Curiosity: A tool for researchers’ career development

People Discussing Ideas - Innovation Process Concept

As a Career Consultant, I have worked with thousands of individuals over the last ten years. Some are thinking about their first career step after university, others are thinking about how to grow and develop in their current role and others are looking to change careers entirely.

In my experience, many of the most successful ‘career explorers’ share a particular trait – curiosity. Curiosity is defined as a strong desire to know or learn something. Individuals with curiosity apply this trait to everything they do, including the subjects they are studying and the people that they meet. In fact, the business psychologist, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, argues that there are three factors that are important for success;  curiosity (CQ), emotional intelligence (EQ) and intelligence (IQ). Whilst IQ is difficult to teach, CQ and EQ can be learnt and developed.

So, in terms of career development, here are three things that I see curious individuals do:

They seek out ways to learn more

Try to search out networking events, clubs and societies that align with your passions and interests. Attend events that you are genuinely interested in rather than joining one because you should. Attending events and networking sessions help individuals to broaden their knowledge and expertise as well as building social capital.

  • If you are a PhD student or postdoctoral researcher, you can look at events on the QMUL Doctoral College Blog.
  • QMUL also run events that might be of interest to a broad range of people.
  • You can also search for specific events on Eventbrite and the careers events page here lists activities throughout the year.

They ask questions

Being curious and genuinely interested in people is one of the most effective ways to network. Most people like to talk about themselves. Listening attentively and asking questions helps to build empathy between individuals.

As Maya Angelou said:

People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.

So, when you encounter people at conferences and events approach them with a new mindset that is one of curiosity. Effective networking is not just about self- marketing and promotion.  Ask questions such as:

  • What brings you to this conference/event?
  • What type of research does your company do?
  • I saw on your LinkedIn profile that you research x. That looks interesting; my research relates to something similar. I am looking at y.

Try to really listen to the answers rather than thinking about what you will say next. It is a relatively rare experience to be genuinely listened to. It will help build rapport and you are more likely to be remembered.  

As the theory of planned happenstance suggests, seeking out ways to learn more and being curious can result in new opportunities. That recent conversation with a researcher about artificial intelligence may just result in a job opportunity further down the line.

So, go forward and be curious! 

If you’d like to book a 30 minute, confidential 1-to-1 careers appointment with one of our dedicated Careers Consultants for Researchers then just call 020 7882 8533 and ask for a researcher appointment. You can book up to 2 weeks in advance.

Dr Tracy Bussoli

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