How should students go about getting a job? The question came up in some recent comment. It's a tough one, but brought back a memory.
Once a relative asked her uncle: "You are so successful. How did you do it? How should I go about it? What job should I have, and what career should I pursue?" I waited with interest to hear what he might have to say. Here is what the successful young man answered: "No matter what you do, you will not be successful if you are not really into it. You've got to enjoy your work. So, why don't you figure out the things that interest you the most and make a list of the four or five most exciting jobs for you? Then, within that short list, you can look at other criteria such as opportunities, salary and career paths. But you've got to first give priority to your personal interests."
I loved that answer.
So, by analogy I would say: I believe that there is no way for people to be leading researchers unless they love what they do. A student thinking about going into academia should first think of the research areas that he or she is most interested in, make a short list of the fields that are most exciting for him or her personally. Then they can take into consideration the job market, trying to estimate, five years down the line, which subjects will be most important and will have the most openings.
That's my little piece of wisdom for the day! Not particularly surprising, not particularly unorthodox, but it might be good advice.