The Career Doctor™

by Dr. Jacqueline Hornor Plumez

Looking for a first job? Thinking of changing careers? Facing a lay-off? The Career Doctor™ is a Larchmont psychologist specializing in career counseling. If you'd like to ask a question of your own, use our anonymous form, and she might answer you here. Read more about the Career Doctor here. Contact information is here.


Dear Career Doctor:

I am currently doing my PhD in biology and I am specifically studying whale communication. I am growing more and more frustrated because I don't feel that my thesis topic is useful in getting a real job. I would like to work in conservation or environmental policy, and so spend most of my days wishing I was working on a thesis in those fields. My question is: Will my thesis topic be important to potential employers? Or will simply have a PhD be an attractive asset?

Michael C.

Dear Michael:

Quite frankly, you have stumped the Career Doctor. There is a lot I need to learn about whales. So I asked several scientists, who said that work is often completely unrelated to doctoral thesis topic. They advise that if you have done a lot of work on your whale project, then finish it as quickly as possible and look for a job. If you are just starting, then switch to a topic you enjoy more and is more applicable to what you would like to do.

This seems like good advice and I will supplement it with some thoughts of my own: Identify some of the organizations that you would like to work for. Call or write the Director of Human Resources, saying that you would like to work for them in the future and wonder if the subject of your thesis would be an impediment. Explain that you would consider changing the thesis subject if that is the case. (If you write, always follow up with a phone call. Do not assume the Director will call you back.)

Many people get so hung up on their thesis that they never graduate. Try to see your thesis as merely a necessary task and requirement, not a life work. You can focus on your life work later.

The Career Doctor


The Career Doctor™ is Larchmont psychologist and career counselor, Dr. Jacqueline Hornor Plumez.

Her office is at 90 Beechtree Drive in Larchmont, 914-834-1982.


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