I have had a list in my notebook of all the ‘gtfo’ blog posts I am going to write and this topic has been on there for a while. I was going to write about it in a few weeks but after going to a talk discussing ‘Navigating Futures’ by Dr. Kristin Alford yesterday, I felt inspired.
A PhD is all-consuming, particularly towards the end, which can mean that you often forget that there is something that comes after the thesis. This ignorance is glorious and blissful, but often shattered when people cheerfully ask “so you’ve almost finished your PhD- what’s next?”.
Well sorry, but I am going to be one of those people- What do you want to do next? Trust me, I know that those six words are stressful and that it is hard to think about anything beyond submitting a thesis and then sleeping for two weeks straight. But, I think the last 6-9 months of your thesis journey is a good time to think about the future options. You don’t need a solid plan or one dream job, however I do have a few tips to start thinking about the plethora of options out there.
1. Think about what you enjoy and what your skills are- PhD students are often fixated on their topic as being their ‘skill’ and that their career should focus on that. While that may be the plan for some of you (go you if it is!), I don’t know how many jobs require a conservation psychological theoretical understanding of how sharks are portrayed in the media (if you know one hit a girl up). PhDs give us so much more than a large amount of knowledge on a tiny subject. Take some time to identify all the skills you have developed (e.g. survey development, qualitative and quantitative analysis experience, report writing, communication, and the list goes on and on) and then take time to think about which aspects of the PhD you really enjoy. Finding work that combines your skills with what you enjoy is the goal.
2. Do some research- We are researchers, use this skill to research the type of work PhD graduates can get. Look on job search websites, do some google searchers, and stalk people on Instagram (#phdlife).
3. Think about the type of lifestyle you want- I wrote this tip in a previous blog post and I think it is still important. Don’t think about the dream job. Think about the dream lifestyle. Do you want flexibility? Do you want to be your own boss? Have a job where you travel lots? Have good work/family balance? Think about this and then think about the types of jobs that fit into your ‘dream lifestyle’
4. Talk to people– Similar to tip #2 but this one goes a little further. Your job search research doesn’t all have to be passive, talk to people and find out what they like about their work, what they don’t like, what tips they have. Talk to your supervisors, go to networking events, talk to people at parties.
5. Attend presentations/events- Often universities offer career and ‘life after thesis’ events, which can offer really great advice. Take time out of the office for an hour and attend some of them. Earlier in the year the Thesis Whisperer presented at my university, and it was one of the most insightful and helpful presentations I attended all year.
Oh… and what about me? What do I want to do next? I will answer that in a later blogpost (is the suspense killing you?)