Hi, I've been reading these threads for a while, this is the first time I've posted!
My situation: I have an offer of a PhD place, which I need to reply to within the next week (i.e. by 23rd March).
I'm really in two minds about what to do, so I was hoping someone might share with me their thought process for accepting PhD places. What motivated you to do it? Did you do it for the wrong reasons and wish you hadn't? What does it take to get you through something as difficult as a PhD project?
I've been considering a PhD since I left uni (about 6 years ago). I didn't pursue it at the time since I wanted to experience working in industry. I'm now in a good, well-paid job that I can't complain about at all, other than by saying that it's really not for me and it's not where I want to be.
So, I applied for a PhD without really expecting anything to come of it. I had a few interviews and found out last week that they're offering me a place. So now the dilemma kicks in.
I've been thinking hard about my motivations and this is what I've come up with:
I love my broad subject area (Chemistry). It's all I want to do.
I think I would enjoy an academic career more than I enjoy my current career (in management). I can't think of another career I'd rather do, but that doesn't mean there isn't one out there.....
I love to teach
I really clicked with my supervisor, and have good feelings about working with her and the project in general.
But the things holding me back are:
I would be giving up an excellent job in a time where it's hard to find work. I am not at all blase about how hard it is to find opportunities like this.
I worry that i would find myself in three years' time with no job, in my 30s and worrying about my future. If I stayed where I am I could be in senior management by that time, with a very secure job.
I've spent the last 10 years of my life working hard day and night, passing exams etc. A big part of me wants to just enjoy life for a while!
Although I'm interested in the subject area, it's not quite what my background is in, so there would be a lot of catch-up work to be done before I could get stuck in. I'm concerned that my supervisor/department would get frustrated with this.
I might be blowing up what a PhD entails. To be perfectly honest, it's very daunting and I can't imagine that I'm up to it. I know I'm good at passing exams and learning stuff, but how on earth do you know if you're up to doing a PhD?
I realise that was a bit of a ramble, so if you took the time to read it then thank you. I'd really appreciate input from anyone who can relate to the dilemmas faced when deciding what to do with your life!
Determination, motivation, hard work and dealing with frustrations linked to set backs will get you through. It helps if you're interested in the topic (desirable but not necessarily essential) and have good, supportive supervisors. If you want it enough, you'll do it but you have to find a good reason to do it.
Given that you have a good job (even if it's not entirely what you want) and the economic climate which doesn't look like it will improve anytime soon, have you considered doing a PhD part-time? Now that really will require motivation and determination but it can be done.
I would say there is never a right time to quit a job, but if you don't feel you are in the right place, then you might regret not taking the chance to do something else. I gave up something that I knew wasn't for me and by chance I found the right job, one I didn't even know existed before I saw the ad in the newspaper. Do you really want to be in senior management in a place you are not really keen on now? If you like the place you are going and feel it is for you, then go for it, follow your instincts, you will soon learn what you need to learn, especially if is something you want to do.
Nobody can know what the future holds, but that is no reason for not giving it a go.
A small example, my daughter left a well paid job with security to go to another which seemed to offer everything she wanted. It was soon apparent that they had not been telling the truth about the role, she tried her best but there were too many restrictions and no money to do the job she had been expecting. However she persevered and did what she could with the few resources she had but eventually she had to leave because of the actions of her manager. She left with no job to go to, and I supported her in the decision because it just wasn't worth being in a bad place. She had applied a month or so earlier for a couple of jobs, but hadn't heard anything, but a week later she got phone calls asking her to go for an interview at two places. She was offered one job before going for the second interview and took it because she had a good feeling about it. It was the best thing she could possibly have done and is very happy and successful in her new role, but, and this is the point, without the experience of that horrible job she would never have got the one she has now. you on the other hand are going from an iffy job to something closer to what you want to do and which may well lead on to a future that puts you where you want to be, and you never know how useful your work experience to date will be in another place. Nobody knows what the future holds, but it is more than likely you will regret not taking an opportunity to do what you want.
(if you applied for the PhD posts it suggests that you want a change, and therefore senior mangement or not, you are not going to be fulfilled in your present work. I would take the opportunity and let the future take care of itself:-)).
I think that the reasons for which you are motivated to do a PhD sound about right and that you should go for it.
Yes management is a secure place to be and pays well but is it really what fulfilling? Giving up your job to jump into the unknown is a bit risky but completing a PhD successfully is very rewarding especially if you enjoy your subject. It's also a requirement for an academic, research career. Yes it is hard work. I would not do it part time because it is science based.
This is the bit where I roll out my blog on PhDs again. Have a read through and see how you feel.
I understand that giving up a secure position can be wrench and I gave up an okay job to do my PhD. I will add that long term, the place I was working for was in danger and it did eventually close down some 18 months later. In your case, you're not in any danger and that will make the decision harder. If you're in a technical subject, I wouldn't worry so much about not finding a job at the end as you can sell the skills you've acquired should you find yourself outside of academia.
The bit I would be concerned about is the catch-up work, however, you've been offered the place so your supervisor perhaps thinks it's manageable for you. The PhD is about you at the end of the day and how you deal with the challenges it throws up. You might want to talk to your potential supervisor about this issue before accepting to allay your fears.
However, it does sound as though you're in it for the right reasons, because you want to do it and you like the subject and I'd be tempted to suggest go for it. But you also say you've spent the last ten years working hard and putting yourself through exams and you want to enjoy life for a while. In that case, how badly do you want to do the particular project on offer?
If enjoying life for a while is important to you, then let go for a few years. There's plenty people go back to Uni. in their 30s and even later to do a PhD if you feel that is the right choice. Don't that 30+ is some deadline, after which it will be too late.
The subject of a PhD was raised with me after I did Masters. However, at that stage, I felt the same as you and wanted time out in the real world. I was also quite frankly exhausted as I'd endured ill health during the Masters and needed to recharge. It was a good five years later I returned to successfully do one and I have no regrets about making the decision to do it. It was a challenge I personally needed to put myself through, but only once I was ready and it just so happened the project was right for me.
Thanks for your replies everyone.
I had considered going for part-time, but then this project came up....it's such a good opportunity that I've kind of got it into my head that it's a "now or never" situation. I realise that might sound silly, but it's an area I'm interested in, great funding and the chance to work with some world-leading chemists. If I don't do this then surely it would have to be because a PhD just isn't right for me!
My current position involves a hell of a lot of hard work (16-hour days for a few months a year), so maybe my argument for taking it easy doesn't hold up.....if I'm going to work that hard anyway, it might as well be for something I'm more motivated for.
The more I think about it, the real issue is probably thinking I'm just not up to it. I imagine myself completing a literature review, then having no idea where to go next. My (potential) supervisor made it clear that this project cannot fall behind schedule because there are other projects depending on it. That's some pressure!
Anyway, I might call her tomorrow to talk some of this stuff through (I live in another city so visiting again isn't really an option). Or will that look bad - like I'm not really sure if I can/should do it?
How did you guys convince yourselves that you had what it takes?!
I think the people who think they can easily do a PhD are the only ones who will fail! I have learned that it is not about ability or brains, but about perseverance. The challenge will come in a manner you can't yet seem but the challenge is there, and that is why it is a PhD.
All your fears are totally normal, and you do have the ability. Just take it one step at a time. Someone on this forum told me it is like eating an elephant. If you think of the whole meal you will be overwhelmed, so you only think of one bite at a time!
If you don't go for it you will spend the rest of your life wondering if you could have done it. Better than to try and fail, then to never try!
======= Date Modified 20 Mar 2012 08:47:24 =======
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