Principles of career exploration for early career researchers

 In career exploration, PhD/Postdoc Blog

As I sat down to write my last post in this series, I looked for general themes early career researchers could utilize as they explore career options. These principles revolve around having others view you as an expert in your chosen field, which is valuable regardless of career path. 

To maintain a certain professional reputation it is critical to find the common thread among all of your endeavors. Remember everyone has a different journey, and creating showcasing your unique path helps you stand out. And no matter what work you prefer, if the company values you, you will thrive professionally. And if you are passionate about your work you will be empowered to move forward in your career. I expand on each of these ideas below. 

#1 Find the common thread

The “common thread” concept is critical to career success as an early career researcher. Whatever career choice you make, you will be successful if you target all of your efforts in the same direction. This will make you appear focused and driven; it demonstrates to potential employers you are committed to a specific career path. A common thread can also help you develop a name for yourself in a particular area. If you consistently spread the same message through multiple avenues, people will eventually begin to know what you stand for.

#2 Create your path

Create your path—set expectations that work for you and that you are comfortable with (Setting your own expectations). Never chose a career based on what someone expects from you; in the long term, you will never be happy with a choice that wasn’t yours. Although planning your path and having a clear direction is essential, at the same time, you should be open to all career possibilities (Plan your career path-but not too much)—embrace opportunities as they come. This will open up unconsidered career paths and allow you to craft your unique story.

#3 Choose a positive environment

Consider your working environment when making career choices. You are more likely to have career success if you work in a place where you can thrive. Even if your daily duties are challenging, your work environment will make a significant difference in your attitude and ability to succeed. Your positive attitude can improve the reputation of your supervisor, which can attract top talent (Why can’t we just be human first?). 

#4 Pick a place that values you

Besides a positive environment, you should pick a place where your intellectual contributions are appreciated, the company celebrates diversity, and everyone has an opportunity to succeed (Select Academics Based on Merit, Not Money). Also, this should be a place that values the whole person, supports their goals, and understands everyone’s need for work-life balance. This type of environment will allow one to grow professionally, while also feeling their contributions are of value to the team.

#5 Feel empowered

The last piece of advice is always to strive to better yourself and expand your mindset. If you are passionate about something advocating for it will empower you. As an early career researcher, you can make a difference within your circle; everyone can advocate together through collective bargaining. And if promoting for a particular topic makes you feel empowered, it might turn into an enjoyable career (CRAFTing a path: how early career researchers can create local change).


In conclusion, I hope my posts have been useful to early career researchers as they progress in their careers, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to write them. For further advice, feel free to reach out using the contact information on my website:

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