The heart of the matter

On this Valentine’s Day spare a thought (or feeling) for your heart when making decisions. Otherwise known as your intuition or ‘gut feeling’, the sense of right or wrong and yes or no that you experience when making important decisions can sometimes better inform you than the logical process associated with ‘thinking with your head’. Whilst weighing up the advantages and disadvantages, referring to facts and data, and taking advice from others should definitely be a consideration, your heart can tell you what you really feel about a situation, helping you to feel more confident and self-assured about tackling your more difficult decisions.

For example, many years ago I was considering getting a dog. I spent many months mulling over the practical implications, worrying about what could go wrong. However, once my heart and instincts took over, I decided to take a leap of faith and it ended up being one of the best decisions I ever made, culminating in 10 years shared with the most wonderful companion. Another time I was offered a job and, although instinctively I felt it wasn’t right for me, having weighed up the pros and cons and the reality of needing a salary, I took it. However, after just over a year I had given it up! It had served me well in terms of new experiences, but it was not for me – my heart had been correct. Following that landmark decision, scarey as it was at the time, my career took a turn for the better and I have never looked back ?

When making career decisions, it can sometimes be overwhelming and even frightening to consider new types of careers about which you know very little, apart from what you have read and heard about. If it’s a career that’s quite different from what you are already familiar and the job itself is in a far-flung location, removed from your colleagues, friends and family, the apprehension can be even greater. Most PhD students and researchers will end up in careers outside of academia, so it’s important to consider what kinds of jobs might suit you in the future in preparation for your transition. Many universities and external organisations offer support for this purpose, such as providing information, statistics, career stories, events and counselling, but ultimately it is you who must make the final decision.

Using your knowledge of the present and past can help to inform your future, so an important component of making career decisions is to consider what has given you pleasure and a sense of satisfaction in the past and, now, in the present. For example, when I was young, I wanted to be a vet. At the time, I thought my interest was fuelled by an interest in Biology and Physiology, but in fact it was my desire to help animals. As my career progressed, I realised that ‘helping’ was core to my career satisfaction and ultimately culminated in my current profession as a careers adviser.

So, with your heart, gut feeling and intuition in mind, try considering what you are enjoying now and what has inspired you in the past. Reflect on the tasks, people, work environment and things you do in your everyday personal life and dig deep to discover those aspects that you know make you feel good about yourself and give you a sense of fulfilment. Then, using this information, let it guide you towards potential careers of interest. My PhD Career Choice Indicator can assist you in identifying and investigating different types of careers, with the aim of finding a job you love.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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