Ask an Expert

How to use your fears to create a fulfilling career inside or out of academia

Do you know your inner monsters? Our expert Dr. Ulrike Schneeberg can help you to get to know them, help you to solve challenging leadership issues, and help you to develop personally.

About our expert

»I’m Ulrike Schneeberg and I offer training and coaching for researchers and other curious people.

In my work, I focus on improving the relationship we have with ourselves and with others because I believe that this is ultimately the key to solving all these really complex problems that we’re facing in the world right now. On an individual level, it is of course also the key to creating a fulfilling life and career, and to become more and more free. I guess we all know that this is not easy.

As a result of this, I also like to think of myself as a monster specialist: I’m really good at welcoming all the obstacles – the monsters – we need to face and overcome in the process of creating these healthier relationships with ourselves and others.«

Ulrike, what made you realize that you wanted to work as a trainer and coach?


»A combination of fear and a real interest in education. The latter makes immediate sense: I love learning about human development – and there is an incredible satisfaction I get when I can witness that same spark light up in my workshop participants or a coaching client.

The first, the fear, is perhaps unexpected, so I’ll explain. At the beginning of my career as a trainer, I was always so, so scared of actually delivering these trainings. All my fiercest monsters came alive. But I somehow knew that these monsters were giving me an opportunity to grow into a trainer who would feel confident and free. And that was something I really wanted. So although I hated being scared, I was also fascinated by these internal processes and I decided that the best way to free myself from them was to go through them by doing that thing I was scared of: working as a trainer. And that’s what I did – and I’m happy to report that my instincts were on spot. Today, my joy and inner calm when working with groups by far outweigh any anxieties that might still pop up here and there.«


What do you think is important to explore about oneself – in regards to a career but maybe also life in general?


»Ask yourself this: What are you afraid of doing although you know it would benefit you as a person or in your professional role?

Sometimes you might have an answer right away. Sometimes it takes a bit of time and reflection. But we all have our hidden fears. In any case, your answer to this question – and your willingness to befriend it – is a powerful key to more happiness.«


An exercise for you

If you’re thinking about finding alternative career options outside of academia, you can start with this very practical tool:

A guide to landing your target job.

It’ll help you analyse job ads in a very systematic way so that you can then create the best possible match between your current skills and experience and the requirements of your future job field.

Ulrikes’ best and worst career tips

➞ Find a “buddy” or “buddies”: people who are not invested in you staying the way they know me – like your family or really close friends might be.

In other words, find people who support you in your process of changing or of trying out new and unfamiliar things. Ulrike followed that advice and started a success team with four more people who, at the time and like her, were all in the process of figuring out how to be successful as solo entrepreneurs.

Six years later, they still meet every few weeks. They support each other, act as sparring partners, give honest feedback, but also compassion when someone struggles. This group of people has been really valuable to her over the years.

➞ The worst piece of advice was not so much a piece of advice, but more of a doom-and-gloom diagnosis of the terrible career prospects that humanities PhDs apparently face. It came from her former professor who basically said that there is nothing much that one could do career wise with a PhD in the humanities, except stay in academia and eventually become unemployed.

Ulrike doesn’t remember if she heard that from her before or after she wrote a book about 25 different and exciting career paths that actual people from the humanities have created for themselves.




Interested in getting to know your monsters?

»Maybe it sounds cheesy – it is certainly a very privileged thing to say – but one thing I have learned from writing this book is that so much more is possible than what we usually believe when we feel stuck in a certain career path or regret about past decisions. All it takes (for people who are lucky and privileged enough to be in academia in Germany) is our imagination and then our commitment to action and change. That can still be quite a rocky path but it’s 100% worth it.« – Ulrike Schneeberg

If you’d like a supportive community and structure, check out her 6-months coaching journey for researchers.