How much is too much?

I’m back, I’m finally back! I have a phone line, broadband and a new mobile. No bookcases yet which is going to be a problem and no TV which is a problem right now, but I’m getting there…day by day the chaos is pushed back :-)

As I mentioned previously I have reached a stage in my career when I have begun talking to potential aspiring scientists. I’m very happy to do this, some very helpful people gave up their time when I was younger to talk to me and I find it very rewarding. A question I have begun reflecting on from these experiences is how much information should I really share and is it dishonest to gloss over the tougher aspects of careers in science?

I’m always for sharing information and against keeping people in the dark so the obvious answer is that I should share as much information as possible. Certainly if someone asks a direct question it would be wrong to avoid answering it. Some of the people I’ve talked to have asked very sensible questions such as how many years do you need to train for? How old are you when you finish full time education? How much can you earn, early in your career and later? These are excellent questions and it’s great that young people are thinking about their careers in practical terms.

What I’ve been wondering about is whether my answers put some people off unnecessarily. If someone had told me at 13 I would have to study until I was 27 to pursue a career in science would I have been put off? If I had known how tough the bad days would be and how hard I’d have to work, would I have been put off?

I’ll never know the answers to those questions or whether anyone who decided against doing science would have had a career in science if life had been different and we had never talked. The reality for me is that I love doing science and I don’t regret in any way studying for so long or having to persevere through some bad days. There are bad days in all professions and many don’t have the same rewards as a career in science: Knowing that you’ve contributed to the knowledge base of mankind is a pretty special feeling. Working through a difficult problem is really rewarding, as is helping other people to find solutions to their problems. Science isn’t the best paid career but it isn’t the worst, I have a good life with all of the things I need and a reasonable amount of the things I want. On the other hand a career in science isn’t going to suit everyone, we all have different strengths and aspirations.

So the essential question seems to be how is the information perceived and what can I or should I do to ensure it comes across in a positive but balanced way?

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One Response to How much is too much?

  1. liz Alsbury says:

    Once again some very thought provoking stuff here. It is always best to be honest, and telling people that this will not be an easy ride career is entirely appropriate. However, you have already highlighted the good things and how happy you are with your life in science. I think this subject and career is certainnly not for the feint hearted, but emphasis on the final rewards is always a good carrot for the aspiring scientist. You already do a great job of realistically explaining the career path, I don’t think you need to do anything particilalry differently.

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