Ask an Expert

Career Strategies in Crisis: How to reframe your career path

Rakesh Kasturi is the co-founder of Life Sprint, a virtual workshop for people to get career clarity in a safe and supportive way. Figuring out the next career step is not always easy and can sometimes become quite lonely. We spoke to Rakesh about getting #unstuck in research careers.

What is Life Sprint all about and what are the tools you are using to work on the next career steps and get #unstuck?

With Life Sprint, we start by setting a vision, developing a strategy and then identifying the actions needed to get unstuck. Career journeys can be quite lonely, so, we’ve come up with a pathway that bridges individual activity and getting guidance and support from a micro-community.

One of the most effective tools that we use is reframing – which is nothing but a change of perspective. If you’re stuck in a boring job or meeting, what’s your silver lining? How can you train yourself to look at the positive side of things instead of simmering in a broth of despair?

What struggles do researchers face nowadays?

When it comes to researchers, I hear a lot of recurring dilemmas or forks in the road – “Should I go for a postdoc or an industry position” or “Should I do a PhD or a consulting job?”. Also, it’s not a classic 9-5 job – there’s a lot of time and energy that goes into working in labs, where the work culture is probably not optimal.

 

I’m afraid we’re at a point of inflection where anxiety and depression is worsening in research cultures.

Do you see similarities on the international level?

In 2019, we’ve worked with more than 150 people from 12 different countries and we observed that career challenges are quite universal. Most people want to do meaningful work, get paid for it and have a healthy life.

To top that off, they’re working under conditions of near-constant financial pressure – which badly needs systemic change.  I don’t want to paint a dark picture here but I’m afraid we’re at a point of inflection where anxiety and depression is worsening in research cultures and a huge part of it is due to constant performance measurement and uncertain career directions.

3  pieces of advice for researchers in a transitional phase

1) Taking a decision is more important than taking the “right” decision

2) What are your inner fears that are holding you back at work?

    • Identify one of them
    • Try to visualize it and ask yourself at least 3 times why you have this fear within you (or do this together with a colleague/friend/partner)

3) Apply your scientific methods to your career and set up micro-career experiments:

    • test,
    • collect results,
    • learn,
    • rinse,
    • and repeat!

What strategy helps researchers in a career changing phase the most (and during a crisis)?

Unfortunately, there’s no magic strategy that works for everyone. In my opinion, knowing yourself, your values and what matters most to you comes first. After that, it’s also important to spot the signals within/around you (eg. feelings of unease on Sunday evening before starting your work week) and understand why you want to make this change.

In my opinion, knowing yourself, your values and what matters most to you comes first.

I believe researchers are probably the best-equipped in such challenging times for career changes – Why? Because they know how to run experiments.

At Life Sprint, we advocate applying a mindset of running small career experiments that you can learn from. This way you can minimize risk, not be disappointed by rejection, take baby steps and involve some trusted peers in the process.

Life Sprint
Life Sprint workshops help people who are stuck in their careers to
  • reframe their challenges,
  • redesign their focus and
  • take action towards a better life.

Alumni of our programs just recently participated in Life Sprints. You can participate as well, Life Sprints start on a regular basis.