The experience of Yu: I was not aware of other opportunities to continue my career.

After I finished my master’s, I was not aware of other opportunities to continue my career. I never asked myself, What do I want? What am I good at? Instead I directly jumped into my PhD project.

Yu

  • Originally from China
  • Has been in the Netherlands for 10 years
  • MSc Wageningen University & Research
  • PhD Wageningen University & Research & TNO

After I finished my master’s I had no idea that there were other options than pursuing a PhD. In China, as a student you are supposed and expected only to focus on your study programme. As a result, as a student you don’t know anything outside your field of studies.

I was not aware of other opportunities to continue my career. I never asked myself, “What do I want? What am I good at?” Instead I directly jumped into my PhD project. I did not enjoy the PhD, to be honest, because it did not speak to me as Yu. It spoke only to my “ideal Yu” who should be very good in bioscience and biology and become a professor. However, I found out that was not the real me. I just felt that way because I had been told studying was the only important thing.

Of course everything has two sides. I did learn a lot about myself during my PhD and from the decisions I have made. But if I had another chance, I would have broadened my mind and horizon while doing my master’s programme. To know who I am, what I am good at, and what my ambitions and career opportunities are would have helped me to do something that would really fit me instead of choosing the most obvious career path.

We are so busy; we have so many relationships we want to maintain, a lot of tasks we need to finish, and deadlines we must meet. We tend to forget to look at ourselves, until we hit a block and nothing works anymore. You should not let it come that far, where you only look at yourself when things are wrong. Instead take the time to reflect upon yourself, your ambitions, what you do, and whether it is effective and giving you energy.  This process will make your decisions better-informed and better-suited for yourself, and it will prevent you from getting into a job you don’t like or a big hole in a later stage of your life.