The idea of “resilience” essentially means you can recover quickly from difficulties, adapt to adversity and “bounce back”, it’s a crucial capacity for both researchers and job-seekers.
With such a tough job market (in academia, particularly, but also beyond academia in many industries), we are all likely to face rejection, have our patience tested and perhaps, at times, question our own worth and the validity of our choices. At times like these it is important to remember that it is not about you – we are all operating within a really challenging shared context and all we can do is our best.
Here are a few suggestions for helping you to stay resilient when navigating your career options:
- Try not to have your heart set on just one thing. Yes, it’s good to have plans and goals, but if a lectureship in Medieval History at a particular Oxford college only comes up once every hundred years, don’t put all your eggs in that very competitive basket. If you keep your mind and heart open to multiple possibilities, you are not only less likely to be disappointed, but will also be ready to take up unexpected opportunities that might lead in even more fulfilling directions.
- Fill your life with other things, so that disappointments are easier to manage. Alongside your career aspirations, keep developing your other interests and hobbies, maintain connections with friends outside academia, and remember that your self-worth is not measured by your number of publications or your starting salary.
- Have realistic expectations. If you want to work in academia, it can be ridiculously competitive. Plan for not being able to get a job the minute you hand in your beautifully completed thesis – very few people manage to neatly segue from their postgraduate research degree into academic employment.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. Everyone’s context is different. As is everyone’s research – otherwise it’s not a unique contribution! It is impossible to compare your progress directly to others, so don’t even try. Yes, you’re allowed a secret bit of envy when your best friend lands their dream job and you are struggling to make ends meet, but their success doesn’t mean your failure. Try and offer yourself the same level of compassion you would to others.