Career paths are not always clear. It’s highly likely that there will be times in almost every professional journey where the next step is not obvious. How should we face these difficult decisions?

We spoke to Chevening Scholar Astrid Arriaza Solares about why she chose a career advocating for public health, in the hope that her story provides useful advice for others currently making difficult career decisions.

People have many different motivations for the career path they choose. For some, they work hard in their field to foster a sense of achievement. They continually reach for a higher level of personal best. Others go to work for reasons of security. They look for continuity, consistency and predictability in their work. Others still may be motivated by adventure; trying new things and learning new skills through taking risks at work. For me, my motivation to choose a career advocating for public health stems from my childhood memories.

That is, whenever I’m at a crossroads in my career, I think back to why I chose to begin the professional journey I’m on in the first place.

I was born in Guatemala at the end of the 1980’s during a civil war. Although only a child, I remember recognising the social injustice of the crimes being committed during that period. In part, this was because I was fortunate enough to attend a private Catholic school where we were taught about social justice. I have a particularly strong memory of Marta Lucia Godoy, an approachable and friendly nun and my teacher, who spoke of missions to Congo and her involvement with educational projects in rural areas of Guatemala affected by the war.

Marta became a role a model for me. I wanted to be like her and advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves. That’s why I chose to apply for a Chevening Scholarship to study Social Statistics and Demography at the University of Southampton and start a career advocating for public health.

I think back to those times of social injustice in my home city when I was a child, and the values instilled in me at school whenever I’m thinking about my next career step. They keep me grounded and ensure the professional decisions I make are in line with the values I have chosen to live by; empathy, honesty and social progress.

I am only at the beginning of my career, but if I could give two pieces of advice to other people currently making difficult career decisions, they would be:

  1. Think about whether there are any mentors or role models you could turn to for advice or inspiration.
  2. Think about what motivates you about work. Don’t compare yourself to others. They are on their own path; you are on a different journey.



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