Navigating Post PhD Careers: Don’t Feel Guilty

When I first started contemplating leaving my industry job in market research I felt extremely guilty. The company took a chance on me, giving me my first market research position. I had learnt so much in the short amount of time that I was there and I utterly respected my colleagues. Initially, I felt like I owed them for this. Despite the fact that I was exceeding at my job, always willing to work long hours including nights and weekends, and giving as much to the company as what it gave me. I did not owe the company anything. Feeling grateful for the opportunities that I was afforded, yes, but owe them- particularly when I was not being given the opportunities of growth that other places would give me? No. 

This was an important lesson for me to learn. I have worked hard to be in the position that I am in, I have a completed PhD and have years of experience in a variety of employment including volunteering roles. I was an asset to the company. It was hard for me to identify these strengths, without feeling as though I was ‘bragging’ or expecting too much. In the end, I realised that I needed to make decisions based on what I felt was best for me and for my career, which was returning to academia. I gave my company ample notice, ensured that I worked hard to finish all my projects, and told my manager how genuinely grateful I was for the opportunities I had. 

It turned out that I quit just as Australia went into social distancing conditions, just as everything was so unsure in the world and in the job force. I went into casual contracts in academia and I was so appreciative of any work that I had. I knew of many people being stood down from various roles. I found out a few weeks into my new roles in academia that two (out of five) employers at my old company were made redundant, one of which was the person who took over my position. It would have been me. This news rattled me, I feel utterly terrible for my old colleagues who were now out of work. It also rattled me as it emphasised that despite how hard we work for a company we can still be disposable. I understand that these are unprecedented times. However, if I had let my guilt of leaving the company guide my decision, and I had stayed at the company, I would now be unemployed. 

As I said, these are unprecedented times, we could not have predicted this occurrence of events. Although, despite the uniqueness of this situation, I think that it holds true to not feel guilty for leaving a role or a company to pursue interests or opportunities to grow your career.


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