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How did you decide what career was right for you?

  1. Jul 8, 2014 #1
    Pretty long post - can just answer the title question if you don't want to read about all of my thoughts and worries :P

    Having completed my first year studying Physics at University (I'm on a 4 year MPhys course), I
    have turned my thoughts to what career path I want to take. I know a lot of people who would consider this a little bit late, but I struggled to think of anything during my school years, and decided to study Physics for three reasons:
    1) I found it the most interesting of my subjects,
    2) Career prospects seemed quite good after University, I always considered myself prepared to do whatever it takes (within reason :P ) to get to where I want, so a bit of extra studying, some hard work and even some ***-kissing never worried me ;)
    3) I was always good at Physics and Maths, so it seemed like the best option for me.

    Now that I am looking at jobs etc. that I wold like to go in to, I am really struggling to find anything that I think I would enjoy enough. When I previously thought about this, I was hoping that I could at least find something I could tolerate, (hopefully with a high enough pay to take a decent holiday each year:D ) but looking at hours and days off, I feel I would need a job that I properly enjoy.

    My 3 'favourite' choices for career would be:

    Medical Physics - It seems like a job that would keep me interested longer than most others. While I know that is not a very healthy attitude when looking for a job, this is probably the best/most realistic option I have right now. In the UK, it seems I would have to go into the NHS STP program to have the best chance of becoming a Medical Physicist. However, I fear that after only a few years I would become a bit bored in this job :(

    Management - I know this might sound odd, but I think I could survive in a management-type job, ideally in a sort of scientific company. While I highly doubt I would enjoy a research job for any more than a couple of years at best, I would still like to be involved in it in some way, shape or form XD I know this is quite unlikely, as I seem fairly apathetic towards this, but if I could find a way into this field I reckon I could survive there.
    I'd likely have to

    Broadcasting/Presenting - This is my favourite idea right now, but it is also my most unlikely. I also do worry that I am only interested for the more glamorous side of it right now, caused my my stress and fear of what is to come after Uni :S (I'm quite a big worrier) It would be presenting in the scientific (mostly Physics :P ) field, performing interviews, discussions, answering listeners questions, and one day presenting TV shows would be awesome XD I have applied to a few radio stations nearby (even for just tiny features at some) , but all of my applications have been unsuccessful so far. I got to an interview for one, but was told that I probably wouldn't be very popular as a regular feature due to my accent :( . (I lived close to Newcastle for 8 years, and in Spain for 10 years, and even I notice that this has left me with a very strange accent) I am working on improving it, but there are also so many people who would be much better suited to something like this than I am, so it would be very difficult for me to get into this. As I said before, I am willing to work to get there, I'm just having a difficult time breaking into this and it is quite disheartening and I do feel myself losing some of my motivation :( This also leads me to feel that my efforts would be better spent trying to pursue something else - something more realistic - while still trying to get into this when & where I can.
    I also know it would be extremely unlikely for me to get to my ultimate goal in this.

    Anyway, that's enough on my thoughts for now.
    I suppose my question would be: How and when did you decide what career was right for you?
    If you are in one of my 3 preferred areas - how do you find it? Could you tell me anything that might help me make my mind up?

    Thanks :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 8, 2014 #2
    A few quick notes:

    • IMHO, whether you enjoy a University class doesn’t have much to do with how much you’ll enjoy the actual work you’ll do on the job.
    • I’m not sure how you’re telling whether you’d be bored in the jobs you’re looking at. Surely not from a piece of paper or written description? You've interviewed people who work at these jobs? Or spent time on site with them?
    • Many different jobs have duties and work processes that are nearly identical. Accountants’ daily routine and work processes sound almost identical to mine, but I’d throw myself out the window if I had to be one. The differences are small and large at the same time.
    • I found what I wanted to do by banging around until I fell into it. I hope you find a more efficient method!
    • My advice: Cut your local ties, think big, get out into the world and experience life somewhere awesome.

    Best of luck with whatever you choose!
  4. Jul 8, 2014 #3


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    When wrestling with these kinds of choices, it's important to keep in mind that in most cases a career path is only partially a result of the direction that you choose and is also heavily influenced by the opportunities available to you at the time (which are usually uncontrollable).

    I'm a medical physicist. When I started out in undergrad I was a lot more interested in astrophysics, but as I progressed through my education my interests changed and matured and the realities of a career in academia became more visible. I also had some very good opportunities that I took advantage of. When it came time to choose a field for my PhD I chose medical physics both because I began to find the field more interesting (of all the colloquia I was attending, I enjoyed the medical physics talks the most) and because of the professional aspects of the field.

    Medical physics is a competitive field right now, but one that's difficult to get bored in, in my opinion. The reason for that is that once you're working as a medical physicist, you can get involved in a number of different aspects of the field. Beyond the daily clinical work there is research, teaching and professional involvement -such as working on committees with organizations like the AAPM. Some medical physicists will also set themselves up as consultants or develop their own ideas into entrepreneurial ventures. Alternatively, some good friends of mine have done a lot of work helping to bring in modern radiotherapy technology into underdeveloped areas. On top of that, as you progress through your career, there are management opportunities, which you did say you were interested in.
  5. Jul 9, 2014 #4


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    Be careful about wanting to go into management. I do some managing and it is my least favorite part of the job. A good manager basically deals with all the crap so the development team can focus. That means to do your job effectively you need to keep yourself from getting your hands in the fun stuff. It's a drag.

    Also, I know you were kind of joking, but be careful about kissing up or brown-nosing. The people whose butts you kiss won't respect you and your peers will come to despise you. At least this is what I have seen in my 10 years working.
  6. Jul 11, 2014 #5
    Hello, and thank you all for replying :)
    Since posting this, I actually managed to get an interview with one of the (lesser-known :P ) radio stations and have been accepted to work with them for a couple of weekends each month, which has put me in a much better mood :) Think I would probably rather keep with this as more of a hobby/side project though, at least for now.

    I have contacted all my tutors and lecturers also asking for advice, and if they can talk to me about their own experiences with making this choice or if they know of anyone who might be able to help me, perhaps even with just a little tour of where they work :) .
    As I still think Medical Physics is probably going to be the most interesting career path for me:
    I'm requesting to swap one of my optional modules next year to the available Medical Physics module (Aspects of Medical Imaging and Technology) to get a feel for one possible role in this field.
    Also, my Uncle is quite high up (not entirely sure what he does :P ) at the hospital he works at, and we are going to try and arrange some work experience or visits to help me make my decision.

    Hopefully all of this will help me sort everything out.

    I'll admit when I first started this thread I wasn't in the best frame of mind and was quite stressed and on-edge, so I probably seemed like a bit of a downer :D
  7. Jul 11, 2014 #6
    Congrats on getting the radio job! That's fantastic!

    ... I'd like to hear more about Choppy's medical physics experience. I'm having the same dilemma (with different career prospects, of course). Mostly I'm trying to choose a PhD subject that's interesting, but pragmatic.
  8. Jul 11, 2014 #7
    It's good you're trying to get time with medical physicists. I used to work in HR at the NHS and sixth form kids who wanted to do medicine at uni would call up for shadowing to discover a waiting list of years (just like patients, then. Bazinga, more like 6 months.)

    Please arrange at least one face-to-face interview with the careers office. Go through many self-evaluation tools found online to get your ideas more coherent and on paper before you arrive. Try the Uni of Kent careers website.
  9. Jul 14, 2014 #8
    I'm the best in my class at PLCs so what I should do with my life was pretty much decided for me.
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