I asked an old college friend of mine if she would be showing up for our 25th reunion. She's wrapping up her Ph.D. soon, and there is this professional conference the same weekend, in France, for researchers in her field. She wants a research job, and she thinks it would be a good opportunity to network .
I suggested that Cornell might also be good for that. I'll just share the part that caused me to write again:
Me: Do you have a plan for returning with a job?
Her: No. Not really. I have a tentative plan for returning with a postdoc maybe. The problem with these academic jobs is their seasonality. I have a good lead on a postdoc starting in September though.
This was just painful for me to read. There's a great big world out there. She's in an interesting field, she has multiple degrees, and she's looking at the prospect of . . .a post-doctoral program. A postdoctoral scholar “engage[s] in mentored research and/or scholarly training for the purpose of acquiring the professional skills needed to pursue a career path of his or her choosing.” While postdoctoral programs do help people transition into faculty positions, she doesn't want to teach.
So I don't get why she's looking in that direction. This reminded me of a coaching prospect. This prospect figured she couldn't afford me. I suggested she had a creativity problem and not a money one, and suggested she take some time to be creative. I would have been happy to work on spec. I liked where she was going, thought I could get her there, and would have been happy to take a piece of the action. She fell back into her money conversation, and never even made an offer.
I think my Ph.D. friend here is suffering from the same disease. In marketing there's a saying that five percent of the people think, five think they think, and the other ninety will do just about all they can to avoid thinking.
While my friend the Ph.D. is obviously capable of engaging her mind for great purpose, it seems she prefers to remain blind to the world of opportunities around her, and see herself as a potential postdoc, instead of a researcher impacting the world now.
It's like she is waiting somehow for the investiture of damehood in her field, and then she will be able to demand her due. There is no due. No imprimatur will come, ever, to erase all doubt. There is nothing you need except to declare a bold new future and then live into it. It might be that a postdoctoral program has a space in that future, but I think all she needs to do is Choose Herself as James Altucher would suggest.
Or as Mr. Altucher would also suggest, write down ten ideas a day. Think. Think of ten different kinds of places you could do your research. Think of ten benefits of research like yours to a target market. Think of ten target markets. Think of ten reasons you are the perfect candidate. Think of ten cities or authorities that could use someone like you. Think of ten companies that touch on your field from other angles. Think of ten other types of research that your skills could apply to. Think of ten people who could hire you. Think of ten ways to reach them. And then think of ten unique connections you could make between the ninety things you have already listed.
And then, just for fun, think of ten ways that coming to reunion will get you closer to a job and bring you more satisfaction than a much more expensive trip to France.
And if you need help running your idea machine, think of ten reasons why you just might want to reach out and schedule a consultation with me. Use the coupon code Friends, and I'll give you ninety percent off.
And as always, if you like what you see, consider joining the list!
Comment from: Kim Sumner-Mayer Visitor
So true, Dave, that we often limit ourselves by thinking about our constraints, instead of our possibilities. It’s hard, though, at midlife, to change or give up things that we have invested in for years, harder still if you have children and the routines they thrive on. Takes a great deal of courage and willingness to cope with uncertainty. I have a friend who’s a vet, who decided mid-career that he wanted to be able to do surgery and went back for a 3 year internship in vet internal medicine. Pulled up stakes in NY, moved to CA with his wife, who is able to make her career work anywhere she wants to live, and they are living a great life. (Albeit, they have no children–also a purposeful decision on their part.) He’s about to finish, and they’re talking about what’s important to them both in order to figure out exactly what job, where, he wants to take when he’s done. It’s purposeful, passionate living. They are happy. Any therapist worth their salt knows that change, while often desired, is also feared, and people rarely choose to change their circumstances unless they’re in enough pain that the pain of no change becomes greater than the pain of change. The balance has to tip to find that courage.