What informs your career choices? Do you trust your gut? Or do you trust others to help you with tough decisions? And once you take the plunge in the job market, what factors end up determining where you end up? These are the types of questions this week’s guest, Natalia Bielczyk, is interested in and likes to reflect upon. In our conversation, we talked about her academic journey and discussed this whole question of navigating the job market as a PhD.

Natalia Bielczyk

Natalia Bielczyk is an entrepreneur, researcher, author, and philanthropist. She graduated from the College of Inter-Faculty Individual Studies in Mathematics and Natural Sciences at the University of Warsaw, Poland, with a triple MS title in Physics, Mathematics, and Psychology. Thereafter, she obtained a PhD in Computational Neuroscience at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behavior in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. In 2018, she launched a public foundation, Stichting Solaris Onderzoek en Ontwikkeling, aiming to help early career researchers find new careers in industry. She also owns Ontology of Value, a company developing new tools and practices to help professionals in navigating on the job market, and in finding/creating their dream jobs. She recently authored a book entitled “What Is out There For Me? The Landscape of Post-PhD Career Tracks” and hosts “Career Talks”, an interview show with scientists, on the Ontology of Value YouTube channel.


During our conversation, Natalia announced an open competition in which you can win her book “What Is out There For Me? The Landscape of Post-PhD Career Tracks”!

Natalia Bielczyk Book

We shared the link to the quiz in the interview, as well as the instructions on  how to enter the competition, so listen to the end and pay attention! The deadline for submitting the answers is Wednesday, 11th November, 23:59 CEST. Five participants with the best score will be awarded with a copy of the book!

Giveaway link:

Giveaway ended

You can get Natalia Bielczyk’s book at:


What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Finding your PhD research subject where it is, even if it’s abroad
  • Taking a gap year to recharge, to put your project in perspective, and to try your hand at different things, at playing different roles than a researcher
  • The importance of doing “sanity checks” during your PhD and of listening to your intuition if it’s telling you something is not working for you
  • Your social capital is money in the bank – don’t fall in the trap of isolating yourself during graduate school
  • What is a stressor for someone else can be a motivator for you – introspection and looking into things for yourself is key to being able to take the right decisions

This episode’s pearls of wisdom:

“I decided to give myself a gap year. I felt I should just calm down, try other things and just give myself time from all this madness during my PhD, when I was sleep deprived, doing too many things. I didn’t really think about leaving academia at that point. I really saw this as a gap year – I thought about this as an investment in my future as a researcher. Sometimes you have to slow down, take a second breath and then dive into the problem, again.”

“Once you have that pressure over you that it has two work and people telling you “This is normal, this is a PhD project, PhD projects are supposed to be challenging”, and then you just listen to that and you’re like “of course, it was supposed to be challenging”, but at some point you have to do these sanity checks. If something doesn’t work for independent reasons, you have to change it. If you cannot change the project, then is it worth a few years of your life? Maybe sometimes it’s better  to just rune and just start some new adventure somewhere else.”

Natalia’s links: LinkedIn – Linkedin.com/in/NataliaBielczyk; Website – OntologyOfValue.com; Youtube – Ontology of Value Channel; Twitter – @nbielczyk_neuro; Instagram – @OntologyOfValue.

You might also like the following episodes:

Vera B. Chan – PhD Youtuber: PapaPhD.com/77

Rebecca Maymon – PhD Recruitment: PapaPhD.com/75

Falisha Karpati – Skills Development: PapaPhD.com/30

Chris Humphrey – Career Counseling: PapaPhD.com/73

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