What do you really want to do with that Ph.D.?

Sometimes it is scary to think how much chance events can influence the course of our lives and careers. Can you pinpoint a time that turned you to your current career path, or to your current study system? Was it something that happened all at once, or something gradual? Everyone talks about the power of effective teachers. I can certainly name several that had a strong influence on me. But would there have been others had there not been these? Would I be doing some other kind of curiosity-driven research if I were not doing what I’m doing? What else is out there?

It is worth finding out how you can best match your aptitudes and predilections to a satisfying career. I am not sure of the best way of doing this, but exploring has to be good. There are far more careers than most of us realize for Ph.D. scientists. Why not see if there is an unusual one out there for you? Luckily there is a new tool for just this kind of exploration. It is sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, so it is likely to be good. Here is a link.

Just remember, not to let anyone else tell you what to love. Use the Individual Development Plan for information, not as an iron clad rule. After all, if I had used a similar instrument as an undergraduate, I would not be a scientist.  At Michigan this tool was casually referred to as the raw or cooked carrots test (raw for me). It compared your personality characteristics to those of people in various fields, then told you what to study.  I matched scientists by a tiny fraction.  Thinking back, I figure that it probably meant I was not a man. I ignored it and went on to do what I loved.

I’m guessing this new tool is more informative, more enlightened, more revelatory as to what is out there. So, go explore. Let us know how it goes.


About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
This entry was posted in Managing an academic career and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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