By Kelsie

I have reached the point in my PhD where people have stopped asking me what my PhD is on and started asking me what I’m going to do when I finish. When I’m asked this question I mumble something about post-docs then change the subject. The truth is I’m not sure that I want to continue with research when I’m finished (or that I will do a good enough job to get into a post doc anyway!). This has prompted me to actually start thinking about a life after my PhD but I don’t really know where to begin.

things people ask Phd students
You may have heard one or two or all of these. I still find the “What’s the point of that?” question super hard.

I was one of those fools who went straight from high school to university to honours to a PhD. Organized learning and research has been my life for as long as I can remember. I haven’t moved overseas, I have stayed at the same uni in the same city, in the same country for my whole university career. All I know is that when I finish I want to go somewhere new and possibly do something different. So here is what I have come up with.

“Awesome future career choice” number 1: Jewellery

I work with otoliths (fish earstones) and they look pretty cool. They would probably make pretty nice alternative jewellery and I know for a fact that in the right environments they can last for thousands to millions of years. Family heirloom? More like species heirloom!

otolith jewellery
Just to prove it’s a real thing. If you want to find out more here is an article about it: “Otolith jewelry: Creating beauty out of unconventional parts.” or this one “Lucky stones: otoliths are awesome”

“Addicts career choice” number 2: Barista

Ok I realise a lot more goes into making coffee than I think but I’ve drunk so much of it over the course of my life that I see myself as an expert. Basically I’m so addicted I probably won’t be able to give it up after uni and getting free coffee would be pretty brilliant.

“Dream career choice” number 3: Reading books

There has to be something I can do that is just sitting around reading all day and getting paid for it. Librarian maybe? My mum was a librarian. Maybe I could follow in the family footsteps. Or I could just own a bookshop and get someone else to run it/serve customers. Then I can just sit up the back with my coffee machine and read books.

“Creative career choice” number 4: Origami folding

I have heaps of practice folding little paper sleeves using greaseproof paper for storing powdered samples and standards. I’m not sure how I would get money from this but I still think it’s a useful skill.

“Worst possible career choice” number 5: Public speaker

I have had to give quite a few presentations both for my undergrad degree and for post grad stuff. I can string words together and speak them out loud in front of people… actually I’ve changed my mind. I’m going back to the bookshop idea.

Alright so that’s my list. I’m enjoying the work I am doing at the moment but that doesn’t mean I will enjoy it five years from now or ten or twenty! I think we have to be willing to think outside of the research box and look at other areas of occupation and build up other skills. My dad has always told me to take opportunities and steer yourself towards the things that make you happy so that’s what I’ll do.

Oh and here’s one last idea; to everyone who is currently undertaking a PhD at RSES, I don’t know all of you, and there’s no guarantee you will read this post but in 20 years (when we’ve just finished our PhDs) let’s write an email to whoever is running the Oncirculation blog and tell them what we ended up doing. Did we stay in academia, did we teach, did we travel the world, have 20 children or make novelty science themed jewellery? Who did we become? I for one am looking forward to finding out.