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Recommend you get a copy of How to get a PhD by Phillips and Pugh. You may find it helps you think about what to expect and look out for.

Searching for jobs woes?

Its been a while since I was in psychology myself, but arent bank work and assistant posts for those getting experience before a doctorate to get onto one? If you were already on that kind of course, is there a reason you need more experience? Maybe you would be better applying for more higher level positions if oyu now have your PhD almost awarded.

In research a lot of us applied for our post docs even before they were awarded, and others went onto other posts usually via industry contacts. I reckon you may have more luck applying for that level rather than undergrad level work. You may even find, like me you prefer life outside psychology than within it.

As for dropping out, does that mean you are totally kicked off the course, or do they just defer you for a bit? Deferring or taking a break is definitely not the same as dropping out, and happens all the time with a PhD.

PhD boyfriend with NO job

Quote From azureray:

Having said that, I constantly ask myself - can I really live with someone like that for the rest of my life when I have to fight for what I want in this manner. Shouldn't he try to be more understanding. Now that you have mentioned it, can I ask why did you put your ex-girlfriend through all that? I really need to understand why a man that supposedly loves you would be so condescending at times? I hope this won't put you of, I am only asking because this is an area that I am quite concerned about in the long run. I keep telling myself he would be less overbearing, but at the same time I don't want to be unrealistic.

I don't know you or your husband, but for me and my ex I think there were several things going on. For me, the whole PhD culture was really hyper competitive, hard working and aggressive mentality. There was this attitude about being better than others and being expected to make sacrifices, and this did carry onto my private life. While I was a PhD and Postdoc researcher, I genuinely thought what I was doing was far more important than anyone else, and that others were too stupid to understand. At the same time, I felt resentful of my ex and friends who went down the applied route and had more money, better career progression (you can read about this if you search some of my earlier posts), which also came up in arguments.

We would also get in fights about things like money and lifestyle. I talked about moving around for post doc work and trying to get lecturer posts, and had an expectation that she would just follow me around and put her career as secondary to that. When she talked about things like getting a house and planning a family in the near future and getting money. It didn't sit too well with what I knew I would probably have to do and I would argue with her about why she wasn't being supportive.

It was only after I left I realised that I may have been a bit narrow in my thinking. The scary thing is I probably would be still feeling this way if I hadn't left university. The sheer competition of getting a university job doesn't really allow for compromises, and there is always some story in the Guardian about how women drop out of academic life, and how relationships are affected.

Answerinig your question about your friend, its impossible to suggest anything because I don't know the people involved, what they value and what is important for them. However, its not uncommon for partners of academics or academic couples to live apart in long distance relationships for lengthy periods (its called the two-body dilemma). Could they do that?

PhD boyfriend with NO job

I was in a similar position to your boyfriend, and my ex (then girlfriend) who completed professional training frequently argued with me about my progress, my prospects and the fact that everyone else was moving on in life, while we weren't. So, unsuprisingly we split up.

At the time I was furious about her betryal and lack of sensitivity. Getting a PhD was difficult, a rare achievement, academic job or post docs didn't go on trees, she didn't understand what doing a PhD is like and how important my research was. We fought about money, about the future and almost everything about the situation we were in.

Looking back, I can see things differently. In many ways me doing a PhD was very selfish with little or no thought about the impact on her. My conversations were all about my PhD and topic and I held beliefs about how my degree was better, harder or more worthy than hers, which was very condescending. I didn't see a problem with the bad job market making me earn little, and having to uproot myself and her through transient work. I was working wierdly long hours. At the same time I realise I was quite resentful about how her professional line had more respect than mine, that she was earning more than me and had the better career progression and working conditions.

The sad thing is I don't think I would have even realised this or changed had I remained in academia. Its only after I was forced out a few years ago and started to do something else I even had the perspective to understand that I was thinking this way. Many of my friends who still stayed in research put their families through this, and still hold those views, and there are lots of divorces and break ups (not uncommon, especially of the partner is equally ambitious and has their own plans).

I have no idea of what the OPs situation is, but I see academic life is almost monastic and really does require a lot of give from partners.

self funded how to contact supervisor

Would also support HazyJane's comment about not going for a PhD that isn't funded. When it comes to life afterwards, it can put you far behind your peers, as there is a bit of an unspoken stigma to self funding.

Guardian - advice for unemployed new PhD

I read this article on the weekend with great interest. I wasn't at suprised to see the amount of stick the poor guy recieved and shows how mean, unsupportive and spiteful fellow academics can be towards those in trouble or struggling. All the victim blaming and sneering brings it all back and makes me so glad to be out of the university snakepit.

Does a post-doc make one less employable?

I found being a post doc did make finding employment afterwards very difficult. Non academic employers really don't understand too much about the skills and training with many making all kinds of assumptions about what it was like to work in academia. If you do a quick search for my name you can read about the problems I faced when my academic career ground to a halt, which wasn't just about money and career, but also about how my relationships with others suffered.

Even harder were all the comments from people saying 'welcome to the real world', or similar. One hard barrier was the lack of employer valued experience which made me both over and underqualified at the same time. The other was my own assumptions about post academic life, that I was somehow a failure for not staying at university in a proper uni job and the shame at having to take jobs beneath me. Truth is I had stupidly equated more education as deserving of better career prospects, rather than understood that the PhD/post doc process had made me so superspecialised as to be practically irrelevant to everyone else.

Its not been all bad though. What I liked about leaving academia was no longer having the anxiety of having to live from year to year on short term contracts, not feeling the constant fear of not publishing enough and the way I am not reliant on having to play petty academic games any more. While my post ac-career has been a rollercoaster thanks to the recession I can at least have some degree of stability and planning for the future. (Very few of my post doc friends have been able to do this despite working at a top 10 UK institutions).

Should we abolish the PhD degree ?

I don't think we should abolish PhDs, but would suggest they are reformed.

Arguments about producing too many PhDs are common, but if the PhD was changed from being an apprenticeship to becoming an academic, to an academic training that showed the candidate had rigour, independence and high standards it wouldn't matter how many are produced. They would all be recognised and more hireable in other fields especially if they had components that could be easily transferable (e.g. programming, communication and dissemination skills).

There could also be more openness about what a PhD was (self directed, competitive, open) and was not (a guarantee for employment and respect, a sure way to become an academic) and the pros and cons.

I think the way the PhD system now is set as a sort of hypercompetitive tournament where we are encouraged to fight each other for limited resources doesn't develop any field, and is cruel to all PhDers. Even the winners have to constantly watch their back.

It doesn't have to be this way, but thats not a reason to shut down the whole system. If you did that you would just shift the problem into whatever comes after the PhD. More transparency, a rethinking of academia and more drop off points where you are encouraged to explore different career avenues (without prejudice) is the way forward for me.

OK, seriously, tell me...

Quote From BilboBaggins:

My original supervisor was asked this question when he gave his newly-prof'd talk some years ago. He'd worked in business before becoming an academic. He became an academic because he enjoys the intellectual challenge, and finds it much more rewarding than a conventional 9-5 job.

Not convinced by this. There are plenty of jobs outside academia that give you an equal if not higher level of intellectual challenge, and rewards (with the added bonus of usually paying more especially if people are on short term contracts like in research). What you don't get is the social prestige and ego massaging of being called "Prof." or "Dr."

An easier option in academia is to become a lecturer or just a research fellow (though preferably on a permanent contract) and then not really aim to move any higher. Sure it'd be stressful to start with, but you'd soon get into the swing of doing enough to keep your job and having time off.

This is a massive oversimplification and overlooks several things. Fellows tend not to be on perm contracts for staters. Lecturers are part of a diminshing pool of labour and have more and more dumped on them as student numbers increase, administration goes up and the pressure to constantly publish keeps piling on.

Having left academia a while now, I work in the private sector at a comparable level and there is no where near the crap I had to put up with whilst as an academic. I have a perm post, I get paid according to my workload (more than uni rates) and my own time after 6pm is my own. I don't have to constantly watch for emails from students, mark essays or do the stuff at that is additional. Office politics and stress is everywhere but academia is on another level entirely.

OK, seriously, tell me...

From what I have seen, many prospective academics have a hazy idea that being a professor is a good way to gain a stable, prestigious middle class job that has a lot of flexibility and perks. This was probably true in the 1960s and 1970s, but the changes in academia and mass education has changed that beyond all recognition.

I also think most of us don't realise when we come in how uncertain and challenging the path will be. Even if we were told it's tough, most of us will have been among the best in our class, getting "As" and achieving whatever it is we set our mind to, so would probably have bet on ourselves overcoming the odds. It doesn't matter because posts are increasingly downgraded, fewer in number or part time because universities know its cheaper that way.

I think there is also an element of unwilling to walk away from huge sunk costs. After we have been working on our PhDs a while it feels like we are too far in to turn back and do something else. Or we see it as a personal failure, are told by supervisors that we couldn't hack it, that our friends will sneer at us. So we have huge pressures to keep on walking towards the mirage, even though it would make sense to most external observers to give up and try something else. Or it could be the fear of not knowing what else they can do that keeps them on the path.

I think for many its a trap. They are stressed if they leave, but equally stressed if they stay.

Still unemployed a year after graduating :(

I don't think you can get away from the fact that academic life is inherently competitive. You won't be the first to have to write up papers from a PhD while pulling pints or stacking shelves.

If you haven't talked to the careers service at university about how to sell your PhD to non academic employers I recommend you do this immediately. Then you need to decide whether you want to stay in academia, or you want a non academic career. If you want the former, you will have to make yourself more competitive and attractive compared to your peers. Just accept that if you do, you are going to have to be prepared for constant rejection and knockbacks and still have the strength to keep hammering away.

If you want to move away, there are some good books and blogs about post academic life, and start preparing in a different way. Papers and citations are not important, but being able to focus on your transferable skills will be. I really recommend http://leavingacademia.blogspot.com/ or the book "So what are you going to do with that?" By Susan Basalla and Maggie Debelius.

Cuts in funding for Postgraduate Courses and Research

Although this is bad in lots of ways, one good thing is that it will cut down on the oversupply of PhD students. Perhaps it will also result in better conditions for those of us who do make it?

If you went into the PhD with a career plan....

Quote From delta:

I'm sorry to hear that and I recall you had real struggles. I hope you don't feel unfulfilled and have been able to move on. It's very tough out there...

Leaving official academia has been really good for my mental health, and I often look back and wonder about how much pressure and criticism we all accepted unthinkingly for such low pay. The first proper job I did for a private company after my postdoc paid far more, and I was just happy at the time to get out.

Now I am asking questions about what I want to do, rather than what I think I ought to do. I still like teaching undergrads, writing and researching and do this in my own way but there are other things I am starting to realise I like more.

The worst thing is the expectations of others and the loss of prestige. Friends and relatives used to think of me as "The prof-to-be" and just don't get why I left. Similarly a lot of my previous colleagues do look down or patronise, but I now realise they were not friends but more rivals.

To answer your question I am fulfilled more than I was in academia but not as much as I could be.

If you went into the PhD with a career plan....

Originally I wanted to be an academic (in a Russell Group university like the one I studied at). I got as far as post doc before I was squeezed out, so am not doing that any longer. Now I have a mix of various things, a bit of teaching OU, helping friends out with their business, and a bit of writing. Still a bit unsure where to go really.

I don't think I would have done things the same way if I could do them again.

Beaten to a job by someone with TWO doctorates :(


It wasn't the number of doctorates that got them the job but probably the range of skills the two different training paths covered. Also the fact that you haven't submitted yet may also be a significant drawback. In anycase you shouldn't beat yourself up and you got amazing feedback by the sounds of things.

I am a bit suprised though that someone with either an MD or DClinPsy (you are in psychology or psychiatry aren't you?) plus a PhD had to go for an RA post. I would have thought that kind of applicant would be able to go for all sort of clinical posts and negotiate research bits, for far more money too. I can't imagine that being a common occurance, but it may be at higher levels. I know a few grants only open to medics or prefer them(e.g. Wellcome Trust).