Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Career and Life Development

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

This is a question we have all heard since elementary school. Most younger kids say "Fireman, police officer, teacher, pet doctor, superhero, musician, artist, singer." As average kids reach their teens, their early views usually lead them towards medical doctor, teacher, lawyer, business person, perhaps scientist. I do not even think some undergraduates know all the departments available such as 1) Health Policy, Management and Evaluation (HPME,) 2) all the different types of engineering, 3) Curriculum, Teaching and Learning.

Then as students survive undergraduate education, the ones who opt for graduate school are swimming through yet another maze. Yes, they have chosen a field, but now the answer to "what do you want to be?" is not as clear. Perhaps you are the stellar, academia-prepared PhD candidate; and you already know which university you will hold a tenure-track position. However, the "average" PhD student, I think, is still trying to answer the age-old question.

Even after the acquisition of the great job opportunity, the scientist professional is always growing and changing "hats." A mentor of mine informed me to try something new every 5-6 years. Since by the 5-6 year mark, the brain needs to mix it up a bit. It might be the sabbatical, taking a new course, learning a new technology, learning a new field through your network. As academically inclined creatures, we are always reaching to expand our horizons. In what job occupation, with which partner and which lifestyle is all up to you.

I think as we grow older, the old question of "What do you want to be when you grow up?" undergoes a metamorphosis to "What kind of life would you like to have? What kind of job and family integration would you like to have?" The answers to these questions are very personalized and actually change as you and your family grow older together.

What do I want to be when I grow up? At this particular time in my life, I would hope to maintain the interweaving of my children, husband, extended family, career and music in my life. Perhaps as the kids grow older, I will focus on more work-related endeavors. Those endeavors will definitely be different from my past accomplishments. I feel as if I am swimming through a new maze; but I know that now, I have acquired the tools and mentors to guide me there.

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