Female student working on a laptop

October 25, 2022, by Leah Sharpe

Career Planning in Uncertain Times

By Hiba Azim, PhD researcher

There’s a lot going on in the world right now and all that extra noise can be incredibly unhelpful as it simply sits – a cherry on top – of your career-planning anxiety sundae. I find myself see-sawing between frantically researching different career paths, to complete apathy and not wanting to think about the future whatsoever.

Neither is healthy.

I believe, in uncertain times, more than ever, authenticity is key. When you can’t be sure of the future or the world around you it is ever more important to be sure of yourself. Keeping your decisions grounded in both your strengths and your values gives you assurance that any steps taken are more likely to be on course towards a career which feels right for you.

Going after your strengths

What have I been trained in? What am I proficient at? Which types of work bring me joy?

Six years of chemistry training have equipped me with strong laboratory techniques, problem-solving and data analysis skills, this gives me some initial direction. But what if you don’t want a job that’s directly related to your degree? This is perfectly okay!

In fact, I would be delighted if I didn’t have to use laboratory techniques ever again. Your degree has equipped you with many more skills than you might think. A strong foundation of critical thinking, communication and resilience which can be leveraged to excel in a near-infinite number of roles.

Whilst being in the lab is not for me, I would love to have a role that allows me to use my science communication, problem-solving and project management skills – paving an entirely different path to conduct my career search. Perhaps a project management role? It would be well paid and is the logical next step of my training. But I would need to make sure the company’s values match my own. Evaluating your values is just as important as your skills.

Staying true to your values

What are you hoping to achieve? What makes you feel alive and engaged? What do you really want?

On the surface these questions may seem a little overwhelming and too philosophical to take seriously however, asking them can help clear up confusion in your career search. In my case, I feel best when my work is challenging and requires me to work with a variety of people towards a common goal. What I really want is a job that allows me to make a difference, however big or small, whilst also allowing me a good work-life balance.

Maybe project management for a ClimateTech start-up? I could use my training to develop commercial technologies aiming to prevent environmental collapse. I also enjoy writing, especially in non-academic contexts. Perhaps I could work as an account manager for a medical communications company? Directing teams to deliver creative scientific content which would enable me to use my skills in an entirely new domain.

I’m yet to make a final decision but thinking about my strengths and values gives me confidence that there are lots of directions which lead to happy and fulfilling futures.

If you’re still not sure about your strengths and values, why not book an appointment with the Careers team on MyCareer?

Posted in Choosing Your CareerPhD Students