When I finished my undergraduate degree I remember I was ecstatic to think I had finally achieved my goal. However I was also filled with an overwhelming sense of dread thinking of what I would do next. I adored research and chose to apply for a postgraduate degree and was lucky enough to be accepted onto a PhD. Not only did this mean I would be doing what I loved but also meant that I no longer had to worry about my immediate future. For the next 3 – 4 years I had a plan.
In the grand scheme of things 3 years is actually not that long. I am fast approaching the end of my postgraduate studies and if anything the original dread I felt is beginning to amplify.
Whenever I tell someone that I’m currently doing a PhD I’m usually met with the reply of ‘You won’t struggle to find a job then.’ It would be a lie to say that wasn’t also a contributing factor when I accepted the position. Postgraduate degrees are meant to give you the upper hand when looking at the career ladder. So why am I so nervous about the future?
Regardless of the few extra years in academia that I have under my belt, I feel the hard work is only just about to begin.
Justifying my research through papers, grant applications and fellowship applications is going to be a whole new learning curve. Postdoc jobs depend on funding and there’s no guarantee that your contract will be renewed. My lab has seen some wonderful researchers leave as they can’t be paid. This fact also means that we need to be more flexible and go where the funding takes us. This appeals to me at the moment as I wouldn’t mind working in a different part of the country or a different country entirely. As I get older though, I also question what that means for me in terms of setting down roots.
During my time in academia I’ve been able to plan in advance for years. Now, a lot of uncertainty lies ahead and I’m going to have to learn how to take each day as it comes. It’s hard not to be nervous about what the future holds but I also know that worrying obsessively isn’t productive. I am trusting that things will play out like they are meant to and have to have faith it’ll be in my favour.