This is a guest post from Dr. Vera Chan. She showed me this text, which was originally a facebook blog after her last day of officially working as a postdoc. I was moved so much by it that I thought our readers might like to read it as well and maybe recognise parts of themselves in these lines. Luckily, Vera consented to share this very personal piece of courage and beauty. Thanks Vera!
Today I finished the last day officially being a postdoc. I cried when I saw a video from my supervisor sending thoughtful wishes for my next endeavour.
I cried partially because it felt like a breakup. I have truly enjoyed being a marine scientist in many ways.
It took 6 years and change of three continents to gain enough clarity that, working as an academic professor is not where I want to be personally and professionally.
Have I just failed? For a long time I worried that I will become a disgrace to my professors if I had plans outside of academia. As if all the hard work in the past won’t matter anymore.
And I will be used as a failed example in front of the other younger students.
“If she had pushed to publish in Nature communication, she would have made it.”
“She is not working hard enough”
“She is smart, but unluckily her data are not significant”
“She just needs to get one more postdoc”
I realized, I am not alone. In fact, my experience is shared by many postdocs who are seeing their contract ending soon.
For a long time, whenever I looked into the tiny pool of academic jobs, I felt insecure all the time. With a scarcity mindset, I was constantly worried about being unemployed.
Tonight I decided to embrace an abundance mindset to welcome the next stage of life, the stage that I am committed to explore and find out about how a PhD can serve different roles in society. And do I have the skills they need? What are the materials I have to study before I can call myself employable?
I am grateful that I had the prestigious training in science and experience in foreign countries. Perhaps I just need to learn by working a few freelance projects for cheap and build the portfolio on what I can do.
I am going to stay humble for every work experience that comes my way, and I will keep an open mind and use each opportunity to redefine my focus towards the goal of working in the science industry.
So I made a cake to celebrate this moment.
Vera is a Life Scientist currently seeking a professional career transition from academia to the science industry. She also writes weekly video content on her YouTube channel PhDCoffeeTime to motivate and support Ph.D. students.