I liked a lot of what Karen said- however- I just finished the job search and came to different conclusions as to wht was right for me-
I will be working at a liberal arts college (hopefully for a long long time.
I didn't do an industrial search because I knew I really wanted to teach.
The question for me to ask then was at what level....
I decided that my research interests, although dealin with important basic
research topics, probably are not going to significantly
change the way the world works- I don't think I am being
unconfident, I think I am being honest- I don't think that most of the
work in my field will have immediate applications to health, agriculature
etc.... Longterm applications- definitely, but its quite a ways off
in most cases. The research though can and will provide an excellent
starting point to train people in ways to approach scientific problems-
I decided that training undergraduates was the stage I wanted to work at,
and the projects I have in mind should be accessible to most
undergraduates. I feel like I personally might make a bigger difference in the world
acting as a teacher than I would in doing research full time in industry,
or training more graduate students. I think we train too many
for the number of jobs available (I think there should be more jobs-
but that is a different issue)....
I don't know if I made the right choice, but I am happy with the choice at this stage- scared to death as well....
I have two kids, and I am afraid of the balancing act I'll need to pull-
but I have a very supportive husband and I think I'll survive-
at least short term.
A consultant I met said that most great people, most great work came from people who switched careers or fields at least thrice... I try to keep that in mind.
I suspect that as a teacher I'll be able to justify thinking about
things that I've always been interested in, reading some of
the books (ie about neuroscience or PCB contamination in lakes) that I
haven't had time to think about since I was an undergrad. I don't know if I'll have the time, but at least I'll be able to justify it - perhaps in ten or twenty years I will change research interests completely, or want to try working
a completely different job.
One last rambling--- I did apply to top tier research places- no luck. If I had
heard back positively- maybe I would have made a different choice. The school
I had an offer with that had a grad program was decent- but I didn't
like the location of the school- some of my friends were surprised that I would give
up the chance to have grad students..........