Esmeralda Tijhoff

Some thoughts on History, Politics, and the Art of Living

How to survive your Ph.D

How wonderful, you have made it to be a Ph.D-student! After years of hard work to get this position, you can now finally relax and take a breath. Right? Wrong!

Yes you had to work hard writing and rewriting your Ph.D proposal, you had to become your network and work on your visibility within the academic field thus visiting countlesFinish it!s congresses and seminars across the country. Maybe you did some research in your ‘free time’ on the train on your way to these congresses and maybe you even got published. Well done! You might have managed to get through the solicitation process within four years and when you finally got noticed you eventually managed to get hired as Ph.D. But there is no time to take a holiday. Your professor is already knocking on your door. You need to get results, articles, organize seminars. NOW!

Why did you want a Ph.D? Because of the wonderful employment conditions, the long vacations and good pension? Well, you might just be in a big surprise if you are hired not as an employee but as a scholarship student (Bursaal) which means you’re seen as a student and get funding for your research. Yeah. That means no sick pay or pregnancy leave or pension,…

It’s not about successfully finishing your Ph.D. For most of us, it’s more about surviving your Ph.D.

So no, you did not want a Ph.D for the nice conditions. You probably wanted to start a career within the academic world, right? So what to do? There are a lot of pages out there telling you how important it is to publish, set up seminars, participate in boards etc. It’s all true. But it’s also true that the bulk of the PhDs  don’t finish their thesis in time. They end up working unpaid an extra year or more on their dissertation. And it’s true that a burn-out can be seen as a professional risk considering the huge number of PhD’s who get it.

The “How not to get a burn-out during your PhD” list:

1) Say ‘NO’ to your professor. It’s YOUR research. It’s YOUR time.
Every professor will try to make you into his or her assistant because they don’t have a secretary these days and they have a chronically lack of time. Say no to little jobs; they will turn into huge time consuming monsters. Get a student to design that poster for the congress, or organize that dinner for collogues.

2) Don’t take your work home. And especially not on your Holiday!
If you like to read a book in the evening, don’t take a book that has anything to do with your research. Don’t check your e-mails, don’t write reports etc. When you are on Holiday, lock your office and leave it all behind. You’re away now. Be away!

3) Don’t try to be perfect. Cause you know. You’re not.
You don’t have to be perfect to succeed. You have to be content with your work, and support it. That’s all. Your professor is not perfect either. Did you notice that already? Somewhere along the line, you have to turn away from the archives/experiments and write down your findings. Dare to leave an uncertainty.

4) Reflect on your position and try to see the world beyond your research.
Did you know 50% of the Ph.D’s lose their relationship? Don’t lose sight of what is really important in the world. Your love, your friends, your ideals, etc.

5) Drink beer with your peers and colleagues.
If you still ambition a career in the university after two years of research, make sure you participate in social events. Especially the ones with booze.






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3 Responses to “How to survive your Ph.D”

  1. Ladybug says:

    I can see how it goes wrong in my department!

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