When will you get a ‘real’ job?
When will you get your degree and will it be useful? Will you be pursuing a PhD? What are your plans after graduation? When will you get a ‘real’ job? When will you get married, and how many children do you want? Many of us are probably familiar with these well-intended questions our grandparents often asked at family gatherings and the apprehension we felt when we had to admit we do not yet have a definite answer to every single one of them.
A few decades ago, a typical career path involved finishing school at 18, attending university for four years, starting a 9-to-5 job, climbing the corporate ladder, and retiring at 60, while getting married and raising children somewhere along the way. In recent years though, there has been a noticeable shift in attitudes towards work ethics. Gen Z, in particular, has faced significant criticism, often being labeled as lazy, disengaged and unambitious, while many young people today express their dissatisfaction with the acknowledgement that due to rising living costs and stagnant wage growth, working hard is simply not worth it.
Asking the questions that really matter
It’s essential to remember that traditional career trajectories were developed during an era when men earned enough money to provide for the whole family, and women were responsible for the uncompensated house and care work. However, due to significant shifts in societal norms and cultural dynamics, changing global and regional economies, technological advancements, and a deeper understanding of gender equality, this model no longer universally applies. For women in particular, the conversation around work has undergone rapid change. It shifted from questions like ‘Should women be allowed to work?’ to ‘Do women have to choose between work and family?’, eventually raising the question ‘What constitutes a healthy work-life-balance?’ Today, we recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Life encompasses more than just work and family, and individual happiness varies greatly, not just among women but for everyone.
What is important enough for us to become an essential part of our lives, is not simply determined by our gender. The more we overcome stereotypes and associated gender roles, the more we are able to understand ourselves as the multifaceted humans that we are and ask the questions that really matter, beyond what is expected of us as a woman or a man: What are my interests, my talents, and my aspirations? Who do I want to spend my time with? Where do I want to live? What are my priorities in life?
After graduating – I was amazed at the number of career options and found it tricky to decide what suited my diverse interests and the lifestyle I was looking for. So instead of going to university, I opted for an apprenticeship first. My interest in science grew over time and led to the decision to get a university degree in Biotechnology, a choice I never regretted. This path was the right one for me to find my passions and talents. Today, I couldn’t imagine pursuing a career in a field I am not enthusiastic about. It is important to me that my job challenges me and offers me the opportunity to continuously learn and grow.
Christina Frohn, Quality and Regulatory Affairs Manager at CLR
Life is a long-term study
After all, life is an experiment. Every scientist knows, when starting a new project, the outcome is never 100 % predictable. Based on what we have learned so far, we state hypotheses and set up our experiments to the best of our knowledge and abilities. We gather and analyze huge amounts of data and sometimes, the results show us, we are on the right track, but often the outcomes may not align with our initial expectations and we have to take a few steps back and readjust some parameters; occasionally we have to start all over again and every now and then we even end up finding unexpected answers to questions we have never thought of before.
Our lives are alike in many ways. Yes, there is satisfaction in the face of accomplishment, if we can check-off another point on our to-do-list and manage to achieve a goal we set for ourselves. However, more often than not, life hits us with surprises, with opportunities and challenges, that prompt us to reassess our opinions, our priorities, our goals and redefine what success and happiness mean to us. Life is a long-term study of who we truly are and the wisdom we acquire along the way is what leads us to become more knowledgeable, more experienced, more adept at overcoming adversity and more appreciative of how far we have actually already come.
Working in a scientific environment can sometimes be a challenge. Trying to solve problems that are seemingly unsolvable can be daunting. Sometimes you can’t even predict whether all the time and effort you put into a scientific project will pay off in the end. Faced with these challenges, I found it extremely encouraging to open up and talk to people in my scientific environment. Supporting and being supported by others from various fields and backgrounds, sharing knowledge and experience, led to solutions that I could never have imagined. For me, a success that is shared is the key to finding and maintaining the joy of science. It’s about seeing the beauty of the process, however challenging it may be and wherever it may take you.
Dr Jule Lexa Völzke, Manager Product Design & Development at CLR
Peer-review is key
Just like in scientific research, peer-review is key. We need to surround ourselves with people who provide professional and personal support, who offer constructive criticism, who encourage us to express our opinions and ideas and who inspire us to explore our full potential. And we need to create education and work environments that offer enough flexibility to reflect the ever-changing reality of life, no matter where our priorities lie at various stages of our journey.