January 18, 2017, by Postgraduate Placements Nottingham

The case against a career plan

This week Hilary Jones, our PPN Research Associate, shares her reflections on ‘career plans’.

hmj 6I’ve only ever had two career plans, and neither of them worked out.

The first, as a child, was to be a vet and the second, when I was an undergraduate, was to be an academic.   Each plan got shelved when I realised exactly what those roles entailed.  Since then, I’ve followed my nose, pursuing what seems interesting, exciting, or just the right thing to do at that time.  After quitting my postdoc and running away to the mountains, I hiked 500 miles across the Pyrenees, living in a tent and learning French in the two months it took me to complete the walk.  When I returned to the UK I moved to York because it seemed like a nice place to live.  I sorted letters in the post office and worked as a waitress until I found a ‘proper’ job which took me to the University of Leeds working in PhD training.  After two years there I got bored and spent 6 months in Guatemala working as a volunteer teacher.  Then followed careers advice and training jobs at the Universities of York and Sheffield, and a stint in San Francisco gaining my yoga teaching qualifications.

Whilst some might regard my career path as chaotic, I’m rather proud of it.  One of the good things about doing lots of different roles is that you end up with a broad range of skills that makes you rather unique.  I’ve also noticed that I’m more likely to have something in common with the next person I meet, whether it’s travel, yoga, higher education, employability or chucking it all in to take a year off, which is what I’m currently up to.

hmj 7When I was at college struggling to decide which degree to study, one of my teachers said to me ‘just do something you love, and you’ll do well’.  His advice has stayed with me, and I’ve noticed that the flipside is also true – however hard you try, you’ll never be brilliant at something that you dislike doing.   You might be mediocre, your work might even be satisfactory.  But the cost to your sanity is likely to be high.  And anyway, ‘satisfactory’ is hardly a glittering accolade.

Whilst some might regard my career path as chaotic, I’m rather proud of it.

So if you have no clue what your next steps are going to be, or feel paralysed as you try to plan out an entire career, then stop, take a breath and take a look at the opportunities around you.  If any of them feel interesting, exciting or just the right thing to do right now, then try it out.   When you outgrow it, move on.  When you want a break, take one.  If you want a family, do it.  If you want to fly solo, do that instead.   It’s impossible to predict the future, but having a big bag of skills and happy experiences is likely to take you on a path more fascinating than one you could have sketched out with paper and pen when you were 18 years old.

So what’s all this got to do with placements?

A placement is a no-strings opportunity to try something out, to meet some new people and to chuck a few more skills and experiences into your bag.

Even if you’re not sure how your placement with an arts organisation in Nottingham or an energy company in Sheffield might help you in the future, do it anyway.  I’m willing to bet that something from your experience will be useful and insightful.

You can read Hilary’s blog at: theradicalsabbaticalblog.wordpress.com

If you’re interested in doing a postgraduate placement visit our webpage for more information, or check out current opportunities at the Placements Portal.

Posted in Placements