Confused career thinking?

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I’ve been thinking recently about careers blockages. I meet quite a few PhDs and researchers who end up drifting into careers rather than choosing them (I recognise them clearly since I was a ‘drifter’ myself!). They’re hurtling towards the edge of the cliff that is the end of their funding or contract, when their supervisor or PI lands another wodge of money and offers to extend their contract for another year or two. Saved! In the blink of an eye, they’re five years down the line of being a researcher and think of their career as something that’s somehow ‘happened’ to them, rather than it being something that they deliberately chose to do.

I got to wondering why this might be. Some of it is obviously down to pure unbridled panic (“if I don’t take the contract then how the hell will I pay the rent?!!?”), but I think that, for many people, it’s down to fear about making a decision – after all, if you don’t choose to do something, then you’re not to blame when it doesn’t work out! And then I stumbled across this article by careers theorist David Winter, who writes about confused career thinking (aka cognitive biases), and it really struck a chord. I reckon that I’ve fallen foul of at least 7 of his career traps at one point or another. How many of them have blocked your thinking?


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