Ikigai? What’s that? It is a Japanese phrase and roughly translates to a reason for being.
Ikigai is what most people search for in their lives. It is a hard thing to obtain fully as it involves aligning:
- what you love (your interests), and
- your skills (and continually seeing them improve)
- something the world needs, and
- something you can be paid to do.
Step One: Determine Your Interests and Skills
There are several online tools available specifically for graduate students and postdocs to use to assess their skills & interests.
One great resource is ImaginePhD, developed by the Graduate Career Consortium. While it is billed for humanities and social sciences, I find ImaginePhD incredibly useful due to the breadth of resources and career fields it covers.
ImaginePhD and other online resources are used to create what we in the career development field call “individual development plans” – IDPs. Specifically, these resources focus around the concept of aligning your skills, interests, and values with potential careers.
An important point here is that your skills are more than your technical ability and know-how. Think carefully about the transferable skills you have obtained during your graduate training or postdoc.
- Communication (written & oral)
- Project Management (managing multiple projects & deadlines)
- Teamwork & leadership
- Problem solving (being able to assess an issue and determine a solution)
- And more!
Step Two: Matching Interests to Potential Careers
Your interests and skills map on to potential job families which you need to further explore to determine which careers in those families may fit your values and other parameters important to you – work/life balance, salary, autonomy, work travel requirements, etc…
For myIDP, the career paths are focused on science-related careers but also touch on how your skills and interests map on to careers in science policy, science writing, and sales/marketing. For more on getting the most out of myIDP, see a series of articles that appeared in Science Careers.
It also, importantly, emphasizes the next steps required in your career exploration process. Those include exploring careers through connections, building necessary skills where they are needed, and eventually applying for positions.
We’ll cover some of that in the next post. So, stay tuned!