Veronica Baldasso (ESR13)

Life after the PhD: A new adventure!

Like many people who are goal-oriented, I have always been focused and determined to achieve my goals, set new ones and move-on to accomplish them. Since I was in my last years of high-school, I understood that I wanted to become an engineer. Therefore, I knew I was going to continue my studies obtaining first a bachelor’s degree and then a master’s degree in engineering in the hope to find a successful and fulfilling job.

At that time, those were the goals I had set for myself.

Since you are reading my post, you probably realised I ended up continuing my academic career with a PhD! “Why?” or “What changed?” you might be asking…

Well, As I was going through my master’s, I had an epiphany: I realised that I had been so focused on achieving my goals (studying and passing exams) that I had not taken enough time to experience university life at the fullest. I am not talking about making friends, having fun and partying… which of course all students do, right!?… but I am talking about understanding the true value of knowledge and research, the power of dialog and collaboration, the priceless worth of genuine conversations with professors and researchers without feeling fear or embarrassment. That is what prompted a deep change in my understanding of academic life and what pushed me to pursue a PhD.

Now, I am 9 months from the end of this incredible PhD journey, which gave me the opportunity to grow not only on a professional level but most importantly on a personal one. And now I am faced with the frightening yet exciting question of “What to do next?”

Many of us PhD students may face times in which we are so immersed in our research that we are not able to see the goals beyond the PhD title, and we think about them only after we have finished the PhD. We give so much energy and dedication to our research work that we don’t prioritise our future plans. During our PhD journey, we should give ourselves the time and space to think about our life goals and our professional paths and explore all the career opportunities that interest us, to avoid feeling lost and without purpose once the PhD is over.

There are many different career paths one might take after the PhD. The most popular are:

  • The academic route in which one usually continues with a post-doctoral research fellowship and an academic teaching or lecturing position,
  • The industry route in which one finds a job in the private sector in a non-academic institution, or potentially finds a research based position in the R&D department of a company,
  • The innovation/entrepreneur route that gives the opportunity to start a company or a business based on a product or a service most of the time stemming from research findings and ideas.

At this point, there is only one thing left for me to say: Start thinking of your future and set your future-goals so that, when the time comes, you will know your path and start your next chapter with excitement and success!

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