Happy 10th Birthday to BioscienceCareers.org! Yes, the 7th November 2021 is exactly 10 years since I founded my website and wrote my very first blog. Time flies and I can’t quite believe that a whole decade has passed by already. To mark this auspicious occasion☺, I’ve just categorised all the blogs that I’ve published into themes in a Blog Archive as follows: General; Jobs & Careers; Applications & Interviews; Networking and Self.
Reading back through them, I think all the blogs are still relevant to doctoral and postdoctoral researchers, which just goes to show that not much has changed in the world of PhD careers since 2011! In my mind’s eye, I can still remember writing some of them in places near and far – Spain, Portugal, Finland, America, Sri Lanka – and it all feels much more recent and closer than it actually is. It seems so easy for me to scroll back through the months and years, charting my life from 40-something to 50-something, from being two-thirds of the way through my 20 years at the Society for Experimental Biology to running my own business as an independent PhD consultant, from living in the UK to moving to Germany.
It’s quite a revelatory experience to reflect on the last 10 years, especially if you’re younger and at an earlier stage in your career. As you get older, you tend to settle into your career and become more established (although I can think of notable mid-life career-changer exceptions). It can be especially difficult if the career that you were hoping to pursue doesn’t materialise, compelling you to consider other options. This can be the case for professionals such as lawyers, accountants and architects missing out on partnerships, military personnel forced out at landmark birthdays and, of course, many postdoctoral researchers having to consider non-academic career paths, instead of the permanent academic position they’d been aiming for.
Re-setting the clock and taking up perhaps a more junior and less-established role in a new career sector can be difficult to contemplate. As the original Career Rainbow model of Donald Super shows us, most people feel they should keep progressing through their life with the expectation (from themselves and others) that they will attain a certain status as they move towards retirement. The model is still relevant today [although somewhat dated in terms of career progression and has since been updated by Super himself.]
However, don’t worry about this more traditional idea of careers; the ‘squiggly career’ is more usual these days. I changed my career twice before realising that careers work was what I wanted to do (in my 30s). I had to get up to speed by first doing voluntary work, then taking short-term contracts, embarking on a part-time master’s degree and building my career up from scratch. I didn’t want a managerial role and so avoided applying for Career Service leadership roles. Instead, to remain working as a specialist I ended up leaving and set up on my own, a decision many professionals make later in their careers.
Looking back, my mini-careers and experiences have jigsawed together to make up the big picture career that I have now. According to the Ikagai model, it supports my values and passions, what I enjoy and am good at, as well as being able to make a living from it – so that it feels I may even have achieved my own ‘dream career’. Perhaps.
Much of our career planning turns out to be happenstance (lucky moments), as well as making conscious decisions based on information and logic. In fact, many people cite the turning points in their lives as being chance encounters or happenings. Consider what is important to you in your life, what drives you and what you’re good at, and map this onto the previous 10 years of your career. What do you want to continue to do, what do you want to leave behind? This starts to give you clues as to where you might travel to in the next decade.
So, in the much nearer future, I invite you to take a browse through my blog archive at your leisure and, excusing the rather basic formatting, with any luck you should find some interesting reads along the way. Here’s to the next 10 years!