As mentioned in a previous entry, some of our education systems zap the creativity right out of us. All through school, university, even graduate school, jobs we are given a task to complete. We are told this is it, and thus, it is so. Some of us are not given the chance to create our own curriculum, our own collaborations, our own "Fedex" days. "Fedex" days are those in which everyone in the lab, company or organization takes 24 hours to work on anything they want. At the end of the day, presentations are given over a social meeting with food and drinks. Some of the most innovative ideas to improve efficiency, save money and resources have been invented during these "free" to create days.
I remember a colleague of mine who took the initiative to create her own major in university, something she had a passion for. She took an assortment of classes and proposed a major to the administration, and she was awarded that degree. Wow - how many of us had that creativity way back at age 19?
Creativity and thinking outside the box are critical when finding the passion for a career, not just a job, but a career you love and jump out of bed for. There are no set rules, just the scope of your imagination and self-assessment. Career objectives change throughout graduate school, and one must be flexible with that as well.
I will illustrate with an example. Student A is tired of the academic pursuit and wants to try something else. But has no idea what. Her goal of the ivory tower has changed since starting her fourth year of a PhD. During her last year, she reads up on nonacademic career options from various organizations and blogs. She fills out her LinkedIn profile, attends networking events, and realizes she has always been interested in scientific policy. There are no internships in her area. She begins talking to people about her ideas, and a colleague says she knows somebody in Washington she can talk to. Moving to DC is not an option, but she speaks to her colleague's friend and learns all about the policy world. She is given the name of another connection in her own city. She volunteers once a week in their office during her thesis write-up, and loves it. After graduation, she is given a paid position. She has entered the first year of her career.
(More on Career Transitions entry.
This pathway is not set in a box, not outlined for anyone to follow. There is no manual. Creativity, people skills, networking, communications, self-assessment, and thinking outside the box will get you there.