Career Development

personal development when setting your own company

How Setting a Company Has Changed My Life, Personal Development Wise

There are moments when some event happens to you, and as little as it is, it suddenly makes you realize that your life has completely changed. Just like it was this Tuesday, on my way back to the Netherlands. And it came to my mind that the moment I set a company, was the very moment I won my life. And I am not talking about any external benefits such as my income or the freedom to set my own schedule. I am talking about all the gradual changes on the inside that leveraged my quality of life in the past two years.

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Starring at the Sun

The summer is over for a long time now, yet, I’m in a mood to bring some memories from this summer. Of course, it wasn’t a typical summertime but rather, quite an unusual one. It’s hard to neglect that the corona crisis changed the landscape of what you can or can’t possibly do.

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How to (De)motivate an Employee?

Can a raise in salary infuriate an employee? Yes, it can. Especially if that employee is an ambitious person with a PhD. And it’s all about the timing.

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Come on, Ladies!

As we all know, women don’t have an easy time in their professional lives. However, while working with lots of people in pursuit of improving their situation in the job market, I noticed that some women also involuntarily make their situation in the job market even harder than it already is — in at least five different ways.

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How I Fail

This blog post is a recording from an interview I did for Veronika Cheplygina's blog series "How I Fail." It's all about the mindset and personal strategies that helped me in getting over hardship and difficulties—both in academia and in industry. Most of these strategies, I learned by trial and error and I'm happy to now share them with you.

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Should You Consider Working As a Career Advisor?

Career advisory - what a crazy ride this is! So many turns and unexpected events down the line, and so many interesting people with their unbelievable, unheard of stories on the way! In general, I am happy about my decision to embark on this journey. But the reality is: no job is ever perfect. After my long and delightful honeymoon with career advisory, I can say that there are also several downsides to this job. Let me list a few of them here.

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The Signs

Are there any signs in heaven and earth that can tell us along the way what we should eventually be doing in our professional lives — these little cues thrown to our feet along the way that we tend to ignore until there are so many of them that the truth just becomes obvious?

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Can you marry research with entrepreneurship?

Living a double life between entrepreneurship and academic research is not easy. This blog post reviews the reasons why this is so, and ideas for how you might nevertheless succeed in balancing on the edge of the two worlds.

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What you should know before starting a PhD

This blog post is dedicated to Master students who are at the end of their Master’s programs, and consider going to grad school. What are the pros and cons of going for the academic career, as compared to starting an industry job? What is the best motivation to start a PhD?

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Why is it cool to work as a career advisor?

The past few weeks were quite interesting — I had some strange symptoms. I lost a lot of weight, I was often blushing, I was putting on loud Tiësto music and jumping around my garage like a maniac and bumping into things (to such an extent that I was getting self-inflicted wounds), I was walking around the park and laughing to myself like an idiot, and I couldn’t sleep for more than 6 hours a day. In other words, I had some strong signs of affection.

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The jobs of the future

It’s not a secret that both the Millennials and the Z-generation are vision- or mission-oriented. Young people are no longer looking for a paycheck in their jobs, but also a broader purpose (or, from Japanese, ikigai). This can have really interesting long-term consequences for the job market. In particular, one new type of job that is going to emerge soon.

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How would you like (them) to feel

Interviewing people with interesting (and difficult!) career paths and rare professions, yields interesting conclusions. Namely, these people they tend to share one interesting characteristic: from a very early age, they know what role towards other people they would prefer to play.

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A wrinkle in time

Recently, I was invited to record a podcast for the PhD Career Stories series. The point of this episode, was to explain how I found myself in the place I am in right now, both career-wise and mentally. This is always an interesting question as most people—including me—are rather poor at assessing the real causes of events that happen to them. In the process of recording that episode, I realized a few important things about how the past influences the present that I would like to share here.

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The tree

A few days ago I had a long and interesting conversation with a friend who started doubting in her future in academia. She complained that academic life negatively changes both personality and mindset. This made me think a lot.

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Hush-hush

In kindergarten, most of my peers wanted to become either models, actors, or doctors when they grow up. For a change, I was jealous of priests, and of the fact that they are allowed to listen to people’s confessions for the whole days. I wanted to know the truth about people, however dirty this truth might be. And, I was bitter thinking that I would actually never become a priest. Until I did.

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Navigate

I was always wondering why some people are so lucky in life - they are neither geniuses nor work that hard, yet always find themselves in the right place at the right moment, gather the right people around them, embark on the best projects or get the best jobs. Now I think I know.

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People is the answer

It’s been a long road up to this point, since I left my parents’ place at the age of 18. But, when I look back at the past 15 years, I some some patterns clearly, coming over over again. First of all, I see that there is only one asset which has been systematically accumulating over these 15 years. It was not money, which you can easily lose in the nearest bubble. It was not knowledge, which can become useless once you change the discipline or profession. It was actually people.

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These dark hours

The peak is so close; glowing somewhere on the horizon, yet looking like a fata morgana - step after step, and you do not feel like you are coming any closer. I felt exactly the same way while approaching the peak of Kilimanjaro in 2013. I am making this last effort in order to finally submit my PhD thesis now. And this will happen in literally a few hours. I expected it would feel orgasmic, but instead, it feels like a sad relief. Yet, I would like to capture this moment - just for the sake of memory. Maybe one day, I would get back to what I felt when I realised that all this tantalising pain is finally over.

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Real choices, fake choices

At some point I realised that the decision on whether or not to stay in academia - or in other words, whether to do research or focus on commercial projects instead - is not the real choice I need to make right now. In fact, the real choice is: how much am I willing to risk? Let me explain.

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15 years later

I spent Christmas among family and friends quite as every time before. However, this time, I also had a few afterthoughts as there are some examples of common knowledge that stroke me really hard. You might hear some simple truths from your parents and teachers over and over again - or read about it from motivational books - but after all, you only learn how important they are when you see the consequences in real life.

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The gap year – vol. 2

In August this year, I wrote a compilation of seven things I had learned from having a gap year. Funny thing is: the gap year was only halfway back then. Now, when it slowly comes to the end, I can easily add yet another seven things I learned since then. Some of these things are almost like rediscovering America, but I would like to shortly highlight them here anyways.

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The Tangle Approach

I was recently recommended to read the book by Emilie Wapnick ‘How to Be Everything: A Guide for Those Who (Still) Don’t Know What They Want to Be When They Grow Up' (2017), dedicated to the concept of multipotentiality. In the book, Emilie refers to her own experience as a person who cannot fully commit herself to just one profession, but instead, has multiple passions and can only find fulfilment by sequentially indulging in multiple professions on her career path. When I read this book, I have a feeling that it resonates with my own story to a high extent. However, I developed my own model of labor, which I could call a tangle (or a plaid).

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Mission: Impossible

How to predict the future? That’s the whole difficulty when it comes to making any choices, from choosing the right studies, through choosing the right friends, choosing the right investments, to choosing the right projects at work. A mundane, typical scientist (such as me) can produce one, two, sometimes three first-author publications per year - not much more is physically possible. In such a situation, it is crucial to choose the right projects.

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The gap year

As Confucius famously said, choose the job that you love - and you will not need to work for a lifetime. However, this is all not that simple. As a matter of fact, the school system (or at least Polish school system), kills a lot of natural talents: knowledge served at schools is standardised and the amount of material you need to learn is so overwhelming that you are becoming a little robot, working days and nights for good grades. There is just no more room in your life to explore the environment around you, and learn about your own talents. This is exactly why I decided to conduct an experiment on myself; my contract expired some time ago and I came to a conclusion that it is a great opportunity to actually find out more about myself instead of jumping into a new job straight away.

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Taking risks as a path to safety

In the famous riddle, you are supposed to connect all the dots with four straight lines. You can sweat and try as long as you like but you will always be just one line short from connecting all of them. Unless you look outside the box, and make yourself space beyond the limited area of the square - then, all of a sudden, everything becomes easy. The point is: as a scientist, you are pressed to do multitasking as well: as opposite to industry, in academia, you need to prove yourself in multiple different roles every day, and the collateral stress is inevitable whenever you are a good or a bad worker. So, how to deal with stress?

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Students

Initially, I was hesitating for a long time if I can even manage to supervise a student. Namely, if I will be able to catch some good vibes and keep on going regardless of little bumps on the way which naturally pop out during research: you try and fail, and then try and fail again and again… But now, I must say that supervising students is a wonderful experience to me, and I consider it – so far – the most fulfilling part of the PhD track.

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Artists and craftsmen

Researchers have their personal styles of working, and some of them are more like craftsmen, whereas others are more like artists. And the irony is: in order to produce a novel scientific study and publish it well, you need to be an artist, but you also need to be a craftsman - and these two qualities are rarely to be found in one and the same person.

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To read or not to read

‘Yes, people do become successful after reading motivational books but the thing that made them succeed is the same thing that had driven them to read the motivational book in the first place - The desire to succeed.’

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Passive income

Passive income became a popular key term over past few years. It comprises all the possible ways of making money which you initiate and then can let go, so that the money, in a word, keeps on producing itself. Most of the time, passive income relates to online activities, such as writing e-books and selling them on Amazon Kindle website, releasing an online course which can be downloaded at a price, releasing popular youtube videos so that you can capitalise on advertisements, affiliate marketing, Fiverr freelancing (which means that you can offer any service at a fixed price of five bucks), launching an online business that can be automated to a high extent such as an online store with one or two employees, etc.

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Competitiveness

What does the competitiveness come from? It is not a very prominent feature of the Dutch society - this society is more about equity and cooperation. No wonder: once you look at the educational program at the Dutch primary schools, the first class they ever have is ‘working in teams’. Which is very much in opposition to Polish schools where they were always telling us to compete.

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Luck

The popular belief is that people who perceive themselves as successful and lucky, are those who just take opportunities – notice the money lying on the street and take it. Or, those who interpret some events as lucky whereas others would rather perceive the same events as unlucky. For instance, if you were stolen a wallet, and the wallet was retrieved with a credit card missing but all the documents in place, would you interpret this as misfortune or luck?

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What do successful people say

Singers, sportsmen, writers, famous bloggers and motivational speakers, Noblists, inventors, enterpreneurs and famous CEOs. All these people think shockingly similar about the rules for success.

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