My unpredictable career

My unpredictable career

Struggling with a difficult career decision, or lacking direction? You’re not alone.


I’m sitting in a park surrounded by conversational birdsong, some high-pitched trills, some chirping, others louder and more insistent. One has landed on a branch above me; its song a happy celebration of life. It is accompanied by the melodic warble of a magpie. In the distance a bird interposes a hooting, rhythmic call. I smell the morning freshness, and an invigorating scent of pine and eucalyptus. I look up and see patchy clouds move gently across the sky; they look like finely pulled cotton wool, allowing the calm blue to filter through. In the space beneath and between bird tunes there is a sense of peace, although if I concentrate I hear a faint hum of cars.

A gentle spring breeze carries a hint of the crisp morning; the leaves dance gracefully to its melody as it is gradually infused with the sun’s rays, leaving a comfortable warmth on my skin. The sun is shining mottled light through the trees, onto the bed of bark, dead leaves and pine cones beneath. The playground and scattered tables are empty; lingering evidence of weekend activity and picnics. It is a week day so most people are at work, their children at kindy or school. The deserted park transmits a sense of timelessness. This reinforces my feeling of freedom.

I have a thermos cuppa and my laptop. I’m working on an assignment for a Graduate Certificate in Science Writing with Johns Hopkins University, to augment my recent venture into freelance writing, and reflecting on how I reached this episode of my career. It has been anything but straight-forward, and certainly not planned. I know now that is one of the hidden blessings of seemingly disparate jobs, studies and career paths, conjoining in unpredictable ways and creating a unique new direction that has somehow pulled it all together.

The bulk of my career to date has been as research scientist. In these uncertain times, when less and less people are sticking with one job and long service medals are becoming past history, science is perhaps one of the most uncertain. And even more so if you are female. Maybe I’m lucky my earlier years were dominated by indecision about what I wanted to do, who I wanted to be.

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