To be, or not to be doing a PhD (that is the question?)

I’m constantly surprised (although I don’t know why) at the ability of a PhD program to trigger a full blown existential crisis. While most of the time the feelings will pass, sometimes the crisis is a good thing – it’s your subconcious speaking and you’d be advised to listen.

Image by @textsfromyourexistentialist on Instagram

Image by @textsfromyourexistentialist

Last week an ANU student, let’s call her Lisa, visited me during my scheduled office hours (it’s from 4pm to 5pm on Mondays for any ANU students reading this). Lisa wanted to see me because she was wondering whether she should quit.

As I usually do in this situation, I asked her why she had started the PhD in the first place. Lisa explained her situation as one of inertia. After finishing undergraduate studies in the humanities she’d only been able to find clerical or call centre work. After a year or two of being bored out of her mind, she went back to the place where she had always been intellectually happy – the university. Lisa was attracted to the research work of the PhD, but only had vague thoughts about what she would do after it. Perhaps she would be an academic and live the life of the mind.

Big mistake.

As Kate from the Music for Deckchairs blog recently said to me, a PhD is the worst back up plan ever. Joining the department enabled Lisa to to come face to face with the reality of academic work, specifically how little of it resembles the life of the mind she’d imagined.

As you have no doubt worked out by now, an academic life is not one of leisured reflection. When you are not in the class room you are in committee meetings, or in marking hell. Research time tends to occur in snatched moments or on the weekend and half of it is spent dreaming up the next grant application. You are likely to be on some kind of contract, at least at first, which means you have to keep building your networks so you will remain gainfully employed.  The best ways to to this are through collaboration, conference travel and social media – all of which involve interacting with a large variety of people.

I don’t really believe the introvert / extrovert thing as a binary divide, but if I have to commit to being at one or the other end of a spectrum, I definitely identify as extrovert. I love the people part of academia, but Lisa clearly identified as an introvert. While I see social media as fun, Lisa sees it as a boring waste of time. She likes reading, writing and thinking, but discovered she hates teaching. Actually, any form of public speaking made her feel anxious. She has some close friends in academia, but collaborating or co-writing is just not her thing. I suspect her worst nightmare was to be trapped in a three hour committee meeting or making small talk at the conference dinner table.

It seemed clear that academia is not a good career choice for Lisa, but that’s not a deal breaker for the PhD itself. Lisa had come to the right place because, at the moment, my research is all about PhD employability. I told Lisa that it’s more normal not to become an academia after your PhD: 60% of graduates leave academia and do all sorts of things. I talked enthusiastically about the value of the PhD outside of academia and how much more money non-academic doctors earn. I rattled off a list of other jobs Lisa could do with her qualification, but she looked unimpressed. All of those jobs involved dealing with lots of people.

We sat in silence for a while before Lisa same out with the statement that made everything clear. “I prefer plants to people,” she said. “I really want to work with plants.” I was a little taken aback, but when she started talking about her secret ambition to open a nursery she became truly animated.

It was clear that the PhD was not going to help achieving this goal, so I suggested that it was perfectly ok to quit. Sure, she’d wasted a year, but as that old proverb goes “the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, the second best time to plant a tree is now”. But, as usually happens when I validate a student’s desire to quit, Lisa started to back pedal and talk herself out of it. She listed a bunch of reasons to keep going, all of which were about what other people would think.

I’m not trained to unpick the workings of the mind and motivation, so I sent her straight back to counselling. I hope she works it out.

The PhD existential crisis doesn’t have to come from within. It can be provoked by people around you. In my experience this kind of crisis is not necessarily your subconcious sending you a message, but some kind of emotional contagion. For example, the other week I got an email from a student, let’s call him Ching.

Ching was rattled by a conversation he’d had with a group of academics from his department at lunch:

“We were talking about my project and one of them, who is normally super positive and super supportive, started asking me questions about what I was trying to achieve with my project, which I thought I was answering okay but it quickly became quite aggressive and confrontational – she was asking me why I was doing something that wasn’t going to help anyone, or make any difference…”

Oh boy.

The last thing you need while you are up to your elbows in doing a PhD is for someone to say something like this. That it came from another academic gives it a real sting, but it probably says more about that academic’s state of mind than Ching’s work.

Look – it’s unlikely that your PhD will change anything about the world. Mine didn’t make much of a ripple, but that doesn’t mean it was a waste of time. It depends on what you think is the most important product of a PhD: the dissertation document or the person.

Most of the time I prefer to keep my focus on the person. What did they learn about the topic? Did the process empower them in their work, in their life? Have they reached an understanding of how they work best and how they need to be supported? How can the knowledge and skills they have developed be transferred to another setting or problem?

Personally, my readings in material semiotics and assemblage thinking help me cope with committees and the paperwork. I’m more patient because I understand exactly why we find change hard inside a bureaucracy. My reading on habitus and cultural capital help me understand how PhD students adapt (or not) to life inside the academy. With that knowledge I can create novel ways to assist through programs and interventions.

My knowledge of research methods on gesture research are not much good to my present work in PhD employability, but I understand the principles of how methods produce knowledge and I can read really fast. But if I had to name the very best outcome of the PhD (besides being greeted with “Welcome back Dr Mewburn” while boarding airplanes) is that I am not afraid to appear stupid. When I discover my ignorance, I know how to fix it.

I’ll just research the shit out of it.

Honestly, people should fear my mad skills of research. I apply them at work, certainly, but they are effective outside too. When my last landlord tried to deduct money from our bond for the state of the garden at the end of the lease, I researched the law and presented my case in the form of a table of carefully curated information. That bit of research saved us $1200.

Besides the person, the writing is the main outcome of a PhD program. The humble dissertation is now the most downloaded kind of document from our university repositories, so we shouldn’t dismiss it out of hand, but usually the knowledge usually has to be translated before it can be useful. This involves extra work (which I never bothered to do with mine).

You could turn your dissertation into a book that will change the way the reader thinks about the subject. You could boil down the findings into your teaching and inspire your students. You can write articles, position papers, make documentaries or even museum exhibitions. You can design public health programs, a speaking tour, a festival…. My point is you’ve finished a PhD. You can turn that incredible creative energy and dedication to any number of projects if you want to.

So next time you have an existential crisis, ask yourself these questions:

  • Why did I start a PhD? Was my decision to start a PhD just inertia and now I’ve run out of puff? Or have I lost sight of my original motivations?
  • What is my subconcious trying to tell me? Could I really be doing something more productive and interesting? If so, what does that look like?
  • If the end point of my PhD is not academia, what are my other options? What do I need to do now to ensure that alternative career is a possibility?
  • How am I different today than I was before? What have I learned about myself?
  • What’s the best way for me to make a difference to the things I care about after I have finished my PhD?

So, what do you think? Have you had a full blown existential crisis during your PhD? What triggered it? How did you overcome it?

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58 thoughts on “To be, or not to be doing a PhD (that is the question?)

  1. a says:

    I’m in the middle of one.

    On one hand, I’ve already put four years into it. Those years were great: good lab, good labmates, inspiring environment spiced with interdisclipinary projects… Except… my research did not went into that direction I wanted it to go. I’ve got results, I’ve got the data, I just don’t have the guts to write the papers I don’t really believe in.

    On the other hand, (with the help of my PhD program and this blog ;)) I’ve left academia, and I’m really enjoying it. Different pace, different challenges, even a chance to do some original research. Hey, I might even found a way to continue what I did in the way I wanted it to go. None of this requires a PhD, but… it would be definietly better for my future career.

    I’m this close to finish with the PhD, my brain wants to finish it, but when I sit down to write, my heart just say no.

    I will post an update when I find a way to overcome this academic writing block, one way or another.

  2. Mark Wallace says:

    I was somewhat like Lisa, and am still in academia, albeit in a fairly short-term job without much job security. But I think you’re being excessively negative about her choices. Someone who wants to live the life of the mind has every right to try and use academia towards that end. It doesn’t always work, but a researcher can get by without excelling in networking, self-publicizing,even teaching if they’re good enough at the research part. There should be a place for those people, too.

    • S says:

      Agreed. As an introvert, I have to say I found this post a little depressing. Of course it’s important to make yourself known and get your research out there, and I do enjoy some of the more “social” aspects of doing a PhD (teaching/tutoring, going to conferences), but is it so deluded of me to think that academia is ultimately about the production of knowledge, and that there should be a place for people who aren’t social butterflies? If academia isn’t the place for people like Lisa who prefer thinking/reading/writing over spending time on social media, then where else is? Am I just too idealistic?

      • Thesis Whisperer says:

        I have to call it as I see it Mark. In the 17 years I have in in academia full time I have met about 3 people who genuinely live the life of the mind – and they had been doing that for decades. Contemporary academia is different. There might be short term stretches, contracts and projects, that will give you a chance to work quietly behind the scenes, but long term job security (whatever this means) it will be exceedingly rare in this domain. Most everyone else has to work with people all the time – teaching, conferences, meetings, committees. Being realistic, I think it’s my role to caution candidates who really hate this aspect that it’s probably not the career for them.

      • Jonathan Powles (@JonPowles) says:

        Hmm. “Production of knowledge” is always a phrase I like to unpack. My own research, reading and reflection sees knowledge as a social construction, essentially involving other people. Indeed, when you are reading or writing a research paper, you are engaged in a dialogue with another person or people. “The life of the mind” is essentially an interpersonal life; nobody is going to value you if you think intersting thoughts *and keep them to yourself*. And they’re certain,y not going to pay you to do it.

      • B says:

        Personally I think the problem here is the fact that we (at least from what I’ve seen in Aus and NZ universities) expect two very different functions (the production of knowledge vs. its dissemination) to be carried out by the same person, when the skill set required for each function is completely different. It still baffles me that we force these incredibly socially awkward yet brilliant researchers to try and develop and teach an engaging undergraduate course, and have nothing beyond sessional teaching opportunities for great educators who don’t necessarily have an interest in (or skills to produce) “top-tier research”. Very bizarre, I really hope we can change this feature of academia in the future.

      • Diana Marin says:

        I agree with this, and I also believe that even if networking is not your favourite part of this environment, you can still be fulfilled through your academic achievements, which might even help in the process of opening up and getting used to the social side of it. I think you can prefer research to public speaking, and, since the job requires both, you can work on improving your social skills and it is quite feasible to adapt to such an environment given the right circumstances: friendly staff, common interests, matching personalities, etc. It is quite fluid, and I would rather see it as that than in black and white, which prevents progress. If you realise in the end that academia is not for you because of the networking aspect, and you would like to try something more suitable, that is fine, and you can re-orient, but if you are really motivated and you wish to do it, you should not quit.

        Otherwise, interesting insights and a good article : )

  3. Julie says:

    a: writer’s block sucks, doesn’t it? Along with all those other kinds of blocks that life throws up…. Usually when I am able to stop fighting whatever I’m struggling with the right path becomes clear to me. Sometimes that can take months (or even longer for big stuff that I really want to force in a particular direction), but usually I get there eventually.

    And what a great post, Inger. Very thought-provoking, indeed, especially your comment about what matters most at the end of a PhD-the work or the person. That’s such a succinct articulation of how I’ve experienced my PhD and life afterwards. I don’t think I wrote a particularly good PhD, and have felt vaguely embarrassed and guilty about it ever since (and we’re talking 20+ years now), but the whole process has enriched my life so hugely that I’ve never regretted the path when I examine what it’s meant for me as a person. And while I’ve mostly been employed at universities in the meantime, it certainly has never been the “life of the mind” that I’d imagined either. Also, no job security (for me, at least) but it can be such an interesting life nonetheless. Working with students, interesting intellectual challenges, being in environments where thinking is valued–what could be better?

    • Thesis Whisperer says:

      Thanks Julie – you pretty much sum up my attitude. I value the experience of the PhD so much – ebven if I’d not been successful in my ambition to be an academic, I would still value it. I had 11 years of casual work and during that time I honed the people skills I needed, but I always enjoyed the work. That’s important too – for some people it will be enough. Others might find that other things become more important as their needs and circumstances change.

  4. accordion3 says:

    I am interested in finding out what is available post PhD. I’m looking into doing one and would like to be reassured that it will translate into tangible work at the end. I’m not overly interested in academia and am curious about what else there is.

    Where should I look?

  5. Jennifer says:

    I totally can relate to endless meetings and marking hell. Haha! This is one good article that put things into perspective for me. Thanks Dr Inger! I always believe that we all make a difference one way or another no matter what we choose to do.

  6. Jodie Stewart says:

    I face an existential crisis at least three times a day, and a big sobbing one yearly, usually around graduation time when I see other students graduate and go off into the world with jobs and exciting futures (as a casual sessional staff member I have been to many grad ceremonies- I go for the canapies). Living in a rural area I worry about what I will do with my PhD quals. There are not too many professional jobs in my area, atleast not for a cultural historian. I am a little like Lisa, I shy away from speaking in public (but I have on several occassions, with maximum anxiety) and can’t seem to find the time or inclination to build myself an internet presence. I commenced a PhD with academia in mind but coming to the end of my PhD journey I realise that I am more likely to locating Rocking Horse scat then secure a post-doc. I have decided to postpone my ‘what now’ thinking until after I submit, otherwise I might never get there.

  7. madiapatraismar says:

    Hi. Ì had an experience like ching… my writing has come to a screeching halt….and am feeling depressed. Thank you for sharing so now I know this writers block is not just happening to me. (I have a friend who continually tells me how she is breezing through her phd, how her supervisors are so great with her, how she has presented at so many international seminars (apparently she has the money to travel anywhere). How she will finish her phd in record time….a great success story in the making. I am very happy for her but Its not happening to me. Anyway thank you I will try to start picking myself up again.

    • Anonymous says:

      You’re welcome – remember, there’s very little point in comparing yourself to other people during your PhD – everyone is different

    • Alice says:

      I understand that negative words can rattle around in your hear and cause writer’s block, but try not to let them do so. I agree with the blogger – (whom I think is Inger in this instance) – people can say all sorts of negative things just because they are having a bad day, or are feeling jealous, insecure or frustrated with their own research or the environment in which they work. Don’t let it get under your skin.

  8. Sharon says:

    This was wonderful to read. I recently had a break down, not in my decision to do a PhD but in my research topic, and a professor suggested quitting was an option; the department doesn’t really like having students around who are thoroughly unhappy. But I know why I started my PhD and where I’m going. This is still a great reminder to stay grounded in those convictions!

    • Julie says:

      Totally agree, Sharon, and maybe you need a new supervisor? There’s also a corporate mentality around that requires ‘efficiency’ in moving students through, but if you’re still strong in why you’re there and what you want, then go for it!

  9. NQ says:

    I have my qualifying exam soon, and I just feel like I might be kicked out. I know what I’m talking about, but I know I don’t sound like I do, because I can’t communicate well, particularly in front of my boss. Then when I’m presenting, I forget everything I know, and the only advice my committee has had is “well if you really knew this very well, that would help you recall that knowledge in a stressful situation”. I could answer these questions better in my sleep though than in a presentation context.

    I keep reading posts like this because I want to learn the good side of (having to) leave my PhD… but I’m still not convinced because I just deeply don’t want to. My friend has already said he’ll hire me for a job that sounds excellent, even if I fail. But all I want to do is to stay in this.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sounds like you need some training on the art of presenting so that anxiety doesn’t get the better of you… do they have this available at your university? We do it as part of our 3MT program

  10. Dian says:

    I really like that bit “I’ll just research the shit out of it.” Now I have done a PhD I can research something intensely and feel as though it is okay. Before that, I just thought I was a nut case odd-ball. Now, I know I can do this, do it well, and it’s a fairly unique and even useful skill.

  11. Dr Crawford says:

    So this post is basically arguing one should not be doing a PhD if an introvert.

    This is utterly absurd. I feel for the introverted student who went to this academic (who clearly doesn’t understand introversion) for advice.

    It’s quite ironic that the OP writes off an “introvert” using the technical vocabulary of the eminent introverted psychologist who introduced the term.

    Here are some highly influential introverts (INTJ) we should just forget were ever academics or useful:

    Carl Jung
    Friedrich Nietzsche
    Karl Marx
    Isaac Newton
    Isaac Asimov
    Stephen Hawking
    G.W.F. Hegel
    Jean-Paul Sartre

    Yeah sure. Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough.

    • Anonymous says:

      If you read the post carefully, you’ll see I said being an academic can be hard if you identify as an introvert – not the PhD. The PhD (at least in many disciplines) is made for the introvert. However most academic jobs, these days, are not. I note that all the people you put forward as examples of influential introverts are (old, white) men from another era. They were privileged in their time – listened to, given space to make work, paid for their labour. That doesn’t invalidate my argument. While these systems of privilege still exist in academia, they do not exist in the same way, or to the same extent. Please read the moderation policy before commenting again? I like keep things civil here and I always let people express contrary views, but it needs to be polite and in the spirit of a genuine dialogue.

    • Julie says:

      I read the post as a call to being realistic about what academia is actually about these days. I don’t think introverts are ruled out (and I identify as one myself), but they need to make sure they can find a way to make a highly-demanding, social (both digital & IRL), multi-tasking environment work for them. For me, I’ve actually become more and more social the older I get, but I DEFINITELY need down-time to recharge as my basic temperament hasn’t changed. Social activities, whether work-related or personal, drain rather than feed my energy. Realistic expectations and clear strategies are the key.

    • fmark says:

      It’s easy to romanticise the working conditions of these dead white guys. But take Marx for example.

      Talk about no job security – he was kicked out of the academy because the government didn’t like his research findings. He had to leave the country to get an alt-ac job as a journalist, but soon had to move on after his employer annoyed the wrong politician and he was made stateless. He wound up in London, where, after a few years, his journalism income was curtailed after his employer reoriented their business plan. His finally gave up on his alt-ac career ambitions because almost no one could read his handwriting. He ended up sponging off a research collaborator, while his children died from poverty-related diseases. By his late career, he couldn’t even sit down to write because of the carbuncles on his bum.

      Is this a career path you’re really recommending to a PhD student?

      *removes tongue from cheek*

  12. Debbaff says:

    Hiya I’m just about to start mine in January … I find your blog incredibly helpful so thank you sooo much for sharing 🙂 – with a full time job and a family to support I know the road ahead will not be easy by any means but I’m gonna give it a good old go anyhow ! I feel very blessed to know there is a whole community of PHders out there who are so willing to share their journey and experience for the benefit of others ! Thanks folks 🙂

    • Ali Wako says:

      I started mine part time external in 2014, while working full time and with a family – a three year old boy keeping me on my toes. I am not in it to get into academia, but may use it for career change – there is always need for people with good research and writing skills within the federal government agency where I currently work. The road a head will not be easy, but give it your best shot when you start in January.

  13. dskmag says:

    You have to consider that there are full time PhDs – the drone workers eeking out a living on tutorial gigs and low paid grunt tasking and there are part time PhDs who are generally have jobs – and really not interested in reducing their living standard. The reality for the latter is that being distant doesn’t make networking easy, nor might it lead to the ‘job’. They might be very happy in their job. It seems to me the crisis is that PhD assumes ‘full time’ and ‘on tap’ and blind freddy can see how Universities use PhD students to teach and research as it’s highly cost effective and best of all, no commitment needed long term.

    So while I nodded at most of this, I think most of us doing part time find the ‘full time centric’ organisation of events and happenings really difficult to engage with. It’s not so much as crisis, but an awkward silence at times.

    • Charles Knight (@Charlesknight) says:

      “there are part time PhDs who are generally have jobs – and really not interested in reducing their living standard.”

      Yes – I was a part-time PhD student, I think although it has its downsides, there are a lot of positives to doing it that way because you have a level of independence that full-time PhD students often seem to lack.

  14. Emma Sabzalieva says:

    “As you have no doubt worked out by now, an academic life is not one of leisured reflection” – this is the stand out point for me in this excellent piece. I was well aware that a researcher these days cannot simply spend all their time thinking, reading and writing (would that it were so!) but still, I am discovering that the demands even on an early stage PhD student’s time can be immense. You have to work really hard to carve out time for your own research – and do so without feeling guilty about it: this is why you’re here! Yet at the same time you would ideally build up a wide range of experience (teaching, working on other people’s research projects, university administration etc etc), not to mention keeping time available to not do work. I am now in a much better position to understand why some PhD students take a long time to finish, or don’t finish at all.

  15. Christelle says:

    Interesting article Dr Mewburn.

    I wondered, could you help me?

    Do you know your MBTI score?

    I am doing some research into MBTI in academia.


    Much appreciated


      • Le says:

        Perspective article – thank you, and also to the commenters. I have found the MBTI to be an incredibly accurate tool concerning: patterns of behavior, mental models, cognitive functions (the way we use our brain), and even showing patterns of predictions with facial and body features! Having concentrated on the MBTI for over 15 years, I am now in the process of “proving” many of the intuitive, and experiential facts as a tool that is very helpful for reconciling human relational differences. All that to say, there is a lag of understanding and “acceptance” to the MBTI. However, the critics have usually stopped short (very) with any real investigative work towards its value, and usually accepting the “opinion” of those who have not fully exhausted efforts to understand the MBTI. Also,I have documented certain types and their likeness for same food preferences/habits (offering Aha! moments). It is “understanding” that provides the useful employment of the tool. Often, the variance (and task) resides in rendering the genuine profile of the type – most people unconsciously answer in terms of how they would/should like to be. So, cross-testing is prudent. And most intellects know they can manipulate the outcome of the test, but of course, that defeats the purpose of growing in self-awareness and understanding. So, consequently, discounting the value of the MBTI occurs. It takes much study to embrace the brilliance of MBTI and its intrinsic “helps”.
        BTW, I’m an introvert, and I took no offense to the article. It comes across to me as though it is in the spirit of “all things considered”.

      • Anonymous says:

        Thanks for your reply.

        The reason I am asking is I am doing a PhD in Psychology and my thesis is on the MBTI model of personality and how it can be used to develop academic practice.

        The model is proving very useful so far.

      • Le says:

        Regarding MBTI, an interesting trend with academic faculty (universities, etc.) is that more and more professors/teachers/administrators are showing Te dominant preferences. If true, certain “types” will likely wrestle with misfit feelings in said environments. I wonder if your research reveals any such tendencies?

  16. Victoria Lister says:

    What an excellent blog, thank you Inger! I well and truly understand the existential crises research degree work seems to trigger, particularly part-time HDR work. The core reason for me doing the degree is strong – my dilemma is around competing priorities and actually having the time to do it. And then there’s the bits of it struggle with and don’t enjoy.

    I’m not after a job in the industry (and it is that!) and find your insights in this regard strongly match my own observations and reading of the demands of modern academia. Put it this way, I don’t see many academics who glow with vitality – the role is super-demanding and stressful and I see people’s health suffering as a result. There’s little-to-no regard for people in the university / research system, although there are people in it who care.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Being an introvert myself, I found this article touched a nerve. I read it, got really angry and defensive, and now I’m coming back to it cold headed. I’ve started my PhD last year, and I’ve already realized not thriving in social situations is going to be a real setback in pursuing an academic career. But the truth is, being an introvert has been a setback in almost every single thing I’ve wanted to do in my life. It was a setback when I ran for student council, when I was working in an office and, of course, it’s a setback now. I’m constantly panicking because of the constant self-exposure academia requires, but this is something I really want to do, so I keep reminding me of that really good piece of advice my brother gave me when I was running for student council: the key to going through with the things that really scare you, is putting yourself in a position from which you can’t back out – keep doing this and things will become less and less frightening. This worked, and by the end of the year I could speak in front of the entire student body without feeling nervous.

    So my point here? Maybe academia is really not for Lisa (though I hope she won’t let being an introvert get in the way of all the networking she’ll have to do to get that nursery open), but if it really is something you want (and I mean, I hate speaking in public but I love teaching, so there is a lot more complexity and contradiction to what an introvert makes), there are a lot of little tricks that can make things easier. For example, put yourself in a position from which you can’t back out. Read and reply to your emails at the end of the working day, and then do something relaxing. Organizing your social activities as a part of your work schedule: 11am, meeting with supervisor about that paper; 1pm, lunch in cafeteria with colleagues; 2pm, go say hello and be friendly with those people who might have a job for you in the future, 4pm, library and relax.

    Being an introvert is a setback, and it’s unpleasant to a point I don’t think extroverts can fandom, so I feel like I should say this: if anyone goes to you for advice about quitting anything because they can’t handle the social side of it, and if you’re an extrovert, please at least tell them to talk with an introvert about it. I’m sure we all have our little tricks, and can help each other figure out what works and what doesn’t when pursuing our goals.

  18. thisisnotfunny says:

    Full blown existencial crisis right here. Just created my blog after a bad day which included a meeting with my PhD supervisors… So far it’s helping me procrastinate more 😛

  19. Jonny says:

    I will be beginning my 4th (and hopefully) final year of my full time PhD research in February. I have had countless ups and downs with motivation, self-efficacy and self-esteem and have come to the conclusion that academia is not for me – or at least a career in it.

    Reading “60% of graduates leave academia and do all sorts of things” made me feel very happy that it is not just me who has come to this conclusion but in fact the majority of others who have been in similar circumstances.

    For now, I need to work out what it is that I actually want to do with my brief time in the sun.

  20. Mr Khase says:

    I have also asked myself that question..”what I’m I doing here far from home studying for a Phd”?
    The answer for me is quite easy . I LOVE teaching, I love passing on knowledge and while I don’t like reading as much as I love teaching the crave to “give back” motivates me to put in the work needed.
    Lots of times I see other researchers presentation and I tend to want to compare it with mine, their topic and research area sounds and seems all technical and “difficult” while mine seem too simplistic and easy and I feel like I should be doing something filled with more technical jargon and that usually gets me temporarily upset.
    Hardwork will get me where talent cannot and that’s my motivation.
    I hope to stay in the academia after my PhD as that is where my “true love” is

  21. Hayley says:

    Committing to a PhD is not a decision to take halfheartedly! I have just submitted my thesis and am awaiting my viva and my God it’s been a hell of a journey! I’ve summarised the top 5 reasons for and against doing a PhD based on my experience here- Great post by the way-very helpful for anyone just starting out!

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