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What comes next

I’m pretty sure I speak for all ESRs within ViBrANT that stress is starting to rise sensitively now that we are coming to end. It seems like yesterday that we first met in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, on a pleasant summer evening sometime early September 2018. It is however the harsh truth that the 3 foreseen years are arriving at its final stage, and with it arises the pressing question: what comes next?

The final stages

As neatly described in Ina Meuskens’ and Sounak Chowdhury’s last blog posts, doing a PhD comes with various different tasks. Especially the end of a PhD entails more than one might expect. As such, the coming months are filled with workshops, meetings, and conferences. Who doesn’t want to present their final research one last time? You might just end up convincing that one senior academic to hire you for a post-doc position… Needless to say that all these events include quite some preparatory work such as writing abstracts, designing poster, or preparing oral presentations.

On top of the obvious, nonetheless of uttermost importance, thesis-writing, you will also want to publish your precious work in a (hopefully high impact) scientific journal (or two). In addition, I also share the responsibility of organizing a ViBrANT-conference as closing event (you should definitely check it out!). Luckily, some of us got the opportunity to work a few extra months within their research institute, because of various reasons, to finish key experiments, or to push forward that last publication.

Nevertheless, no matter how packed your agenda might look like, each and all of those above-mentioned tasks make you more experienced, and thus more valuable as a scientist. During this last (rather busy) period however, a slumbering question never leaves your thoughts: what will I do after?

What makes you stand out?

It’s key that you start thinking about future plans ahead of time (yes, more stress). In this regard, the first question I ask myself might sound straightforward, but isn’t an easy one to answer: do I pursue a career in academics or do I strive for a position in a (biotech) company?  A second crucial question would be: do I stay in Germany, do I bring back my expertise to Belgium, or should I look beyond those two options?

Regardless of the answers, it is important to take into consideration your own talents, skills and ambitions. What motivates you on a daily basis? Recently, I attended a two-day workshop, called ‘Career Compass’, which helped to reflect on certain personal aspects I knew I held, but wasn’t fully aware of. The workshop didn’t answer the two main questions mentioned above, but it surely helped me to perceive those questions with a clearer and more objective mind-set.

Irrespective of your doubts or already made decisions, it’s important that you end up in an environment where you can be yourself and enjoy your daily work. Hopefully, I, and all the other ESRs, will soon make a decision on which we can thrive on.

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