At some point in your life, perhaps while you’re at Oxford, you will need to do something that feels quite radical in order to step off a familiar track that is no longer good for you. Sometimes change is forced upon you: a supervisor moves to a different university, funding runs out or your research group is reconfigured.
While there is truth in the familiar saying “be the change you want to see”, it requires courage and a willingness to bear some less comfortable experiences along the way.
The Careers Service is here to support you in planning for change, and going about it.
We recommend reading how others have responded to the particular challenges that exist in academia. You will see the weaknesses in professional systems more clearly, put your motivations in context, and, quite possibly, be inspired to try new directions or even fashion a role that fits your talents and priorities. You may then want to book an appointment with a Careers Adviser to discuss these.
Ibarra’s book ‘Working Identity’ is useful for anyone thinking about moving on from academia after a postdoc, or similar mid-career transitions. It contains case studies and a framework to evaluate your experiences when trying out new directions. A reference copy is available in the Careers Service resource room, and an electronic copy is available at the Bodleian Library..
Other helpful sources include pieces by PhD students and postdocs: An experienced Oxford DPhil student shares tips on exploring your work preferences and options beyond academia in a Nature article. And one Canadian postdoc recounts what she learns about academia through her attempts to get a permanent position and why she decided to become an independent professor and consultant researcher, as well as her life story.
Talk to your peers, departmental administrators and faculty to see what you can do together to create an open conversation about change and build a culture of support.
The personal and career uncertainties brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have added to the pressures felt by some early career researchers. This Chronicle of Higher Education article by Aisha Ahmad sets out the reasons why now is not the time to castigate yourself for not being more productive than ever while life as we knew it has been suspended.