It is important to ask the right question.

Hello everyone! Happy Sunday to all of you!

I am at a cross-point of my life. I am finally finishing up my student life when I am done with my PhD this year and will hopefully find a job before I do that. This will be the first ever time in my life when I am not a student since age 7 (I also work as a teaching assistant in the PhD program, but I am still a student). It is exciting but also terrifying. One major question I have: How do I make decisions regarding my life decisions? Based on what criteria? This is not a question I thought much about before because I liked being a student and just went with it. But now I do, both because I cannot be a student anymore but also because I came to realize some important things.

One of those, which I will talk a bit here, is that it is important to make your well-being an important criterion when it comes to your choices. For example, say, you have two job offers: one with good money and status but potentially unhealthy-ish work environment and the other is with less good money and status but an attractive work atmosphere.  Before, I could have chosen the first, because I thought I can handle the stress. Maybe I can. But now I ask myself: do I need to? Is this how I want to live my life? Constantly being exposed to situations that threatens my mind’s safety needs? Now, I started believing that personal well-being honestly overrides everything else. If it does not, there are often unpleasant consequences. I have suffered this multiple times in my life, and the latest was just some months ago (and the effect came a few months after; just recovering).

Overall, I think I am asking myself this question more and more explicitly each day: do I need to stress out? How can I make my life less burdensome? These questions are for now guiding my job search. I hope I can find a job that suits (and a job that also pays well would be awesomeJ).

Do you ask these questions to yourself? Let’s discuss.


57 thoughts on “It is important to ask the right question.

  1. Yup, I definitely went through this exercise when choosing between job offers back in May:

    Spoiler alert (not mentioned in my post) – I feel now like I picked the wrong one. I picked the one that looked better on paper (title, compensation, flexibility) but I would have enjoyed the work at the other job more. In fairness to me, I had reservations about the other role too, and neither offer was truly a bad option, and the title, compensation, and flexibility of the role I picked have offered some clear benefits. But still feel like I picked the wrong one.

    In any case, congrats and good luck!

    1. Thanks for sharing this! We never know what is really good for us. All we can do is to do our best with what we know at the time. Now you know better what you do not want or what to ask for beforehand, maybe.

  2. Whether it’s to myself or to others, if I hear someone saying that they can handle the stress, I’ll ask the same exact questions you’ve asked every time: is the stress worth it?

    I’ve noticed that we’ll often seek that extra stress as a trade. It might be to get something quicker like money or status, sometimes it’s about proving that we can independent. There’s a reason for why we’ll often accept that stress, so it’s worth knowing the value of what we’re after and whether it can be substituted for something else that’s more fulfilling if we want to answer the question better.

    1. Yes! I did not ask this question before and I had to deal with unnecessary stress. I mean, it did give me good benefits like status, but I am not sure if these are also worth it at all.

  3. Wishing you a happy journey ahead as you’ve reached the end of your student life. Well, we’re all eternally students in life, but this is where formal education ends and real life begins. I can imagine how exciting and confusing that can be at the same time. I’ve been a student since 2 and a half years of age and my school life ended without even a last day (all online, thanks to covid). I don’t feel like I’ve finished school yet, but apparently I have. Similarly, university and higher studies would finish quickly too. What lies ahead is exciting. We’re pretty much at similar situations, at different levels. I wish you a happy adventurous journey! Finishing a PhD course is exciting!! Must give you a chill to add that Dr before your name 😉

  4. Go with less stress every time! Mental health is important. You are already asking the questions. It sounds like you know what you works best for you. Well done on completing your studies!

  5. Thank you for sharing, Betul. I agree that mental health is #1. If a planes goes down, you need to put your own oxygen mask on before helping others, and I believe the same applies in all aspects of life: you need to take care of yourself first, because when you are at 100% (or close to that mark) you can offer those around you a better experience, you can be helpful, etc. I’m actually writing a blog about a similar subject: A friend approached me with a job opportunity that is undeniably GOOD, but it conflicts with many aspects of my lifestyle that I like, and I had to think about it a lot, and get a lot of advice from trusted sources, to try to see all my options clearly. I’ll try to remember to share it with you when I’m done. In the blog, I’m including the 3 considerations my sisters and friends gave me, that really pushed me to think the hardest about this new possibility. They might be helpful to you, too 🙂

    1. I mean, the subject of my blog is similar to the topic of this blog you just wrote: about the tough questions we need to ask ourselves when we have to make big decisions, particularly related to work.

    2. Please share with me your posts when they are ready!

      I like your analogy. Indeed, we cannot be helpful if we are not 100% ourselves. It is important to choose that and I started realizing this only in the last few years. Better late than never though!

  6. I think, when I look back, the planning mistakes I made happened because I planned forward. I wish I’d looked ahead to what I wanted my life to look like twenty, forty, and so on years down the road, and made plans that would lead to that end vision. I was very much by the seat of my pants or in the immediate now.

    1. What is the vision? I am asking because too much planning is not good either, though, because we never know what will really happen. Sometimes, we need to decide based on what we know now or how we are now.

      1. Often I feel like I got to this point in my life, with adult children starting on their own, in drift mode. I didn’t plan what I wanted my adult life to look like.

        How did I want celebrations to go? Did I want to start family traditions? What about group friendships, future recreational plans, what I wanted my life to look like in the different phases. What I going to be a celebration hub? What about community involvement? Do I want to build a local presence? A neighbourhood one? Do I want annual non-typical traditions? I didn’t do any of it. Most of my adult life happened. Mental illness is an extenuating circumstance but it doesn’t change where I am.

        Drifting means I didn’t get what I wanted, necessarily, because I didn’t take anytime to think about what that was. I didn’t live to a vision or plan and while one doesn’t what a rigid thing in concrete, some sort of thing is probably a good idea.

        The worst thing is looking back at things that can’t be changed. The second worst would be doing the same in the future.

        Apologies for the wordiness ☺️

      2. No this is actually very nice and explanatory. Thank you for sharing! But from what I feel like, you let life happen to you, which is actually a good thing. It shows a person who can let go and accept, right?

      3. If I had let life happen because I’d made the philosophical decision that things are ultimately out of my control, then sure. But I drifted, and living life without purpose, almost accidentally, means I’m not content with where I drifted too. I wish that I’d been philosophical, but with purpose, if that makes sense. 💗

  7. Stress is never worth the effort. You still have not gotten yourself into a position where you have to take the stressful job because your lifestyle depends on it, so don’t. Money won’t make you happy but stress seeps into the rest of your life. It impacts your sleep, your digestion, and your personal relationships.

    Probably more important than either money or stress is personal fulfillment.

    ” If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are — if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time. ” – Joseph Campbell

  8. Thank you for this post Betul. As the saying goes “your health is your wealth”, and it’s so true – you/your wellbeing is priority. I wish you the best on this next important/exciting chapter and feeling nervous is normal ❤

  9. Another way to put it, is the risk reward factor positively skewed. Work/job still has to be challenging enough to grant you a purpose, otherwise it mostly turns into monotonous meaningless work. This cannot be said for everything, but this is what I think. Nothing in life is easy, another thought that would come to mind is, am I pushing myself enough to get away from my comfort zone? But then again, I am not the one for bureaucracies and dealing with unnecessary politics within a work environment. It’s a complete turn off. Alas, humans are complex creatures, we take our complexities with us wherever we go.

    1. Yeah, we are very complex. I think I am still trying to understand what I really want and do not want and I have some ideas. But as you said, I want to find something that is just challenging enough but not too much. I did more than that most of my life.

      1. Yeah, I think the new situations we come across will challenge us every time, but what matters now is to have a vision of what you want your priorities to look like.

  10. I got a job offer and had to join immediately after graduation. However, my mental health had gone downhill during the graduation years and I would have really preferred a break to focus on my mental health and prepare myself for the real world before I jumped in. But I didn’t heed my gut instinct and thought work after studies was a norm and a gap year would do me bad. I wish I had let the offer pass and start looking again when I was mentally more prepared, because the two years (they made us sign a bond) of working in that workplace destroyed my mental health further. Now, I am trying to undo all that and be kind to myself.
    Well done on your PhD! Wishing you exciting and fulfilling days ahead!

    1. I know what that feels like. I have been in many situations where I had to bypass my struggles because it would make me look bad. But it is changing now. I am glad you are better now too.
      Thank you for the well wishes!

  11. Does your daily life required the bigger paycheck? Do you have the responsibility of other people—like a family? Some people’s motivation is purely money. They need the monetary reward. There is nothing wrong with this, but in that case, the stress may be necessary to achieve the goals.

    Personally, I’m not one of these people. As long as I can afford the true necessities of life, I’m rather content.

    1. I am not one of these people either. Money has never been a goal for me. I think I want something that challenges me just enough and lets me use my skills so far and have good social atmosphere.
      We will see.

  12. Absolutely, it’s an important question. And money isn’t everything, I tell my kids that all the time. It helps, yes, but it shouldn’t be the thing that guides your decisions, bc you’ll end up making choices you’ll likely regret. But life will always have challenges. You’re alive, and if you interact with others, it’s just a fact of life that you will have challenges no matter what you do. But if you found a field that you love, working with people you enjoy (most of the time), then that’s a great thing. That’s how I look at it anyway.

  13. I believe that it depends on the monetary debts that one has or commitments to accept the position. Because in developing countries priorities change with respect to earnings and force you to opt for the well paid jobs. So it is significant to weigh the choices we select but must not feel dissatisfied.

    1. That is what I was thinking when I visited Turkey this year. The way people (have to) make choices in Turkey and the US is different. That is an important discussion too.

  14. I was the same crossroad just a couple months back. I don’t know why, but I picked up the job, offering healthy working environment.
    And today I’m glad that I made that decision. I’m happy with that.
    But I still sometimes wonder what if I chose the other one? Will my life is exactly as it is now?
    Unfortunately, I don’t have answers.
    It went the way it had to.

    Hope you’ll soon find the job you deserve. Don’t stress much.

    1. We will always have to choose between options. That is, there will always be an option that we do not experience. Better to go with whatever we choose.

  15. Congrats on achieving your PhD Betul. My recommendation would be to do your research, talk to people who hold jobs similar to what you are considering, and understand what seems to be the best fit for you. With your PhD, you may have many opportunities available to you – I imagine that’s true. Don’t put added pressure on yourself by trying to find The Perfect Job. Do your research and select The Next Job. Hopefully it will be a perfect fit, with challenges, healthy lifestyle environments and good pay – but if it’s not, then you can pick another job. Sometimes students get hung up on all of the options – and that itself causes stress.
    Trust yourself and your research skills.
    If it doesn’t feel right, it’s not right.
    And take a break between school and career if you feel that’s a good option. No company should ask you to start immediately unless that’s what you want to do.
    Congrats again and best of luck to you!!

    1. I like the idea of The Perfect Job versus the Next Job. I am open to experimenting, to be honest, so I am not looking for a perfect job. But I am looking for the right direction to look for jobs. We will see!

  16. Without spending a lot of time on it — go for what appears to be a comfortable working environment over pure salary … and if you happen to be a biologist that understand proteins … I know a guy. 🙂

      1. Too Bad — He is looking for protein scientists. I don’t what that is either. Life’s too short. Find a work atmosphere that work’s for you. I was fortunate that many years ago I found such an environment right out of school (engineer) and did it for 18 years or so when I had planned on about 5. Good luck my friend.

  17. Congratulations for making it so far into your studies, Betul! Have you defended your dissertation yet? Very wise thinking on the employment choices. A healthy atmosphere is so important for our work. I was happier as a secretary/receptionist for a good boss than a textbook editor for one who did not treat me well. I like the idea of the “next” job too. Good way to think of it.

    1. Not yet! Hopefully, I will defend sometime between January-May (the earlier the better). Then, I will take a step for my first non-student career. I hope to find people who will treat me well.

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