Radboud University
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Blog 3: Is it worth it?

My dilemma is straightforward and yet complex: is it worth it to pursue and sustain a career in academia? This question echoes daily in the hallways of academic institutions and in the minds of many scholars, myself included. I embarked on this journey without any references, as the first in my family to finish high school, let alone obtain a university degree or a PhD. The academic world once seemed to me a utopia of endless learning and noble collaboration. But like many others, I came to see that passion is just one ingredient in a complex recipe.

You see, academia is peculiar. It is a place crowded with people where you can feel alone. We team up, share ideas, and try to support each other. But when the paper is published, when the grant is submitted, it is your name that bears the weight of success or failure. Academia is not just about research. It is about being an all-rounder: good with ideas, writing, and planning, capable of managing a tight budget, and resilient in the face of setbacks. Is it worth it to juggle all these roles?

The reality is you do a lot on your own. You must be your own advocate, marketer, and negotiator. You think, read, write, supervise, teach, review articles, sit on committees, and travel to conferences. Some of your tasks are paid, many are not. And they all demand time, your most precious resource.

Could the introduction of Recognition & Reward systems be a solution? It could acknowledge those who excel in certain areas, allowing for specialization. But we need to make sure these systems are fair, with objective measurements. Otherwise, we are back to square one, where influence and connections trump merit. Is it worth it when the rules keep changing, when what was good enough yesterday is not enough today?

Yet for me, I maintain that it is. The joy of contributing to something as vast and important as the understanding of life itself outweighs the struggles. It is about using my experiences to guide the next generation, to try to make their path a little easier. It is about the potential for my research to reach beyond the walls of academia and touch lives.

Is it really worth it? Even as the system demands more, as it challenges us to stretch our limits, my answer remains a yes. For me, it is about finding balance, setting boundaries, knowing when to push forward, and when to stand firm. For me, it is worth it now, but I understand and empathize with many talented colleagues who have chosen to leave, in search of paths where they might find more time for themselves, more job security, and greater recognition for their efforts.

In a landscape that often seems unforgiving, we must remember to support each other. We must be agents of change within a system that can, and should, evolve for the better. For the thrill of discovery, for the opportunity to mentor, for the chance to make a tangible difference in the world. For me, it is worth it. The day the setbacks outweigh the drive and passion for my work, the day my enthusiasm wanes, it will no longer be worth it. Until that day comes, I am committed to navigating this complex journey, making the most of this daily quest.

~Jorge Domínguez Andrés