Many researchers stay in academia for a love of the subject, but as you approach the end of your course or contract, it helps to start thinking about how it can progress your career. We meet lots of PhDs and postdocs who feel as though they have drifted into an academic career, without ever feeling like it was something they actively chose, so it is important to take the time to consider what you want.
The first thing to decide is what you want from your career. A continuing fascination with your subject might mean an academic career beckons; an interest in applied learning might mean a career outside academia.
If you’re considering an academic career, it is still worth putting some thought into a Plan B. A survey from vitae.ac.uk showed that only 23% of PhD graduates remain in academia 3 years after graduation. With fierce competition for academic posts, it makes sense to give yourself alternative options. This could involve networking with non-academic professionals in your field; having an industrial mentor; or broadening your skills base by having some ‘extra-curricular activities’ to show that you’re more than just an academic.