This is my first post, so I thought I would start by sharing with you my top tips from what I’ve learnt in the last three years as a PhD student!
1. You will do 99% of the work for your PhD. This may sound disheartening to start with, but I think it is important for anyone doing a PhD to realize that you are the most important person in getting your project up and running and keeping it going until you reach the finish line. If you start with this mind, it’ll help keep you motivated and pro-active in getting what you need to make the project a success.
2. Especially in a research-based PhD- things won’t always work first time! You have to be patient, persevere and work logically and diligently through any issues that arise in order to keep things moving forward and to prevent you going insane!
3. Talk to your supervisors! Work out early on what lines of communication work best for both of you and maintain regular contact. The more you tell people about your work, the more suggestions they can make to help you!
3. A PhD also comes with lots of smaller tasks that can take up time e.g. attending meetings, seminars, admin tasks, helping out other people in your working group etc. Hence, it is important to learn how to manage your time effectively and prioritize your tasks.
4. There are a world of opportunities that can arise during your time as a PhD student, so it is well worth taking some time to investigate and try out any that might be relevant to you. For example, most universities run a whole range of personal development courses, there are lots of societies to join that have conferences and travel funds available for you to access and there are plenty of mentoring, teaching, volunteering and widening participation events to get involved in. These are not only CV-enhancing, but also can give you a flavour of potential post-PhD opportunities. Some are paid, so they have the additional bonus of giving you an extra few pennies to pay the bills with!
5. I would also recommend that you attend some seminars and meetings in your department and network with your colleagues. Even though I hinted earlier that these can take up time, it is worth going to selected events to get to know who is who, what they work on, what equipment they use- you never know when this information might come in handy.
6. Use social media! Signing up to sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter and developing your own webpages and blog on your university site helps raise your profile and disseminate information about your work to others. This could help in the formation of collaborations and getting extra support in the form of advice for your work as well as helping you to feel you are not alone!
7. It’s not a crime to take some time out! I still struggle with this one myself! Time can seem to fly by and there is always so much you might feel you have to be getting on with, but sometimes you just need a break. It is worth once in a while taking a few days off to spend time away from your work so that you can return feeling re-energized.
8. Keep good records of everything. I know this one sounds really boring, but it helps to be organised. If you arrange all your paperwork and your folders on your computer/memory sticks and regularly back everything up, this can make your life a little easier. You can then find exactly what you need when you need it and don’t have to panic if a computer crashes unannounced!
9. Don’t be afraid to ask questions that you might think are silly or stupid. The more you ask, the clearer your understanding is and therefore the less likely you are to go off on the wrong tangent, wasting both time and energy!
10. Try and take some time to write a few things up. If you can start formulating your thesis chapters and roughly bringing together the outline of them, when you come to writing up, you won’t be starting from scratch. Having something to expand upon and improve can really help get you into the frame of writing quickly and feel less like you have a mountain to climb!