I don’t know about other cultures but in my childhood, I kept getting the ‘What are you going to be when you grow up?’ question from my relatives, my teachers, my friends’ parents and family friends. In Turkey, becoming a doctor was a hit, #1 in grandparents’ wish list. Grandparents always go ahead and answer that question on behalf of the grandchild in Turkey: ‘She/he will become a doctor and take care of me, right, my clever granddaughter/grandson?’ Growing up with that continuous suggestion to become a doctor, like most children, I also considered that I would become a doctor. However, I knew very well that I could not handle looking at blood or even giving blood my eyes closed, and this knowledge about myself made me stop thinking about becoming a doctor.
That little example from my own life shows how ‘self-awareness’ can change our career path. So before I go ahead and tell my PhD experiences, I would like to suggest everyone to take some personality tests to get to know himself/herself first. You can answer the questions without having worked somewhere, the preferable time period to ‘identify your character’ in my opinion is 15-16 years of age. Of course, earlier would be more advantageous but how much experience a student gets from his/her daily life to analyse his/her character at the age of 10-12 is questionable. Nevertheless, I think students can save time and direct their future from an early age in this way. For instance, in Germany, students who wish to go to university go to secondary schools called ‘Gymnasium’s. I am not sure if there is also a push from teachers and parents in the German education system, thus I cannot elaborate much, but in Turkey, if your grades were very good, you were directed to the Science-Maths (FM) division at the end of the sophomore year in secondary school. Therefore, the future of a student who did not bother to go into character analysis was greatly influenced by grades.
The biggest contribution of my PhD to my life has been getting to know myself. After finishing it, I can say that my character doesn’t fit with a scientist’s 100% and difficulties I went through arose mostly because of that. Imagine, even after my internships in research labs during each summer of my undergraduate education, I did not have a correct opinion about my capability to be in the laboratory for 3,5 – 4 years straight, almost every day of the week. Therefore, leaving the money and time-saving aspects aside, I strongly recommend doing a master’s course before a PhD. And this course should be two-years where you can spend a whole year in the laboratory (for life sciences). Research masters students in the U.K. come to do experimental research for a whole of 3 months and that’s no different than doing an internship and hence, does not give you a clear opinion on your strengths and weaknesses.
At the moment, I am not sure what will be the path I follow. For this reason, alongside my thesis corrections, I am reading through this book (I recommend it as it is quite useful and not very expensive):
I read about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) which is a personality assessment instrument helping you to discover your personality among 16 personality types that emerge as a result of interactions among your preferences of:
(E) EXTRAVERSION or INTROVERSION (I)
(S) SENSING or INTUITION (N)
(T) THINKING or FEELING (F)
(J) JUDGING or PERCEIVING (P)
I followed the instructions and reached the conclusion that I have an ESFJ type (see the chart below) of personality which is described as actively sociable, warm, harmonizer, caring, enthusiastic, empathic, people-oriented, practical, responsible, concrete, orderly, cooperative, appreciative and loyal (if you noticed, there is a picture of a scientist above the INTJ type of personality, bummer!) on the official website of the Myers and Briggs Foundation (http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/).
You can take the shortened version of this personality test at http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes1.htm or you can try the TypeFinder® Personality Test which is currently for free at http://www.truity.com/test/type-finder-research-edition. You can also find career suggestions based on your personality type at http://www.truity.com/.
What is your 4-letter code? 🙂