Have you ever wondered what you would’ve done if you hadn’t gone into science and gotten a PhD? When I was a teenager, I wanted to be a vet or an interior designer. More recently, I wondered if I’d have made a good urban planner or human resources manager! Over the past year, I’ve been pondering my next career move and, while I always planned to go back to industry after my postdoc, lately I’ve been considering whether I could steer myself in a new direction. I’m realizing and starting to accept that my preferences have evolved since high school when I decided to study biology. With time, you acquire new skills, develop talents, meet new people and gain experiences which change and shape your perspective.
A fun way to begin this thought process is via personality tests. Admittedly, some people (such as my wonderful husband!) categorize these generic (and often seemingly endless) questionnaires as ‘fluff,’ but personally I find them interesting and really useful for career planning. It’s an opportunity to ‘look yourself in the mirror,’ identify your strengths and preferences from a fresh, external angle and, in a way, reacquaint yourself with yourself! Start with a Jung Test (try this website for free versions) which will give you your ‘type.’ Find a description of each temperament here along with suggested career paths.
A few months back, I participated in workshop organized by the Penn Careers Service investigating the uses of StrengthsFinder for postdocs, and this is also a useful tool. This test identifies 5 innate ‘strengths’ you possess and should nurture. These are strengths you should play on, rather than ‘force yourself’ to develop skills that might not come as naturally to you. It helped me realize that whilst I have been busy perfecting ELISAs, attending scientific conferences and studying molecular pathways, what I really enjoy doing is communicating effectively and working in a team.
Based on this, I have been brainstorming what jobs match up with my ‘strengths’ and ‘type’, as well as my scientific CV. Industry seems a good match for me after all! Of course, there are lots of other non-conventional careers for PhDs (teaching, patent law, medical writing, regulatory, life sciences consulting, etc…) to consider as well. But challenge yourself to think outside the box! What about working in academic administration for an undergrad program, or as a recruiting specialist in a big pharma company? Wonder what it actually entails? Look it up and browse others on these great (and slightly addictive) resources: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/ and http://www.onetonline.org/ . The world is your oyster!
[Editor’s Note: Bio Careers® offers a customized version of the Kiersey Temperament sorter, with Career Paths suited to graduate scientists here.] http://biocareers.com/career-tools/career-path-assessment