I’ve been thinking about my career a lot and just how I might fit into the modern world.

I’m a thinker. I research. I do things once I’ve thought them through. I need space and time to focus and process things and then I’ll talk about it until the topic and possibly my conferees are exhausted and am still willing to keep going. It sometimes feel like I want the last word on nothing.

One thing humans are praised for is adaptability. PhDs seeking to go beyond academia are said to be flexible too. And in a way, the in-demand person is adaptable and can roll with many situations, learn what’s needed to get something done and do it.

I may be missing something but I do worry that the modern world vastly favors specialization (and automation). It is impossible for one human to do it all. I can’t build a computer or a smartphone (at least not a notebook computer) from scratch (yes, I could source components, but can’t make them myself). I can create blogs, I can write a bit, and research, as well as explore data and get something out of it. But that is general and vague it seems to me in a world that wants instant specialists. And fast specialists. Patience and thinking seem to be luxuries of the past.

A lot of people seem relatively adept at creating their own job within an organization, or at least that seems like a relatively common way jobs are gotten as organizations simply like having good people on hand. To do specific things sure, but who can adapt to new roles and grow as well.

It seems like the ideal candidate is a specialist that can generalize/adapt.

I hope I’ve specialized enough, that I can adapt. That i’m not stuck in Shawshank Prison.

In my next post, I think I’ll try and inventory my skills and see if something interesting emerges from the exercise.



Author: Ian Street

Ian is a plant scientist and science writer relating stories of plant science and scientists on his blog, The Quiet Branches as well as other outlets. You can find him on Twitter @IHStreet.

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