What’s next? (Part 2)

What’s next??? (Part 2)

What I first came up with this title, I intended to write something like this:

What’s next???? This question or some variation of it has followed me (and likely every other academic), arguably, since being an undergraduate student and making the decision to go to graduate school. What is next, the workforce or graduate school? Which graduate school, and what next, a master or a PhD? What’s next, a faculty position, postdoc, USGS, oil and gas, mining, etc? You are going to work in the private sector? For how long? Are you going to come back to academics?

Admittedly, I am just as guilty of asking this question of others or at least I was until I realized how much anxiety is attached to that simple question. Nowadays I consciously do NOT ask this question of others. Not only because it gets super annoying after awhile, but with the one question comes anxiety galore! It is incredibly stressful to constantly think “what’s next?”

With that said, it the also the only question I have been asking myself lately, which both annoys me and invokes anxiety. T-minus ~4 weeks until the end of my contract. What’s next? First up, I will be in Denver for a panel discussion about some of the challenges and more taboo topics in academics, including mental health. I am also going to Colorado State University to talk about “The Good and the Ugly of Academics”. Then the future is unknown. I can truly say for the first time that I do not have any idea what is next. Some days this is liberating, some days are I am scared shitless and full of anxiety.

However, I recently became a SCUBA Divemaster Candidate…more on that later.
I would encourage everyone to think twice before asking “What’s next?”. Instead, focus on what about science or the graduate student/postdoc experience as a whole (e.g., research, teaching, science communication) excites the person you are asking. Realistic discuss the challenges that are associated with pursuing an academic career (e.g., decline in faculty position, reduction of budgets at all levels, hiring freezes). Provide suggestions and be supportive if they chose a different path.


One thought on “What’s next? (Part 2)

  1. Christian Poppeliers

    I’ve found my “career” to be ‘what’s next. And next. And next, and next…’. It’s a tough road being a working scientist, and even tougher if one is prone to boredom and/or mental health issues. However, the journey, although stressful, can be pretty fun and rewarding if one’s expectations are modified. The toughest part is accepting and forgiving oneself for the non-linear path.


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