Signup date: 21 Aug 2010 at 4:46pm
Last login: 23 Apr 2012 at 8:37am
Post count: 188
Hi, thanks everyone. There's some really good advice. At the moment my supervisor doesn't think I'd be able to handle a large international conference because I'm that sensitive. I just crumble under the slightest criticism -- I'm very much one of those PhD students who backs down instead of clarifying what she means. I'm very confident in some situations and fall apart in others. I've been in tears in supervision meetings because I feel really insecure about my reasoning skills. I actually take direct criticism quite well ("Your work isn't good enough." "Oh. Okay. In what way? What did you expect to see? What can I do to improve?"), but am very hypersensitive to perceived attacks (there's that word again!), and struggle to justify anything I've done or even to explain my methods sometimes. I just get really nervous and feel so tiny next to these big scary academics! I'm actually almost a year into my PhD though and whilst my work has improved I don't think my confidence has. I don't think it's so easy for me to just sit and calmly explain why I do the things I'm doing, whether in a conference or meeting or at a research group. Which is silly, really, because I do a lot.
I am very sensitive to perceived criticism and I think I need to develop a thick research skin. I'll be presenting at a couple of conferences / research groups this summer and I'm a bit nervous. I already freeze / get angry and defensive / fall apart when my work is under attack. Especially as I know there ARE problems with my work that I need to fix. Deep down I know this is just a natural part of academia and I need to get over it. Does anyone have any tools / techniques / tips for dealing with criticism without feeling like you're under attack?
Thanks everyone. I'm feeling much better about this, in fact quite idiotic for posting it. I've also gone from a management position to being "a student" again, being treated like a student when I kind of expect to be treated like a colleague. A PhD is a very differnet way of working to what I am used to and there are changed office and work dynamics which are affecting me quite seriously. They keep tripping me up because nobody else sees them -- hardly anyone else in my department has ever worked in a large office. I can really understand why my supervisor might suddenly feel that he needs to have a more formal relationship with me in order to keep control and make sure I get work done. It's a constant challenge to accept how academia 'works' relative to my old jobs. I've always had managers who I go have a coffee with, who talk about their families and the dodgy plumbing in their bathroom etc. I've almost always been the office 'agony aunt' who people go for a coffee with, but that doesn't happen here. But then, I've always had managers who are clear about what they need and expect from me which is very different in a PhD when a million times a day you're reminded that you're basically on your own. I've probably changed my attitude towards him as well. Weirdly enough, constantly telling myself that "I'm a student now," really helps me. Because this is NOT a job and I'm NOT working for my supervisor. He's there to guide me through MY project, not teach me how to write his.
======= Date Modified 21 May 2011 20:23:17 =======
The thing is, my supervisor is a genuinely kind person and is very emotionally intelligent. I guess there is probably a lot in his life that is worrying him but it's quite sad to think that he can't talk to me about it, and that things might be this way for the next 2 1/2 years. I am mostly concerned that problems I've had really have damaged my relationship with him.
I have worked in 'real jobs' for years and I know what they are like. I think the trouble is more that this is NOT a job and he's NOT my boss. In a 'real' office you have a clear goal and you know that your manager is there to make sure your project ends up in the right place. Not so with a thesis, it seems that the emphasis is constantly pushed back to you. It's not like you work FOR your supervisor, producing a body of work that they require, for a definite goal, in a definite timeline. PhDs can just seem so incredibly vague, like nobody in the world cares what you actually produce as long as you can argue about it at the end. I know that it's just the marking season and that everyone has a huge amount of work on. I know I internalise too much. I am struggling a lot on my project though. A lot more than I think you're "supposed" to struggle in your first year. Its hard not to feel dejected.
======= Date Modified 20 May 2011 19:19:53 =======
Has anyone been in the situation where their supervisor seems to have suffered a complete personality change with regards to the way they talk to you? I'm nine months in and I really liked my supervisor from the start, I was able to be very open with him and talk to him when problems came up. Not only that but he seemed to really encourage me to talk to him. My first field season didn't go that well but we agreed a way for me to catch up and I thought everything was fine. But recently he has been behaving very differently, extremely distant and cold. We have very formal meetings which he expects me to follow a clear agenda for, and I have to agree an appointment time several days in advance, and throughout each meeting he'll say things like, "you have ten minutes left." I know it's a very busy time with marking, exams etc., but he barely even says hello any more. If I ask him how he is he gives very formal replies. It's in such contrast to a few months ago where he'd sit down with a cup of tea and talk much more normally. To be honest it really freaks me out as he's one of the most open people I know. He isn't like this with his other student. The formality of his emails makes me feel so stressed, I can't help but feel attacked -- like he's judging me on not being prepared enough or focused enough. Should I just pull myself together and accept that this is what grown-up working relationships are like? I don't even have time to talk to him about it because I only have an hour to spend with him over the next two weeks and I really need to spend it talking about my thesis. I understand the benefit of having strong boundaries but I find it a bit confusing and upsetting, and feel very on edge because of it.
I think being genuine is really important in networking. The weird thing about Masters students is that many of them seem to think they are really important and that all the well-known experts in their field should be grateful for a chance to know THEM.
Unfortunately with so many careers services emphasising networking skills, focus on building lasting relationships tends to get thrown aside. Which is why namedropping, sycophancy, arrogance and blatant attempts to impress people are very common. It seems so much more natural for people to try and impress someone for five minutes, long enough to exchange a card or pitch their research area, than to think, "I really respect this person and have similar ideas and I want to develop a working relationship with them."
To be honest, I've been slow to figure that one out myself.
Thanks everyone. Batfink it's that community connection and feeling of being 'part' of what's really happening which I want to get back. I also did community development type project work before my PhD and have been feeling enormously disconnected. Academia has a particular way of working which is very different to a grass-roots community project. Since many academics have just never worked outside of research aside from casual work, it's so easy to lose touch with a different kind of work ethic. I also really, really want to give back and to help people, it feels so important to me. I think that's why I feel torn about what to do -- front-line service with the Sams or something more community and project based with an adult support group or a shelter. I want to stay away from the exact field I used to work in (community environmentalism) because I'd want to get involved with everything and think that it would too quickly take over from my PhD.
Yes (sorry I can't remember who asked), I'm behind right now -- poor time management, mainly. I've had a lot of problems and have a lot to do. I'm going to give the issue until at least the end of May or perhaps June before I definitely commit to anything. That way I know how much time I'll have spare whilst also getting work done, which, to be honest, worries me a lot as I've got so much to do. At the same time if I try and focus on research 24/7 I am going to burn out really quickly.
Do any of you find your volunteering takes more time than you agreed? So if you say 'one evening a week' that soon becomes one afternoon, one evening and a follow-up meeting on Saturday morning? I remember that kind of thing from my old volunteering, but then, I have poor time management skills (that's only been a problem since starting my PhD).
======= Date Modified 11 May 2011 20:40:07 =======
I'm almost 9 months into my PhD and even though I'm a bit behind I have started to think that I should do more outside University in the evenings and weekends. The obvious things would be to go out with friends, go to the gym, take up a hobby etc., but whilst I want to do all of those things I've been through a lot in my life and want to feel like I'm giving back. Most of my jobs have been community focused and doing a pure science PhD has felt so different from what I'm used to. I made the decision today that I want to volunteer to help people, particularly those with mental health issues or from disadvantaged backgrounds.
I'm kind of torn between volunteering at a homeless shelter, mentoring for a support group or working for the Sams. Becoming a Samaritan looks really hard and requires night shifts, I don't know if I'd find it emotionally draining whilst also writing a PhD. The other things might be more realistic in the short term. I don't know. Has anyone done any volunteering whilst on their doctorate, especially in a completely different field to your research? Did you find it helpful, or did it get in the way of your studying? I don't want to commit to a project then find I have to quit.
I'd really love some perspectives on this...
One of the best things about Matlab is that it is relatively easy to teach yourself with a bit of support. There are huge amounts of free electronic resources out there, but sometimes it's good to just try and develop a network of other users who you can turn to for help. The Mathsworks community is a good one, although I've seen them be a bit snobby. Sometimes the problem can be solved by resorting to general programming principles. Matlab has excellent inbuilt functions which really help for all kinds of problems. What kind of analysis do you have to do? Knowing what problem you face might make it easier to look for tailored resources because the knowledge base out there for matlab is huge. Also it's such an excellent skill to graduate with. I hated matlab to start with but I'm really glad I stuck at it. I'm still only a 'beginner' compared to others I know but it's really worth the steep learning curve. if you want to chat about any part of it feel free to drop me a pm.
Hi there, I'm ~6 months into my PhD, just finished my first field season, and today I had to have an awkward chat with my sup about whether or not I can continue with my doctorate. I split up with my husband a few months ago and have had ongoing financial and emotional problems. I got all the data I needed from fieldwork but I still don't have a research question and have really disengaged with the work that I do. He's given me three months to focus myself, get a question and pull myself together.
At the moment I'm not sure what to do. I really don't know how to make that 'switch' to being independent. I feel like I've missed some point or skill that everyone else has picked up on.
I really want to do well but I feel pretty stuck. I just don't know how to make that jump to being focused and in control. It still all feels so bewildering, even though I've got a lot of work experience beforehand and have a lot of experience in driving my own (short-term, focused) projects. Any ideas on how to pull myself together?
======= Date Modified 14 Feb 2011 21:49:33 =======
Wow, thanks everyone for your help.
First of all, I want to remain friends with my H as far as possible. I haven't even started thinking about the legal side of things yet but I don't want anything from him. He bought a house in his own name which we can't sell, he has been paying for that for years, effectively keeping a roof over my head as I study. I want him to keep the house anyway and I don't want a penny from him. Once this all settles down I'll be able to look after myself fine. It's just the short term that I can't see any way of dealing with. The legal side of it doesn't feel like a priority right now, maybe it will in a few months. Right now all I can think of is the very immediate reality of the next few weeks.
I just can't withdraw or postpone this fieldwork. Not going would be torture, I don't think I could bear it. Especially as it's only two weeks away. I'm doing what I've always wanted to do.
I absolutely love the idea of trying to get free or discounted stuff! I'm not sure I'm actually brave enough to actually walk into a shop and ask... but I might...
I will enquire about ALF, but I thought there was some restrictions on its use by postgrads?
Don't worry, I'm not going to go to anything like Wonga!! But looking on eBay and advertising on mountain / ski sites is a really great idea.
I still don't know what I'm going to do though. I'm just going to keep looking around for local charities or funding sources. I think I can borrow a rucksack from someone, which will save me a lot. There are two other essential items that will cost £60 -£120 each, and if I can get much cheaper versions of them then I might just scrape by. As long as I can get the bare minimum of stuff...
I'm really reluctant to talk to my sup though. It's hard to explain, but there is a lot of distance at University right now and that makes me feel isolated and lost.
Right now I'm going to focus on scraping together the barest minimum of what I need. I'm trying very hard not to worry...
I feel like I only ever come on here when I need advice. I posted a few weeks ago about how starting my PhD in September has led to my separation from my husband. As a consequence of that, I'm experiencing a huge knock-on financial chain reaction which is threatening to swallow me whole. I feel like I'll pop if I don't say this somewhere.
Basically I go on fieldwork in two weeks. I have virtually none of the equipment or clothing I need because I haven't been able to afford it. I applied for a travel grant but got turned down. I've told a few people in my department that I am having financial difficulties (including my supervisor) and they have all said something vague like, "well, let us know if you need anything," in the exact way that we all know means, "pleeeeease don't ask us for help."
My University doesn't offer emergency grants or loans. I get paid about three days before I am due to go away (I have a University stipend, but not a Research Council one) and my naive hope was to use this last payment to buy all the stuff I need. But I become homeless whilst I'm away (I'm overseas for nearly seven weeks, until a few days before easter) and I realize now that almost all of my last paycheck will have to go on putting down a deposit on the place I'm moving into whilst I'm away.
I've looked for all sorts of grants for PhD students, and so far all of the ones I've come across either have closing dates far in the future, or are only for people in their final year, or are for students of a different subject etc etc.
My parents are no longer around and I have no family members left. I applied for a credit card about a month ago but was turned down (I have an old student overdraft which has gone into default and my credit rating is shot to pieces).
I've looked on CCCS -- the credit counselling service -- and loads of debt advice forums. I have tons of advice for sorting myself out when I get back from fieldwork, setting up regular repayments on my old overdraft, getting on the electoral role etc., and my bank manager said I should have no problem applying for a credit card again in three or four months time... but it doesn't help me now.
You might think that my department should pay for all my things for overseas, but I can only claim back specialist equipment. All the ordinary things I need -- hiking boots, fleeces, gloves, base layers, a new rucksack -- I am required to pay for myself.
I don't know what to do. I feel like I've tried EVERYTHING -- applying for grants, contacting my Uni, talking to the bank -- but there's just nothing anyone seems to be able to do. At all.
I can't borrow money from friends because it's a new city for me, I don't know anyone well enough to ask, and I can't see when I'd be able to pay them back.
I even tried to sell my old undergrad textbooks on eBay but I still need around £500 worth of equipment and extreme-weather clothing. In two weeks.
I must sound so melodramatic but I'm so stressed. I do
I had been working for several years before coming back to my PhD and I guess the strain of the emotional, financial and social change has just affected me more than I expected.
I am going on fieldwork abroad in about three weeks, which I am looking forward to apart from the fact that I'm worrying about so many things and just can't prepare myself properly. I'll be away for almost two months, which I know will be a break from this situation but at the same time it is just almost two months where I am unable to actually deal with my problems. I'm trying not to let my worries get on top of me. My fieldwork is the cornerstone of my research, I feel that if I mess this up I'm messing up my entire thesis. But thankfully I have huge amounts of support out there.
The financial and practical aspects are the worst, I don't have any family and my credit rating is shot to pieces, so I have real concerns about being able to look after myself. I have a lot of bills and debts and spend very little money actually on myself, so I feel really 'old' and boring compared to other students. I'm trying not to let this dictate my life but my emotions are going through the mill a little bit right now. I will try not to complain.
The accommodation thing is a real worry. I'm trying to look at professional, rather than student, lets but it seems to be quite hard to get a room just for me. I'm going to have to adjust to looking after myself for the first time in eight years... whilst still keeping my head above water.
My PhD is on quite a tight schedule, I have a lot of data to collect and to process if my thesis is going to come together. My plan is to not get extra help unless I'm absolutely desperate for it, but everyone here is right -- I do need to tell people about it. I just feel so weird about experiencing this enormous life change so quickly after starting my PhD... and this is quite a new city for me too so I don't know that many people.
Sorry for the whinge. Thanks everyone for being supportive. In one way it's actually a relief to have something definite to deal with rather than a cauldron of stress simmering away below the surface. My emotions are up and down, but I'm sure I'll get through it.
======= Date Modified 02 Feb 2011 22:45:12 =======
I started my PhD five months ago. I love it, but it's indirectly caused me to break up with my husband. I told my supervisor but I feel like I'm being really weird around my fellow students. I just can't bring myself to tell anyone and am just giggly and over-the-top all the time, just trying to hide how empty and disconnected from reality I feel right now. My work is definitely suffering because I can't concentrate on anything. It also means I have to move into shared accommodation with other students, for the first time in eight years. Either that or live in halls for a few months. Either way it's going to be really weird and I just have no idea how I'm going to cope. My research is intensive and I really need to concentrate on it, but I'm not. I'm just worrying. My S is very supportive but he's also very busy. I have a Uni counsellor but nobody with whom I can just chat. I guess because I'm really not being honest about the situation to anyone. I just really don't feel like I can.
Anyway, sorry. I know it's a bit weird to just come on here and announce that... I guess I just needed to say it somewhere.
======= Date Modified 20 Dec 2010 10:11:41 =======
Thanks. I'm quite sensitive and tend to see conflict as a reflection on me. This might sound really weird but it reminds me of my parents fighting with each other! They are always making bitchy, snidy comments when the other one leaves the room or is away, making me feel like I have to take sides or that liking / talking to one is betraying the other. They are both so different in their academic experiences and interests and I like both of them, but I don't know if they know it. I'm scared that they will both end up hating me because I'm too much like the other. I see myself in both of them and I am really grateful for them both. I think I need to grow thicker skin...
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