1/3 Quitting PhD for Job - MPhil, CV, Stipend? Advice please!

posted
29-Nov-18, 16:52
edited about 12 minutes later
Avatar for Wanting_Out
posted about 1 week ago
This is my first post but I have been visiting this forum a lot recently! I am feeling lost :( (Sorry this is a long post too).
This week I came to the conclusion I am going to quit in my final year of a 3-year multidisciplinary PhD (it’s 10 months until my school-funded stipend runs out, but I would never have completed in time anyway). It has been the most difficult decision of my life, but in my heart of hearts I know it’s the right one. I’m just unsure of how and when go about the withdrawal process.
I entered the programme straight from my taught MSc, which I’d subsequently entered straight from my science BSc. In both, I graduated top of my cohort – my success academically just made a PhD ‘the next logical step’. I also love to learn, had a vague (mistake 1!) interest in the topic area, had no idea what else I wanted to do (mistake 2!) and knew I would get on well with my supervisor (having worked with him as an RA previously). Moreover the PhD was being offered in my home county – an area which I am tied to. When I was offered it I thought: this could not be any more perfect.
I did it for entirely the wrong reasons.
Not for a deep love of the subject or to develop particular skills or to pursue an academic career, but because I didn’t really know what else to do, and it seemed ‘convenient’. It’s taken the best part of two years to realise what an epic mistake I’ve made. It turns out that learning from a taught programme with regular deadlines and lots of variety, and becoming an independent researcher trying to master one small area, are very, very different beasts! 1/4
posted
29-Nov-18, 16:54
edited about 12 minutes later
Avatar for Wanting_Out
posted about 1 week ago
2/4 It doesn’t help that the main discipline (psychology) is something I had zero experience (and to be entirely honest, interest) in. But more than that: it just turns out that managing a project isn’t my game. I lack creativity and suffer without direction. My supervisor is brilliant, don’t get me wrong. He’s kind and supportive and has given me the freedom that most other PhD students dream of. Unfortunately for me though, this was overwhelming. It meant I approached my research blindly, devised questions without really understanding the theory, didn’t read widely or deeply enough, and now have two studies which (although separately are interesting and publishable), make absolutely no coherent sense when trying to tie into a thesis. I blame no-one but myself, I just haven’t been ‘into’ it enough. That’s not to say I don’t put the hours in. I’ve developed methods, presented at conferences, and written 2 papers in addition to carrying out my 2 studies over the past 2 years.
In the year running up to now though, my mental health has completely deteriorated to the point I just can’t face it anymore. I’ve always suffered with low self-esteem, imposter syndrome and depression. It’s taken me very long while to realise I’m not a complete and utter failure, it just means I don’t ‘fit’ this kind of work. The only aspects I’ve really enjoyed have been conducting my experiments, working with participants and analysing my data. Most, if not all of this, I know I could happily do as an RA without the need for a PhD (although there is very little employment of this kind available where I live). 2/4
posted
29-Nov-18, 16:55
edited about 13 minutes later
Avatar for Wanting_Out
posted about 1 week ago
3/4 So, getting to my withdrawal issues... I can’t leave immediately. My wife and I are in the middle of trying to buy our first home. It took ages to persuade the mortgage lender to accept my stipend as income, and so I can’t do anything to risk changes to my income pattern until the contracts exchange. If all goes to plan this should happen within a couple of months.
I’m thinking therefore, whether it’s acceptable to just continue ‘as is’ for a couple of months (there is a paper I need to get written anyway) without telling the graduate department, and meanwhile sort out my CV, see a career counsellor and look for a job. I still don’t know what I want to do – but I’m thinking entry level research assistant or admin type jobs in the NHS, local university, or local council for now. I really don’t care about pay or prestige, I just want to do a structured 9 to 5 without too much responsibility for a while, give myself time outside work to become me again, and take active steps to get my head and health together.
What do I put on my CV though? Is it better to tell them I’m currently in a PhD programme or just list it under work experience as ‘postgraduate researcher’ or similar? I feel like I’ll be considered over-qualified for entry jobs even though that’s what I want to do! Has anyone ever intentionally tried going for an entry level job after a postgraduate programme? 3/4
posted
29-Nov-18, 16:55
edited about 14 minutes later
Avatar for Wanting_Out
posted about 1 week ago
4/4 My second issue is deciding whether to try and get something out of this whole endeavour by exiting with an MPhil. I really don’t know if my two studies can actually be pulled into a coherent story, but I’m going to speak to my supervisor next week (he knows I’m quitting and is being supportive). If it’s possible, I think it’d take 4 or 5 months to write up, if I were to work on it full time. I’m really not sure I can or want to, but if I do decide to try, how to go about this? Do I make a formal request with the school to change programmes? If so, am I going to lose my stipend? Would I have to start paying tuition fees? (my stipend and fees are funded by my school, not a research council). Has anyone else tried to do this? Or would you advise I just continue on the PhD programme as if everything is fine, and just ‘out of the blue’ request to submit for an MPhil in a 4-5 months? This seems unethical but maybe it’s just something I’d have to do.
Any advice very appreciated. 4/4

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