The cost of quitting a PhD

posted
23-Jul-18, 08:14
edited about 53 minutes later
by iwan
Avatar for iwan
posted about 5 months ago
Its been two months since i had quit my PhD. Hasnt been going all that well so far. To those of you who are thinking of quitting, think again. I was asked why i had quit in so many interviews. Eventhough i gave an answer like, "i realise a PhD is not a thing for me", i was met with a myriad of replies, from "why would you quit at at such an opportunity? to "do you give up easily?".. Some even had the cheek to say " arent you wasting your time? If it was me, i would have soldiered on"

I was a four time dean lister during my undergrad days. If i hadnt decided to pursue a PhD,i wouldn't have faced so many job rejections. So yeah just ranting here. Dropping out of a phd program seems like a criminal record for me now. I cant even get a decent job. In fact the only job i was ever offered was for an admin position which required an N level cert.
posted
23-Jul-18, 13:39
Avatar for bewildered
posted about 5 months ago
How are you framing it in your applications? Could you make it look more like a period as a research assistant rather than an aborted PhD? My sense would be that the less you bring the word PhD up, the less others will. Perhaps go for a skills-based cv rather than an academic achievements based one?
posted
23-Jul-18, 16:32
edited about 24 seconds later
by iwan
Avatar for iwan
posted about 5 months ago
I Did just that. But here in singapore, they can always tell if i did a postgraduate or not and it has got somethimg to do with employer contributions to a retirement sum. Employers in singapore can check this up. So yes i did put it as a job experience in my CV but they asks me was i doing a postgrad during thr interview itself.

Probably no hope for me unless i come across an employer who doesnt give a hoot about this matter.
posted
23-Jul-18, 20:13
edited about 25 seconds later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 5 months ago
How many rejections have you had?
How many mentioned your PhD in the terms you describe above?
posted
24-Jul-18, 15:06
edited about 40 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 5 months ago
I imagine that as you get work (at whatever level) and do it so that you have a more recent job history, this issue will come up far less.
posted
24-Jul-18, 18:25
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 5 months ago
You are correct TQ. Most companies dont need PhD qualified employees and just want to know what happened during those years.
Most of us will have one or two gaps in our CV's over the years.
This is why I asked iwan about how frequently he/she is experiencing this because I cant understand why this is an issue for any employer.
posted
24-Jul-18, 20:41
by rewt
Avatar for rewt
posted about 5 months ago
Quote From pm133:
This is why I asked iwan about how frequently he/she is experiencing this because I cant understand why this is an issue for any employer.


It might be an issue if your first "job" after university you quit after a year. They might be worrying that you will quit on them, and they might not want to take the risk. Plus if the interviewer sees a PhD as just another degree without realising the sheer scale, it could be a pain, as HR departments are not known for their intellect.

Iwan, I would rebrand the PhD as a "research assistant". Make up an excuse for the sudden departure, like family issues to explain or that it the research funding got cut unexpectedly. If you make leaving the PhD as more unfortunate circumstances and less "it wasn't for me", the better.
posted
24-Jul-18, 23:36
edited about 3 minutes later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 5 months ago
Your first point is a reasonable one but if the gap was an issue he would not be getting interviews.
Once you reach the interview stage you are on a level playing field with the other candidates.
The problem is more likely to do with how he is handling the questions about that gap.
Doing things like calling the job Research Assistant sounds clever but it's not tackling the core problem (because he is getting lots of interviews) and it probably won't work anyway because a quick phone call to his uni will reveal the lie and anyway they will know he is lying when he fails to provide a reference from that job. Dont underestimate HR department staff. They are not all clueless in my experience.

I will have a think about how he can better answer questions about the gap.
Iwan's initial answer is exactly correct but I want to know how he handles the second question about whether he gives up easily. In my opinion that is maybe where the battle is lost.

I think we need a response from Iwan addressing our points before we can get to the root of it.
posted
26-Jul-18, 14:03
edited about 20 seconds later
by eng77
Avatar for eng77
posted about 5 months ago
Hi Iwan, if you tell us the reason why did you quit the Phd, it might be helpful to formulate it in a nicer way
posted
27-Jul-18, 06:17
edited about 9 seconds later
by satchi
Avatar for satchi
posted about 5 months ago
I am sorry to hear that it has been difficult for you. Some people who do interviews haven't a clue what the other person is thinking. You need to build up your confidence again. Find a way to explain why you quit. Don't give up looking for a job.
posted
27-Jul-18, 06:20
by satchi
Avatar for satchi
posted about 5 months ago
I forgot to add - I have 2 friends who quit their phds. The first quit after less than a year. Funding ran out for the second, he could not finish, he had a family to support. Both now have jobs.
posted
28-Jul-18, 12:20
edited about 5 minutes later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 5 months ago
I also have two friends (UK based) who quit their PhDs and found jobs very quickly - no issues. They were both in their first year though. So this might be what is causing a problem here. You were much later into your PhD if I recall rightly. So you have a slightly larger gap to explain. And then also having to explain why quit when you were so near to the end (near to the end on paper at least - reality can be a different story, I know). But, I am confident that there are ways to frame these things positively and pragmatically - as people have suggested here.

However, I think there may be a potential issue with culture differences, which I am not really equipped to offer advice on. Actually, I think the real issue probably revolves around this. It seems having quit your PhD is posing more of a problem there than it would here in the UK. If this IS the case, then it is very difficult to offer culture specific advice. I know, for example, that a friend of mine in Germany became very stressed and almost had a breakdown when she switched jobs twice in a short space of time. Her family thought she was throwing her excellent work history down the drain. She thought she would struggle to find another job. Etc. Apparently the culture there is such that people often keep a job for all of their working lives and so switching jobs is a very big deal. I share this to highlight the fact that culture differences might be playing a huge role here and you might need to ask advice from someone who knows how things work in your culture.
posted
28-Jul-18, 16:58
edited about 16 seconds later
Avatar for Becky1210
posted about 5 months ago
I quited my PhD one month ago. No regret at all, best decision. That being said it was because I know PhD will not help my future career. I do have a master degree. If you know what you want in a career and quit your program, i don't think employer will look down on you at all, in fact, you look smart for not spending 4 + years in school and post-doc. A Master degree is good enough for most job application,s unless you want to be a researcher or PI etc.. Since you had quited, then there must be rigid reasons at the back of your head as why this PhD doesn't work. By the way, job rejections are expected for everyone, not just you.
posted
29-Jul-18, 12:26
edited about 14 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 5 months ago
I agree with the previous posts, but the fact that the feedback from interviews is specific and directly related to the PhD suggests that it IS being perceived as an issue. This is why I am asking about possible cultural differences. On the other hand, there are no issues with actually securing interviews, and yet it seems to come up as an issue AT interview. So maybe it is indeed simply a matter of how you're managing to frame it when asked about it in person.
posted
31-Jul-18, 14:15
edited about 15 seconds later
by tru
Avatar for tru
posted about 5 months ago
Hi, iwan,

You have had plenty of good advice here. My friends who terminated their PhD all had good jobs after. I do not know how long it took them. They rephrased it as refocusing their energy into something that would benefit their career in the long term since their career goal was no longer in academia.They did not bad mouth their supervisor in any way, but emphasised on the skills they gained during the period of time and how staying longer in their PhD would not contribute to future career goals.

I am unsure about the cultural difference to viewing the termination of a PhD in Singapore. However, if it is an issue in your specific country for whatever reason, could you temporarily get a job in a neighbouring country short term to gain new work reference? Otherwise, would you consider doing internship short term in Singapore to demonstrate your capability to future employers?

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