When I started my PhD, I really enjoyed the ‘down time’ at the early phase – exploring and settling into my new role with the prospect of a career in Academia, but nothing else. I took advantage of this period to attend training courses designed to help PhD students – full of enthusiasm and zeal to contribute to knowledge.
Indeed, every PhD project is different; however, the basic principles needed to achieve your project aims within the stipulated time are similar. I remember vividly one Trainer advising us to ‘start with the end in mind’. I took this literally to mean – the end of my PhD project. I sincerely think this one advice helped me achieve my PhD in exactly three years. However, this did not just ‘happen’ – I had to ‘divide and conquer’.
In my case, I had to submit quarterly reports that helped me evaluate, review and strategise on the next steps to achieve my project aims. I was able to understand where/how my research project fit into the ‘Web of Science’.
In retrospect, I wish I ‘kept the end in mind’ when it came to my career. A ‘Career Plan’, I believe, is just as important to anyone who wants to take ‘responsibility’ for their career; just like every entrepreneur has to have a Business plan. The reason for this is that it helps you ‘divide and conquer’.
According to Dr Steven Covey, beginning with the end in mind means to begin each task, or project with a clear vision of your desired direction and destination, and then continue by flexing your proactive muscles to make things happen.
From my PhD, I have developed diverse skills – most of which are transferable, and I now realise that ‘stumbling’ into a career goes against all the skills I developed as a scientist – my career actually is a much bigger experiment. My time as a student was a phase when confusion was acceptable, and exploration was an essential part of my curriculum. It was up to me to be proactive, to take charge of my future. The importance of taking responsibility cannot be over-emphasized, because a career plan allows you to:
- Know where you are
- Put your goals in focus
- Identify steps that will enable you achieve your career goals.
Do you other suggestions on how to create the career of your choice? I would love to hear your suggestions. Please leave a comment below.
Elizabeth Adelodun, is a Neuroscientist, Mentor and Entrepreneur who founded MindTorch, an educational charity that helps Life Science and Medical students achieve their career aspirations. She is very passionate about sharing knowledge through mentoring; and believes that innovative healthcare solutions to patient problems will be established through collaboration. Follow her on twitter, @FounderMindT.
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