When faced with the decision to leave academia, not do a post-doc, and work in industry there can be a lot of confusion when choosing a career path. Certainly, one of the best places to start is working out what the true value of a PhD is and what your transferable skills are. This can help you work out what you can and can’t do and how they apply to a range of different career paths. The problem (albeit a small one) with this is that it doesn’t necessarily give you a specific career path to follow. If you reflect on this journey and what you’ve gained from your PhD, you’ll soon realise that you can in fact do a lot of different jobs, be eligible for a variety of different career paths, and most importantly be able to do all of them well.
Deciding what you should do can be overwhelming. This can make it incredibly difficult to choose a career in one field. This will obviously have a knock-on effect when it comes to job search stress, whether you’ve made the right choice to change career, and how to tailor your CV/résumé to specific industries. Choosing a career path should instead be based on your own personal values and life goals. It’s a lot easier to take a top-down approach when it comes to deciding what you should do. To do so, you really need to work out what your values are.
When we talk about values, it’s not just about your working environment. You should also think about your personal health, well-being, work-life balance, the type and quality of life you want to live. These all heavily influence choosing a career path. It might help to ask yourself a series of questions about the type of life you want to live. These might look like the following:
“Do I want children?”
“How much time do I want to spend with my family?”
“What hobbies would I like to pursue outside of my job?”
“What type of house do I want to live in?”
At the heart of these questions, the main thing you’re trying to uncover is what your expectations or needs are in respect to free time and lifestyle – as these are important when choosing a career. If you want to have a big family, this might influence the type of industry you embark on as earning potential might be important here. Alternatively, if you want a family you might prioritise an industry that offers better work-life balance so you can actually be present with your family (if this is important to you). When choosing a career, you might want to think about other hobbies you have – some might take up a lot of time, some might be more expensive than others. The same applies to the type and location of where you want to live – your salary, mortgage eligibility, and time commitments (mainly for commuting) will be contingent on the type of career you embark on. You shouldn’t have to miss out on these things in expense of your career, so it makes more sense to choose a career based on these values, so you are able to live the life you want.
Other values which you might want to consider relate more closely to your working conditions and environment. Again, when choosing a career, you might want to ask yourself these questions:
“Do I care if the work I’m doing is meaningful/impactful?”
“Do I get to work in teams in this career?”
“Does this career come with a lot of travel?”
“Is this career the best environment to support my physical and mental health?”
As before, at the heart of these questions lies time, but also your overall happiness. You might be choosing a career that accommodates your preferred work-life balance and income but are you happy at work. Are the tasks you’re completing throughout the week rewarding, meaningful or positive – or maybe these things don’t matter to you at all. Some people feel indifferent about their work being meaningful. Maybe the career you’re choosing provides you all of these things, but does it come with added pressure and stress which could begin to take a toll on your physical and mental health? Is there much point in you ‘living the dream’ if you’re getting sick in the process? These are really important questions to ask yourself but ultimately you want to be choosing a career based on your values as opposed to adjusting your lifestyle to accommodate your career.
There are probably a lot of other values which are specific and unique to you. Maybe you want to have a good pension scheme so you can retire comfortably, maybe you want to work in a company that is accepting and welcoming of your faith and beliefs. Maybe you want to have a career that is dynamic and flexible so you can use/learn a range of skills. It doesn’t really matter exactly what your values are, the most important thing is that you work out what they are. After working out what your values are, you can go about choosing a career or job that allows you to live an authentic life. Then you’re able to live a life that is as close to your truest self. It sounds kind of obvious, but there’s so many people out there who end up on a career path that doesn’t allow them to live the life they truly want. Instead, they’re bending their life to fit their work. This post focuses on changing that narrative and highlighting how it should be the other way around. Choosing a career should be about finding a job that can support you to get the most out of your personal life and in turn, encourage happiness.
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