Navigating career-post PhD: It is okay to change your mind
I resigned from my job a few weeks ago. It was a big decision for me to make and one that occurred over a few weeks (with a couple of sleepless nights). I didn’t want to let the company that I work for down. I felt like an idiot for wanting to go back to academia after deciding I wanted to leave. I felt conflicted about leaving a ‘safe’ on-going position for the sometimes uncertainty of academia. As I said, it was a big decision.
When I started my position at a market research company I was so excited by the ‘corporate world’. Typically ‘9-5’ hours, office lunches, after-work drinks (all paid for by the company). I also really enjoyed being able to research a variety of topics. There was a lot to learn and I felt like I was able to pick up everything easily and able to provide my academic and psychological expertise in an effective way. But perhaps more than anything, this role allowed me to get out of the PhD world full-time. I was burnout. I was tired. I was frustrated. Also, I needed money as my scholarship had ended. Therefore, I definitely do not regret taking on this role when I did.
After about 6 months, the novelty of learning a new position was starting to wear off. I kept telling myself that I was ‘happy and fulfilled’ but typically if you have to tell yourself something it is not true. Then a catalyst occurred. A fellowship position was posted on LinkedIn and as soon as I saw it my stomach flipped with excitement. I applied for the position however was not successful, which was not a surprise. But what was a surprise was that as soon as I applied for this position I was finally honest to myself about wanting to go back into academia.
The grass is not always greener. After my time away from academia I realised that it is where I want to be. I love teaching. I love conducting my own research projects. I love the diversity. I love the challenge. And maybe it isn’t that academia is the only thing for me but right now market research is not for me. So, when I was offered a variety of casual teaching and research roles back at my university, I knew that I had to jump at them.
It is okay to not know what you want. It is okay to try out something and then not like it. It is okay to go back to something that you left. It is okay to stumble along and give yourself time to figure it all out.