PhD Survival Guide; Skills needed for a PhD

Click here to watch my YouTube Video where I talk about these skills in more detail!

There are the obvious skills that are helpful when studying a degree, and in particular studying a PhD, such as writing ability, critical thinking, or computer competency. However there are also the less obvious, and sometimes overlooked skills which may be just as (or more) important.


  1. Being able to wing it- I am a very organised person (it is something I have prided myself on for a long time now), if you have read some of my other posts you would know that my calendar is my BFF. However, during my PhD I really learnt the art of ‘winging in’. Being able to present information to an audience at the drop of a hat is a key example of this. 
  2. Saying no- This is something I really struggled with during my PhD, and to be honest something I still struggle with now. It is finding a balance between taking as many different opportunities you can, and not completely overwhelming yourself. We all need to know our limit, and allow ourselves to say no.
  3. Saying yes- Confused? Whilst it is important to know when to say no (due to time constraints or ability etc.), it is just as important to say yes to things that scare us. Presentations, network events, and volunteer positions are all things that may scare you but that is not a reason to not give them a go.
  4. Wholeheartedly accepting that nothing is perfect- From a young age we are taught that ‘nothing is perfect’, and whilst many people may accept that, I don’t think many PhD students do. We always want our chapter, presentation, teaching outline, article, morning coffee (not kidding about the last one!)…. to be perfect. Whilst this helps us strive to better ourselves as scientists and academics, it is important to know when to let a draft go. Spending an extra week ‘perfecting’ something, that we still won’t be 110% happy with is not an efficient use of our time.
  5. Being able to start a conversation- For some people this comes naturally, for others (like myself) this is something to practice. Being able to walk into a lecture, conference, classroom (or any other room for that matter) and start up a conversation with whoever else is present is an invaluable skill.
  6. Ignoring emails- We live in a world where for many of us our emails are not only on our computer, but also on our phone. I often get emails at stupid times of the night, and then feel so anxious about not replying that I take time out of my night to put together a reply. I am starting to learn to ‘let it go’ and not think about it until the morning. We deserve a break (no matter how hard that is to remember sometimes). I have created an Email Schedule template to help out ! 

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