For me to give advice in this situation is difficult, partly because everyone is different, but also because the question often comes four years later than it should have. So many are trying so hard to perform at their best that they forget to invest time in career planning. People with successful careers falls into two big categories:

  • The lucky ones
  • The ones with a plan

Don’t leave your career to chance, make a plan! Before you start looking for a job you should know a lot of things, including, but not limited to:

  • What keeps you motivated?
  • What are you good at?
  • Are there things that kills your soul at work?
  • What defines you as a person at work, i.e. how do you behave?

With these things in mind

  • What kind of jobs would fit you?
  • What kind of employers would fit you?
  • What do you need to do to become attractive to them?

Quite hard questions to answer, right? That is why you need to start career planning NOW. Ask you colleagues what they think you’re good at. Think of the situations when you excelled, and others when you failed. What can you learn about yourself from that? Start going to career fairs. Read job ads. Search for information about different career paths online. Talk to people about e.g. their careers and the careers of others with your background. How did they do to get the job they wanted? Do you need to expand your knowledge in something specific to be attractive (always learn the local language, by the way)? Are you presenting yourself and your skills in a good way?

So, how do you find the time to prepare for your career in the midst of your studies? The answer is: be less ”good” at producing data!

The PhD period will (hopefully) end. Your hard work will pay off, but more so if you know in what direction you are heading. Thats why you should be a little bit more self-absorbed, and less ”good student” during your studies. Productivity is not only about working hard, but also working smart and for the long run. I think that your supervisors were concerned about their careers as well (and likely still are). Include them and let them be of assistance. Most people are happy to help and wish for you to succeed.

P.S. What goes around does come around. Always be good to others. D.S.

Merry Christmas!
Anna Rennermalm
Recruitment Consultant
PhD in Clinical Bacteriology
Entrepreneur

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