Career Goals and Statement of Purpose
Someone sent a note today asking for advice on how to write these stupid essays for fellowship applications.
I still think it's bizarre that they ask you to do this, since someone who writes a great essay might have a ridiculous research plan, but it seems unlikely.
More often I think it's the other way around- the advisor helps with the research plan, but doesn't even want to discuss career goals with the student, so the essay on career goals is horrible.
It's rare that anyone really excels at both, and it's equally rare that the essay being bad is going to keep you from getting the fellowship.
Most people just write the same bullshit anyway. So basically you just want to sound like a real person, but it's okay if you don't say anything too original, because most people are only going to give the essay the most cursory read.
Here's my advice: Think hard about what you want to do, and why you want to do it. Be honest. And get someone else to read it.
It's funny because I was just thinking about this again today. One of my role models is having a rough time right now, and I'm feeling abandoned because she's worried about her own career and doesn't feel qualified/doesn't have time to help me with mine.
So I was thinking again how, while there are things I admire about her, I hope I've learned how to avoid making some of her mistakes.
But part of me just thinks, well here she is, quite a bit farther along with her career, and she doesn't feel any more secure or satisfied, really, than I do now.
Is this really what I'm signing up for? Lots more years of battling other people's malformed expectations, passive aggressive crap, and a constant feeling of uncertainty?
Last week was so good. Was that my one good week for a while? Lately it seems like I can't have more than one in a row.
Maybe I should hire Nancy Pelosi's astrologer.
So as an example, I've posted my career goals here before, but it never hurts to think about them again.
I want my own lab, and I want to run it my way.
I want to work on my ideas, not someone else's.
I want a team of people to work with me on my ideas. I want to do the hiring and firing.
I want students who have their own ideas.
My top career goal right now is to get a faculty position and funding. That's all. I can't think much farther ahead than that.
The purpose of my research is to ask good questions and figure out the most direct, practical ways to ask them.
The purpose of my research is to keep me from getting bored.
The purpose of my research is that it's a non-boring way to pay the rent.
Lately I'm hearing more and more that the way to get a good job is to find the job you want and target it as you would an all-out attack. Do lots of research on 2-3 places that you think would be good for you, and put all your effort into making contacts, and making your application suit the slot that's open.
My problem right now is, I'm afraid the job I want doesn't exist. And I'm afraid that, the more I research the possibilities, the less certain I'll be that there is a place out there that I would ever fit.
If you keep squishing me between a rock and a hard place, can you make me fit a mold that wasn't made for someone my shape?
It's funny because here I tend to vent my fears and frustrations, and here it's probably evenly split between people telling me to quit and people telling me not to give up. Though admittedly, I've never really run a poll and counted.
But in real life, people who know me, or even people who barely know me, say they feel certain I'll succeed in achieving my goals, that they're not worried about me, that I seem to be on top of my game.
You do? I will? You're not? I am?
My question now is, how much help is it reasonable to ask for when people think you shouldn't or don't need it? And how do you convince them you do need it, when you're in a culture where showing signs of weakness just means the sharks will smell blood and come out to eat you?
If I didn't really need any help, would I still feel like I do now?