All about YOU — and your career, too

Start with yourself and your career

When you start to think about making a career decision, chances are you begin with what you know. You might consider a few occupations that are familiar to you, but may feel lost in terms of what to do next to find a job that fits.

Instead, start with yourself. Think about what interests you, what you feel passionate about, what you have always wanted to learn more about. Reflecting on what you like, and who you are as a person, may lead to some insights about your next career move.

To get started, try this exercise: answer each of these questions in an honest, unfiltered way. Go with your first answers, whatever pops into your mind:

  • How do you spend your free time?
  • Which books do you read?
  • What shows do you watch?
  • Which blogs do you follow?
  • What do you feel EXCITED about?

Consider your answers a starting point for exploring possible career options. If you can’t seem to get enough of reading through political blogs, you might consider a career in science policy. If you find yourself watching legal dramas, maybe you want to explore a career in patent law.

If you find, upon reflection, that these questions point to activities or topics that are more hobbies or leisure interests for you, like being an avid reader of graphic novels or collector of vintage comic books, then try moving to outside sources. Talk with the following people to learn more about what makes you tick:

  • Friends
  • Family
  • Colleagues
  • Others who know you well

Try asking this group when you seem most animated; what you seem most excited about; or which topics you tend to focus on most often. Chances are these conversations will reveal some truths about who you are and what makes you feel most energized. Listening to others’ perceptions of you in this way can often illuminate new areas of exploration in terms of careers, or validate thoughts you were already having on your own about next steps. Either way, you will have gained knowledge that will be helpful for you as you navigate your next career move.

For more information on careers for PhDs in science and how to identify those that fit you, check out Next Gen PhD: A Guide to Career Paths in Science.