Signup date: 11 Apr 2007 at 11:58am
Last login: 08 Oct 2014 at 10:34pm
Post count: 1027
I used to be one of those people that really put their research career first and neglected my relationships and friends when I was doing my PhD. Looking back this is what I regret the most (far more than the lack of money and other drawbacks). My supervisors approval and how I compared to the other PhDers really don't matter to me now.
I don't have kids, but if I was to do things again I would put the real life people first.
You are not the first to come up against the overqualified, but underemployable barrier. I faced it a few years ago http://www.postgraduateforum.com/threadViewer.aspx?TID=6730 and also had fallout with a messy break up, and having to sofa surf for a while.
I think you do hit the nail on the head when you say that people are going to be worried about you moving onto other things. And they are sort of right, unless you are going to be working for them at the same time as doing your Health Psych qualification.
I found that taking off my qualifications really helped when I was looking for survival jobs like admin and catering. Also talking up the part time jobs I did at uni too like barwork. It did hurt and looking back I was really really really angry about having to do that. On the upside it did make me quickly realise how PhDs are viewed in the outside world by employers and how to go about dealing with that.
Word of warning. I also had to go for JSA when I was finished, but found I was not eligble for contribution based benefits, but only income based ones. I hadn't paid National Insurance as I was a student so the rules were different. It was a bit long winded I remember, so get onto it sooner rather than later.
I am really looking forward to this. Have been a long time fan of Piled Higher and Deeper, and can't wait to see how my favourite characters are in live action.
The situation for PhDs is beyond a joke in most subjects. Even the official line from the universities and governments is that they expect the vast majority of PhD graduates to leave academia and being open about how to effectively think about re-training. At your own expense, naturally.
I also don't think avenues like clinical psychology or graduate medicine are that straightforward. You don't need a PhD but you do need to fit in and be what they are looking for. Everyone knows success stories but to be honest If you have already tried a few times unsuccessfully face it, its probably not going to happen, and I know too many people with PhDs and MScs who keep trying to knock at those doors year after year in the vain hope of getting onto one of those blasted courses. They have just traded one pipe dream for another.
I am one of many that had to leave and am doing a job that is graduate, but really not professional that it needs even an undergrad degree. When I realised what Vilee has so well described I started blaming academics above me. However, I read an article in the Times Higher education supplement which showed how badly PhDers are able to judge their chances. 65% of respondants thought they would be a career academic when there was only a 12% chance of gettting such a post (http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=415813).
Lets be honest. We built these traps for ourselves, telling ourselves we are going to be the "one" that makes it, or if we just kept on working hard enough we could win that grant and get a stable job. We do it so we can show those doubters, or those that said we couldn't do it. We are like those X factor contestants, who was convinced that they could be a pop star and that Simon would be sorry when we get knocked out.
We also get into the mindset that we have spent so many years in trying to do academe and if we leave to do something else it was all totally wasted and have come too far to go back. But thats like a gamber in Las Vegas staying on at the table losing more. Its all very well hoping if he just gets onto a winning streak he gets it all back and more, but really the sensible thing is to cut their losses and leave the casino.
In hindsight, I found some of the blogs about leaving academia quite helpful in allowing me to think about what I wanted to do next. What I found really annoying was everone who said they were sure things would be alright and I would find a lectureship soon just keep trying and not to give up. Trying to be helpful but really I needed a wake up call.
Whooaa. Reading this back I realise how much anger there still is. I don't know what I am trying to say Vilee, but just that you aren't the first in feeling that way.
Without knowing who is replying, I am just wondering how many respondants have completed their PhDs and have had the time to look back and see how things have worked out afterwards, and how many are still in the process of doing their PhD?
I reckon if you are still doing your PhD I would hope you would click on YES or MAYBE otherwise you wouldn't have the motivation to continue writing. However, once you are finished I think your perspective may change depending on your individual experience.
Again, I completely agree with people who say if you are doing it for the sake of the project and what you learn from it then it is worth it. If its in aid of coming out the other side with a guaranteed secure well paid career pathway, then definitely not.
On a slightly more optimistic note, but equally thought provoking was this self assessment questionnaire asking Have you got what it takes to to have an academic career?
I am glad to see that Manchester have started to be more open about the process and I think having this kind of information available is essential for people to start asking questions and to protect themselves.
I notice lots of people are making really interesting suggestions, but it looks like before the OP can take advantage of any of them, perhaps they need to settle the emotional fallout first.
If you look back on my posts on this forum a fair few years ago when I was in the same position, I was just the same. Lots of the regulars gave me quite good advice, but I was in no position to take it. I just got frustrated and ended up countering everyone. I was just angry,despondent and just wanted to lash out. I ended up working as a waiter, as I was convinced if I couldn't make it as a real academic all I was good for was menial work. It took a while (and a fairly horrific post doc) to realise that actually I could just do another regular job, the sort that graduates do, and that was okay.
For me (and for the OP it could be different), the first step was to sort out my emotions, unmet hopes and what WJGibson mentions about having my academic dreams stamped on. Part of that was grieving, but part of it was realising the myths and assumptions I was still holding ("I worked hard, so I should deserve a job","I was better than other grads because of my PhD", "I could never admit I may have made a mistake otherwise people would think...") It was only after sorting this all out that I could begin to move forward.
Has anyone been following this?
It's a quite lengthy list that dissects the failure of the PhD model, mainly in a US context, but also highly applicable here. There seems to be quite a bit of anti-PhDing at the moment, and there was even an article in the economist about why doing a PhD is a waste of time.
I completely see where they are coming from and even though I am not as bad off as I used to be I probably have to (secretly) admit my PhD was a bit of a waste. Its just interesting to see I am not alone in that feeling.
Have you ever tried looking beyond academia?
I think if you get into the do or die mentality it can make things really pressured, and look like the end of everything. I found this book really helpful when I made the jump (partly motivated by experiences with a nightmare PhD supervisor and an absent PI)
Even if you want to stay in acdemia its always nice to feel you have options, and its not a post doc or bust situation for you.
I think this sort of feeling is quite normal in the limbo stages of life after your PhD and before something else. My own experiences about 4 years ago can be seen in this http://www.postgraduateforum.com/threadViewer.aspx?TID=6550
Just shows that this that feeling like that at this stage is common.
KeenBean and HazyJane are spot on that you can get post docs and RA posts before sitting your viva and many PhDers awaiting award do this frequently. Don't let just a single rejection make you think otherwise.
Also agree with KB about not needing a PhD to do clinical training, as my ex girlfriend was a clinical trainee and she didn't do a PhD at all, and two of her colleagues were in the final year of their PhD and hadn't even been viva'd at the time when they started. At least its not like some of the fellowships where you can only apply once, you can always keep applying again.
I experienced similar feelings when I had difficulty finding work, but after a few years, I started to see how it wasn't that the world was unfair, but my own thinking had been skewed.
Firstly, I think you ought to stop disrespecting cleaners, shop assistants and the sort of people that do a lot to contribute to the way the world works. Your life, mine and everyone else here would be a lot worse without their efforts. Even with my PhD, I personally, would rather have the quiet dignity of cleaning and paying my own way rather than having a massive sense of entitlement that puts me above such peons and living off welfare.
Secondly, it has never been the case that doing a PhD will automatically result in a good job, in the same way that doing an undergraduate degree won't necessarily result in you having a graduate job. Mainly, its an end in itself, with the added benefit of it being a ticket -to compete for academic posts and develop certain skills.
Thirdly, you are bright, intelligent and hard working, no doubt. However, that doesnt change the fact that we are in a recession, and your skills may not be in demand. However, this is more in your control, and about half the PhDs make the jump from academia once they can adequately cross package their skills and experiences.
I appreciate you may be venting and upset, but perspective is vital to us if you want to move forward productively.
Another concern of mine relates to the prestiege of the institution. I mean, generally speaking, how important is the standing of the institution you do your PhD at?
I really struggled after my PhD a few years ago, and it was a really stormy ride. After post docing a bit, I ultimately left academia and joined a new business. Its not been easy, but in many ways its far better than academia ever could have been.
There has been a recent booklet about PhD graduates being entreprenurial on the Vitae website, and there have been several workshops and things rolled out recently. I would recommend them highly.
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