This post is brought to you by a rainy weekend in Whitby…
I’m not a careers adviser. I don’t even play one on TV. At the University of Sheffield, we’re incredibly lucky to have a Careers Service that understand the particular needs of postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers, and has expert careers advisers dedicated to supporting researchers as they plan their careers, either within academia or within a different sector.
Nevertheless, I talk to a lot of researchers in my job and, increasingly, researchers want to talk about and reflect upon whether academia is the right choice for them. I think this is really positive; after all, surely one of the big reasons for undertaking doctoral or postdoctoral study is to open-up opportunities, not to close them down.It’s easy to think about your “perfect” career. If you’ve dreamed of being a writer, your mind can wander happily to your writing room, looking out over the sea, as you dash out another acclaimed novel, your dog snoring by your desk. The reality, though – juggling jobs, dragging yourself through writer’s block, dealing with rejection – is likely to be very different.
The perception that an academic gets to sit in a huge study, (in their ivory tower, natch), thinking big thoughts and using big words, is starting to be a thing of the past – within academia, at least. As well as the trifling matters of undertaking world-class research and being an excellent teacher, a career in academia involves a huge amount of administrative, networking and public engagement activity, as well as undertaking management and leadership roles, all of which can affect your fabled work-life balance.
Of course, many researchers still aspire to a career in academia, and a career as an academic can be phenomenally rewarding, however, there are lots of resources around to help you to think critically about your career path. The University of Manchester’s An Academic Career website has a lot of information about, as the name suggests, working in academia, and has some especially interesting personal viewpoints about the pros and cons of a career in academia.
So, what’s all this got to do with a rainy trip to the seaside? Well, the thing about Whitby is that it’s my favourite place in the world. As I sat, last week, gazing out over a grey, gloomy harbour, I realised that I wasn’t even particularly disappointed in the weather because Whitby in the rain, is still Whitby and, therefore, objectively (objectively, I tells ya!) better than all other places.
All careers and jobs-roles have their pros and cons – talk to people in your chosen field, to find out what it’s like; take a look at online career driver exercises to give you some prompts to think about your (personal and professional) priorities; read online horror stories about the area you want to work in. Think of it as going straight to the one-star Tripadvisor reviews for a hotel!
If you can imagine yourself doing all the most annoying and tedious aspects of your chosen career and are still excited by that career path, then you might have found your work-Whitby.
And the best thing is that, although you’ll always get a bit of drizzle, you’ll also get days like this:
Rainy Whitby, courtesy of https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com/2009/07/17/whitby-2009-7/
Whitby at sunset – Sarah Bell