So I have talked about my PhD research and experience and the finale of the PhD viva. So what happens next?
Post-PhD is a bit of a strange time. You spend 3 or 4 years working intensely on a project. It can become, especially in the last few months before submission, all consuming. And then you’re done. What do you do with your days/time? How do you earn money? In what areas do you focus your job applications on? Do you want to stay in academia or not?
Decisions, decisions, decisions! You’re thinking about all of these things and then people keep asking you the same questions! So what have I done?
Well I was lucky enough that as I was submitting, a few projects in my research group needed extra support and my supervisors realised I needed more time with my PhD data to publish it so from this a research technician position arose. It’s not ideal as it’s temporary and my PhD more than qualifies me for it but it has given me some time to think, some time to develop more key skills, expand my CV and get my research closer to the holy grail of publication. My ultimate goal is to obtain a research fellowship. I’m not 100% sure that I will stay in academia, but my feeling now is that I would like to take on another project, so that’s what I am working towards.
So for now, I am trying to stay positive, enjoy the position I am currently in and use it to learn more techniques, key skills and more about other research projects to build contacts and make job applications.
Juggling everything isn’t easy, but I try to prioritise tasks and stay focused. It’s a lot to try and decide where you want to go, what you want to do and at the same time go through the process of making job applications, having interviews and then often having the demoralising feeling of being unsuccessful.
I know it’s not going to be easy, but I have faith in my abilities and know I will get there in the end. I am viewing unsuccessful applications as experience and always ask for feedback to try and improve my ability to communicate my skills. I am waiting to hear back about a grant where I am the lead investigator and I have applied for a more senior technical position so there are things in the pipeline which makes me feel more relaxed.
My advice to others coming to the end of their PhD would be to speak to the contacts you have made during the course of your PhD and ask about job opportunities they might know about, people to contact and any websites (like this one!) or resources that might help. I don’t doubt that your PhD supervisors and members of your research group would be happy to read applications, give advice and keep an eye out for things you might be interested in. If you want to say in academia then make this known to academics! They may have positions available or up and coming and/or may know other academics with positions they could recommend you for.
When doing job applications, think about everything that you have done. Have you done any mentoring? Teaching? Supervision? Tuition? Volunteering? Been on any committees? Organised any events? Then think about what skills these roles utilised and how they relate to any position you are applying for. It’s important in job applications to demonstrate how different things you have done could be relevant to the position you are applying for. Applications and interviews do take up a lot of time, but it’s time well spent – it has to be done to get that position you want and the rest you can log as experience!
You also need to think about what jobs you apply for and if they line up with your priorities in life – are you willing to move? What hours do you want to work? Even though you may need a job to pay the bills, it needs to be a job that you enjoy! It’s not just about you fitting in to a job, it’s also about a job being suitable for you.
Finally, you must stay positive. Why start an application or interview with a negative mind set? Potential employers don’t want to see you feeling deflated, they want to know about you and why you would do a good job in the role you have applied for.
You can only do your best and hope for the best and have faith in yourself. You’ll get there in the end – everyones’ journey post-PhD is different depending on their circumstances and what career they want to go into. Keep going until you find what you’re looking for!