December 2017 Blog Post

Dealing With “Sharp Turns” In Your CV

By: Meseret Hailu, University of Denver

Throughout my undergraduate career and Master’s program, I thought I was going to pursue a career in science. I took a string of biology courses, did research internships in hospitals, and developed professional relationships with clinicians and bench researchers. Months after graduating from my M.S. program, however, I was confronted with a difficult realization: I did not want to be a scientist.  After dealing with the personal crisis of not knowing exactly what I wanted to do in life, I decided to take a step back and revaluate my interests. After much introspection, career counseling, and networking with professionals in non-science fields, I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in education. I applied to doctoral programs, got accepted into a few, and enrolled. Once I was accepted, I mistakenly thought the difficult part of the transition was over. Over the past four years in a higher education graduate program, I have learned important lessons about the “sharp turn” (a phrase I have constantly heard) my career took. For those of you considering higher education after being immersed in a completely different field, I’m sharing some advice I wish I had known before:

Don’t Apologize for Leaving a Field.

Resist the urge of qualifying your decision to leave one field for another beyond the explanation that it wasn’t a good fit. For me, leaving Biology after spending about 6 years of study and research was difficult, but necessary. I had to accept that it was okay to move on, and I wish I had spent less energy trying to prove that to others.

Incorporate Your Past Academic Life Into Your Research.

After leaving Biology, I was determined to start fresh in the social sciences and research something completely unrelated to science or science education. Eventually, I realized that my previous experiences gave me a unique perspective as a researcher. Now, as a higher education scholar studying STEM, I have a certain level of credibility as a member of the student group I am now researching.

 Publish With Other Graduate Students.

Because other graduate students are in the same position as you (and oftentimes have the same goals), they can be tremendous research partners. When at conferences, connect with other graduate students who share your current research interests and make a commitment to write and publish together. Over time, a strong publishing record in higher education will help create continuity in your CV.


Meseret is a Ph.D. candidate in the Morgridge College of Education at the University of Denver. At Morgridge, she studies Higher Education. Her research interests are grounded in comparative international education, with a special emphasis on gender issues in STEM programs for women in the U.S. and Ethiopia. For part of the 2017-2018 academic year, Meseret is based in Ethiopia as a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad (DDRA) Fellow.


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