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


======= Date Modified 21 Jul 2011 22:30:25 =======
...did it work out?

If you wanted to be a researcher when you first started is that what you're doing post PhD?

If you wanted to be an academic when you first started is that what you're doing post PhD?

During the course of your PhD have you changed your mind as regards your career plans?

If you had your time again would you do a PhD? The same PhD or a different PhD?

What are you doing now?

Sorry, I'm just being nosey!


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.


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...

Avatar for Eska

Hi Delta, I began my PhD hoping for an academic career - that was the whole point. I'm half way through and have had a few interviews, I think I will get there, it's just a matter of time... and then some more time.

Academia isn't everything I'd hoped for, although I'm pretty sure it would have been ten years ago, so perhaps what I don't like: pressure, over work, stroppy students, would have their equivalents in another job.

If I could start all over again I think I would do the same thing I have done; although I often think I would like to be an artist - another rocky path.


I started the PhD imagining I woud get an academic job. I was warned it was competitive and that it was a slim chance. Obviously like many, I thought I would be different. 2 scholarships, one PhD, and five papers later...I'm no different...no job...at least not right now.

I got a temporary lectureship for a year and enjoyed it yet also realised that academia is not neccesarily always super-duper. I can't find a postdoc yet alone another lectureship so the career plan is not excactly on course now. Approaching 30 and have to say, I thought things would be different.

Do it again? Probably not. If done again I would have done a languages degree and perhaps an MA - and then moved abroad. Would have probably focussed on something like translation of a particular sort of text for publishers or NGOs, governance etc.


I'm actually doing it to move industry, I don't intend to be an academic until I'm in my late fifties when I might go back in as a lecturer if I can once kids have moved out and I can take the pay cut. I'm actually an RA at the moment so I could in theory leave well before completing the PhD and achieve this anyway, but I quite fancy finishing a PhD off, it'll make the idea of becoming a lecturer later a lot easier to do.


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.


I'm of a similar mindset to you Badhaircut. I was seduced by doing well at undergrad and was swept into a postgrad world without, if I'm honest, thinking enough about it. Now that I'm nearly finished I know that I don't want to be an academic. My colleagues in academia think I'm selling out, those not in academia just presume I'm staying and then when they hear I'm not, they think there must be something up. I'm applying for jobs pre-viva and already I'm fudging my PhD as I don't need one for the majority of the jobs I'm going for.

Why am I here again?:$


I wrote a long post praising BHC's attitude but it refused to post! Anyway, aside from the once aspiring academic (I never aspired to be an academic) I pretty much feel as you do.


Ady, I don't know you but have always admired the way you ploughed through the write up, you just seemed to get on with it, no moaning or groaning. In fairness, I'm doing that but while you jogged throughout (kept up a good pace) I've taken a leisurely stroll (in order to indulge other fruitless distractions) and have some way to go to the finish line!

Be proud!


Thanks Delta :$

Oh yea, once I started my write up, the blinkers went on, big time!


I started a PhD largely because I loathed my civil service job and it was about the only respectable way I could quit what was then a very comfortable career with almost guaranteed promotion. I thought I might like to be an academic but it certainly wasn't my only plan - I designed my PhD to have some relevance to the NGO world and networked there throughout. I knew that the academic job market was horrendous because a lot of my friends from my MA cohort stayed on to do them over ten years ago and no-one ended up in academia. I enjoyed the PhD, got on well with my supervisors etc - I think one thing that did help was that I knew why I was doing it and never had any illusions that academia was some kind of ideal environment filled with nice people. The balance between nice and nasty, ego-driven-ness etc seems pretty much like my former workplace actually. When I finished I was very fortunate to get a 2 year postdoc, went on the academic job market both years (applying to any lectureships anywhere that I was qualified for so I didn't have the geographic limitation problem) - couple of interviews the first year here and abroad but no job but the second year with a stronger cv I got more interviews and a permanent lectureship. I am just coming to the end of my first year and am still very taken aback about all the things lecturers have to do that I didn't realise (and I got an easy start for the first year). Being a fulltime researcher with some TA-ing as I was as a PhD student & postdoc is a very different kettle of fish. It's a tough job with long hours and the amount of REF-related / NSS-related bullying from senior management is unbelievable. I occasionally wish I hadn't got the job and followed plan B instead. I'm going to see how it pans out but academia (certainly in research-intensive places) is not for the fainthearted and not for those unable to work well over the standard working week. So I enjoyed the PhD and would do that again but am not sure the prize of an academic job is that great.