How do you feel about working and earning a living? As something that you have to endure, or as something that you really enjoy?
When I was a post-doc thinking about jobs outside of higher education, it seemed to me that I couldn’t enjoy anything more than working in a university. I thought leaving university research and teaching would mean trading better financial security for lower personal fulfilment.
In fact the opposite turned out to be true – when I got my first job in business, working in an e-learning company, both my financial situation and my sense of personal fulfilment increased. I was happier, healthier and I had a better work-life balance than when I was a researcher.
The reality is that many companies today will offer you good pay and working conditions, and the opportunity to do meaningful, impactful work. I’ve been fortunate enough to work for some great organisations in the years since I left academia.
For example today I work for a sustainable bank, which only lends money to organisations involved in positive social change – areas like renewable energy, organic agriculture, social housing and the arts. It really feels like I’m part of a movement that’s making a tangible difference in the world.
Remember, a job outside of academia needn’t require a direct trade-off between your pay and your personal values. Companies are offering good salaries to attract intelligent, highly-skilled and motivated people – which perfectly describes you as a researcher.
You really can have your cake and eat it, to borrow a phrase!
Take action now: Spend a few minutes reflecting on your unconscious assumptions about the nature of work outside of academia. Are your preconceptions about soulless corporations, and an overly-rosy view of academic life, holding you back?
Take some time to read about the work of companies which are committed to doing good in the world. Check out the B Corporation movement for instance, and browse this fantastic job board on the 80,000 Hours website, which lists some of the world’s most high-impact jobs. Which jobs interest you most?