Yes, it will be that time next year: when I need to figure out what I’m doing with my life. Academia? If not, what options are there? Since I have spent some time looking for other options, I will share the resources I came across – maybe you also need to figure out what to do with your life next year?
“80,000 hours” is a non-profit, student-founded organisation that helps you figure out your options if you want to have some social impact. Their name comes from the fact that after graduating, you’ll be working in some job or other for about 80,000 hours. In a way that sounds like a lot (especially if your job is very boring), but in another way it’s not really that much (you can learn 8 skills really well according to the 10,000 hour rule), so you had better think about what you want to do with those 80,000 hours.
80,000 hours’ career quiz is a good place to start, as is their career guide. One of the ideas I took away from working through their career guide is that it might well pay off (in terms of impact) to invest some years into skill-building, or what they call career capital. Chances are that I’ll have more leverage (to do good, or whatever else I want to achieve) later on.
Cal Newport’s book “So good they can’t ignore you” strikes a similar chord – you have to be good at something before you can be too picky about your job. The book thoroughly debunks the ‘follow your passion’ advice; instead it advises the reader to take a ‘craftsman mindset’: focus on getting better. Passion and other positive aspects about work (like control) will follow. Newport finishes by describing how he incorporates what he learnt into his everyday life as an academic, which I found very helpful, because it offers concrete suggestions on how to get better as a ‘knowledge worker’.
For a very thorough step-by-step approach particularly geared towards PhD students look at the PhD career ladder. It will take some time to work through it all, but afterwards you’ll certainly know more about what you want and what options there are. If you happen to be in Munich and want to work through the ladder with some peers, contact Viktoria Korzhova – she ran a group in 2016 and will run one in 2017 as well.
Twitter can also help you – for instance look for #withaPhD, or other relevant hashtags.
Then there is also the cheeky scientist – some of its job descriptions were helpful to get ideas (and job titles when looking for job adverts!), although they often indulge in unnecessary academia-bashing.
If you’re interested in achieving some sort of social impact, check out “The Changer” and their newsletter (you can subscribe at the bottom of every article).
Right, I think that gives you (and me!) something to work with – happy holidays!