Could use some advice from those who know


I posted in another topic and my post got lost in the thread, so sorry to repeat for those who have read it before, but could really use some advice.

I'm just beginning second year of my PhD and having serious doubts as to whether it's the right thing for me. I love and hate my work, when things work it's brilliant but this is interspersed with months of nothing. The feeling of wasting months of work is so disheartening.

I'm engaged and want to buy a house, get married and eventually start a family, when i finsh my PhD I will be 27 and only just embarking on the career ladder, and from what I know not only do there not seem to be the jobs out there in industry I'll probably end up doing something I could of walked into at 21. I want a promising career and love my subject but I don't like the way my personal life seems to be on hold because of my PhD and the big fat question mark over whether it will actually make any difference to my career.

I just feel so frustrated. Ladies especially, am I the only one?!


rozza: I was reading your post and emphatised with you very deeply. For women combining a career and family is a big issue...especially in academia where you are expected to show 'potential' as early as possible to be promoted. I am in the same boat as you but I am even older, I ll be 35 when I finish my PhD and I even havent got a boyfriend anymore (he did not want to keep his life on the hold while I am finishing my PhD). But I want children very much.
Have you made any decisions yet? BTW, I think combining children with work is easier in academia where you do not have to be in office from 9-17 or longer. But before having them oe has to publish as much to possible to be able to get a good job.


I don't think you are the only one feeling like this. I am enganged as well and I am putting the wedding on hold until I am finished with the PhD. I will be 28 then. I don't mind that too much because a lot of people here (I am based in Germany) grduate from university with an undergraduate degree at that age, and I will have achieved so much more by then! My fiancee is a bit annoyed that we will only get married in a while instead of right now but he is going to stick with me. Sometimes it's hard, but I just think that it's a gift being able to pursue a PhD and I would be really mad at myself forever if I didn't go all the way even though I could have done it.


You could be me, rozza! I think it's really difficult...I'm at the end of year two (of 4) and still have big doubts but I've carried on. I'm getting married next year, with a year left afterwards. Part of the reason I'm persevering is that if I gave up now I'd want to write up my work as an MPhil, and if I do that I might as well go the extra mile. As for afterwards...who knows. But academia is good for those with kids in terms of flexible working. Sorry I can't be more useful, but do know that there are others in the same boat.


You are definietly not alone.
I graduated in 2004 in Chemistry, swearing never to go into academia or back to my that university. After just under two years of working, I found that I hated my desk job. I asked an old supervisor at my university to help me out to get a PhD and he offered me one. I snapped it up. I started in October 2006.

The problem is that I have had to put my main relationship on hold. My girl friend lives 280 miles away and works some weekends - I have a car but the Friday night/Sunday afternoon trips really cut into the research life. I rarely get to see her. It will be 4 years together on November the 2nd. We had discussed marriage and a family - but this now seems an age away.


She does not want to move up here as she now hates the town (We met as under-grads and I see what she means - I dislike my university town). She can NOT find any work at all up here and to top it all off, I live with some Evangelical Christians (instead of in Halls) and they either bring many happy clappy and pushy people around or I am left completely on my own and isolated and this is depressing.

I feel that I am not up to the work and I do not enjoy it that much any more. It is lab based and my supervisor expects a lot of work. He claims he used to put in 12-14 hours a day, 6 or 6 and a half days a week.

I have felt like quitting in February, Easter and August of this year and have pretty much made up my mind to go.

I do not intend to stay in academia or chemistry - so what is the point. I realise that this is not for me and it is beyond my level.

So professionally and personally I want to go.


I was offered (in Jan/Feb work in my previous field which was £45,000 p.a. with benfits for a 37.5 hour working week - but I hate the field).

It is just a matter of saying before you get way into that second year, 'Hey, thanks for the opportunity of the last year, but I am bailing out' - but only if you REALLY do not want to stay.

My supervisor and a post doc have noticed that I am less happy recently. I will speak to him on Friday just before I visit my girlfriend for the weekend for her birthday and my parents for their wedding anniversary.


i am so so glad I'm not the only one to feel like this, thank you so much.

See the couple people I've spoken to about this are not in academia and don't really understand what it's like, all I get is 'don't be silly, you need a holiday, and you'll regret it if you give it up'. But I am definitely not going to sacrifice my relationship, it took me too long to find him and to be this happy personally that I don't think what is ultimately just a piece of paper is worth risking that for.

But then is the question if I do leave, what do I do?! Feel so disillusioned with the whole field, yet I'm not qualified to do anything else!


A job in academia may suit a working mum but how much to do have to endure to get there? And the opportunities are few and far between from what I can gather. Getting the right post-doc is a mission and with contract work, do you have the same security when it comes to maternity leave etc? I know it m,ay sound a bit random as I am no where near ready for a fmaily, but it's things like this I'm realising you have to think about.

Three years ago I was the most focused person, i knew what I wanted where I wanted to go and how to get there, but I htink when you find the person you want to marry you start to realise that there is more to life than uni.

I empathise with all of you that have been so kind to share your stories with me, it's a comfort to know I'm not alone, and hopefully a comfort to you too.


hey I totally know what you mean. I'm just starting my 3rd and hopefully final year of phd and its driving me mad. All motivation is gone! I got married last year in the midst of it and that was busy but fine. I've recently discovered I'm pregnant and just feel like packing it all in! Although equally the effort I've put in to get this far I want to just get it finished. All the actual research is done- I need to do some lab work to anaylsis everything and write up. Tiredness isn't helping. Sorry not to offer any advice. But I'm with you on this!


Take my advice - if you are that unhappy and that uncertain, you should perhaps seriously consider leaving. And you will know when it's right for you to leave, whether you have an alternative job to go to or not. I left mine about a month/three weeks ago and I haven't looked back since. I've started training for something else and I'm skint because my funding hasn't come through yet, but I am happier than ever and can easily balance my work and life now because I feel certain about what I'm doing now and since my moods have lifted my partner and I are so much happier. Talk to your partner all the time about this, mine was such a support when I was deciding to give up x


celesmai, one thing I've learned from the couple days posting on here is telling someone who is in the same boat as you about how crap you're feeling can make things seem better just to know you're not the only one! So rant away luv!


Thanks hatethelab, at the minute I'm looking into what jobs are actually around and really thinking about what I actually want to do, all I really know right now is I don't want to stay in academia. I've been talking everything through with my other half, he's been amazing, all he wants is mo to be happy, and he'll support me whatever i decide to do. Going on holiday next week, so maybe two weeks away from it all will give me the break and the distance from the whole thing I need, who knows I may come back eagar to bash away at my work, but I really think it's going to be good to get a decent break! I', glad you're so much happier than you were.

So is there many people who have left and found it the absolute right thing to do? Or has anyone left and regretted it?


Rozza, I know how you feel too! I will be 28 when I finish and I hear the biological clock ticking. I just got married a few months ago as well!

I definitely don't want to stay in academia, which I have made clear from the start. My main supervisor knew this and managed to get an industrial company involved in my PhD, which is fantastic for me.

However I am still wondering how I will manage to get myself a good career and have children as well. I am worried about when it will happen, i.e I need to finish the PhD, find a job, buy a house, settle in for a bit........

Having some time off always makes a difference, make sure you enjoy yourself and don't think about your work!


I'm 26 and finishing soon. I've not had a proper job, so will need a few years career to get started, but then won't have kids before 29-30.
I said I didn't want to get married until after my PhD, but it is now 4 years later and we've been going out 6.5 years!
I'm considering a writing career where I can get some experience then go freelance and work from home.