Career identities exist as images of the future!

This -in my understanding quite philosophical sentence- is a very nice symbol of what was offered in our training courses about “what comes next after a PhD”. Finalising this huge personal project is a challenge, it is exciting, but it can also be frightening when something familiar ends after several years.

It is a kind of a journey: discovering a general route to academia or industry (which respectively includes all options outside academia and being a researcher at university) and learn what is needed, wished, and could be useful to draft your future work images. This learning process was not only restricted to external requirements, but included also a side-step to personalities, personal values and skills. Discovering yourself, to some extent, can be more difficult than discovering the requirements of the job market or funding agencies. But, as Aristoteles said, knowing yourself is the start of all wisdom! And knowing yourself is asking yourself a lot of questions (and hopefully getting some answers)!

So, the first two days were dedicated to survive in academia! It is the first step to have a great idea, but when just finishing your PhD, funding opportunities for your ideas are limited in the beginning. Only a few calls are available. Maybe you want to continue in another country, maybe you want to stay where you are. How to deal with uncertainties or long decision periods until you get to know if all efforts were worth it? Together with Sia Gosheva from the EU GrantsAccess office (University Zurich / ETH Zurich) and Marcus Kratschke (BayFor) we started our journey by learning from the experiences of two colleagues who decided to stay in academia, Lenny Winkel and Ralf Kaegi. By this, many thanks again for sharing your experiences and ideas!

Staying in science means mainly convincing others about your ideas and to get them funded, in other words: writing proposals. But how to find the right calls for funding at which stage of your career? From Sia we learned a lot about EU funding opportunities, which are applicable, and how to manage the submission process at the EU funding opportunities portal. Very helpful for those who are not deterred by the often low success rates of getting such proposals granted! Together we also explored national funding opportunities. With Marcus we went more into detail about the content of proposals. What do reviewers want to get when talking about impact, what are the topics they are keen on when reviewing a proposal? How to read a call or interpret a review to improve future proposals? Knowing and realizing the limited time a reviewer has to judge your idea and its implementation is a good guidance for writing proposals.


The next two days were dedicated to those who, after this quite theoretical introduction, knew very quickly that they do not want to go into this sometimes gambling-appearing environment. Even if you have a great idea, you have to be at the right stage of your career, find an adequate call, thus just be at the right time at the right place. And hoping that your idea triggers the interest of the reviewers. Which is not always the case. And then?

As an alternative to the academic pathway Lorena Coletti, Anja Pauling and Michael Grunder from the ETH Zurich Career Center showed to us the world outside academia. But before going there, we made a step inside (ourselves) to discover what we care about: personal interests, values and skills we have. Not the knowledge we gained during our study but our transferable skills. A difficult topic, imaging these questions in your job interview: what are you good in or not? Sounds simple? We spend a lot of time on discussions, coaching and getting input; eyeopeners for those who are more familiar with thinking about biogeochemical cycles or mechanistic models! Particularly the learning-by-doing-part, sharing experiences and impressions e.g. of the voluntary job interview and getting feedback gave a boost for further activities in exploring opportunities for the time after the PhD. It was so inspiring to follow also the last part of the workshops about personal feedback from peers, and looking at the memes: one selected at the beginning and then one at the end of these intense days. My personal favorites? 365 opportunities are coming with a new year! And keep in mind: take step by step, everything will be fine.

Time if flying, good luck to all our P-TRAP ESRs!

Looking for more information: Application guide of the ETH Zurich