The foundation of all good career decision-making is understanding yourself: who you are; what you want; what your strengths are. This knowledge will help you to make good decisions for yourself, whether you’re the type of person who meticulously plans their career, or the type who likes to just see where life takes you.
So, what kinds of things might you need to know about yourself?
Understand what you want. The temptation as we grow older is to focus solely on what we need, or what an employer will allow us to have. It’s surprising how few of us actually think about what we want, but it can make a huge difference to your job satisfaction. Things you might want to consider are what type of knowledge you want to use; what type of lifestyle you want to have; and how you want to life your life (for example, are you a risk taker; do you want to travel and so on).
What do you have to offer? You are more than just your thesis or your research agenda. What kinds of skills do you have? And, just as importantly, what kinds of skills do you like using? We know that this can often be hard for researchers to unpick, so why not try a tool like Windmills to help you assess your strengths and skills?
What are my barriers or concerns? We all have our stumbling blocks; it’s good to consider whether yours are fixed (‘I need to live in a particular area’), or moveable (‘my CV is too out of date to apply for anything’).
Armed with this sense of self-awareness, you can then start to assess the opportunities you find, and consider whether they’re going to deliver the things that you want.