It has been a while since I am in a mental state to share an update. A lot has happened in the past two years. But for now, I will share two stories from this week.
𝗙𝗶𝗿𝘀𝘁 𝘀𝘁𝗼𝗿𝘆: On Tuesday, I was invited to give a guest lecture at a UK university. Lecture theatre style in a big auditorium, all eyes on me. There was no curriculum nor limit to the content of the lecture. So I titled the talk “Building Your Career Path” to a class of undergraduate and graduate students who are thinking about what to do with their lives. Rather than teaching them about a school subject, I asked them to learn about themselves. Our education needs to incorporate coursework that teaches people how to discover and develop themselves way more.
I shared my personal stories on the motivation behind my career path (a nonlinear one across roles, industries, and geographies). I told them that in careers and in lives, unlike schools, no one can (nor should) map out what their path would look like. Unlike the standardized grading system in class, there is no objective measure of success in life. It is about what is meaningful to you personally, what motivates you each day to live up to your values and pursue your goals — and helping others along the way. Perhaps at this stage, you might not know what you want in life. I didn’t either. That’s normal (how could you really know if you haven’t really experienced life, yet?). Even though we might not always know what we want, we often know what we “don’t want”. And you will gain clarity through experiences. So reach out, explore, and take time to build a path that is meaningful to you. As Steve Jobs said, the dots will connect when you look back.
The average attention span of Gen Z is 8 seconds. Every student in that auditorium was engaged for the entire hour. Nodding, eye contact, and smiles. It’s a phenomenal feeling as if I can see their minds thinking about the possibilities in their lives.
𝗦𝗲𝗰𝗼𝗻𝗱 𝘀𝘁𝗼𝗿𝘆: Two days ago, I had a conversation with a U.S. Air Force veteran, who was stationed in Germany and Holland as part of NATO. “I’m helping military Veterans transition into new careers and life goals.” He reached out to me after attending my talk at a conference in San Francisco last month, where I presented my research on career transitions. He was fascinated by my research on the power of mindsets and wanted to learn about how he can incorporate my work into their program — a program funded by the US government with the goal to support Veterans to transition back to civilian life. When I told him that I would be happy to share more, including potentially designing a growth mindset intervention for the next cohorts of veterans, he said: “I have chills”. We will start engaging on how we can collaborate onwards.
Research life is often rigorous, isolating, and challenging. I am super grateful for the wonderful progress I’ve been able to develop theoretically in the field of social science during my PhD. More so, in moments like this week, I am extremely excited for the potential that the hard work is turning into practical impact in human lives — beyond disciplines, generations, and borders.