I received an email from a very nice person seeking advice and help about their future career choice. I replied saying that I don’t usually give advice because of how complex individuals can be. One piece of advice that might work for one person, may be detrimental to another. However, what I did do was speak from my own experiences – hoping that themes within them apply to their personal situation. I noted that what I wrote could be utter rubbish!

The email correspondence between us helped me to get some of my thoughts down on paper. And, I would like to put them up on my blog just in case someone else finds value in my experiences. This is the first of five blog posts.

Alex shares their thoughts on career choice, based on their personal experience. They changed their perspective from “what do I want to do with my life?” to “who do I want to work with for the rest of my life?” after undergoing counselling. They realized that finding a job with people who share similar values and interests is more important than the job itself. Alex encourages readers to consider the people they will be working with when making career choices, and to prioritize finding a work environment that aligns with their values and personality.

Up until my severe reaction to an antidepressant, I viewed the ‘career’ question as: What do I want to do with my life? After around a hundred sessions of counselling or so, this question changed to: Who do I want to work with for the rest of my life?

There were plenty of nice people surrounding me in my physics PhD, but I had not come across many who were highly emotionally intelligent or had been emotionally educated (i.e. thought about their emotions and behaviours through counselling, meditation etc.). It meant quite a lot of people were oblivious to how others felt in many situations.

Most of my colleagues used their free time on activities that were insular in nature – rock climbing, hiking etc. Most preferred to work on their own, rather than with others. Not many were too keen on trying new things.

I, on the other hand, loved interacting with people, I loved trying new things and working on my own felt energy intensive – I really wanted to work with other people as part of a project. Basically – these were not my kind of people.

Now, I am sure there are few environments in physics where my type of people exist. But the chances of getting a job in this environment and keeping it for the rest of my working life were very slim. Therefore, before I collapsed from exhaustion at the end of my PhD, I was planning to leave academia.

My main mantra in terms of finding work is: “It’s the people, it’s the people, it’s the people!”. What I do doesn’t really matter that much to me. If I find a job which has my type of people and I am good enough (don’t have to be brilliant, just good enough) in whatever skills it requires – or feel able to learn the skills, then I will take that job.

Because, doing work in an environment filled with people like me will, I hope anyway, take a lot less energy. I think it will make the whole earning money thing palatable. Hopefully, I would then have a lot more energy for socialising after work and to pursue other interests, activities and skills (through courses and reading and activity clubs etc.) which may very well lead to my next job.