It was 6th October last year when I finally received the email from my Graduate School saying that my examiners were happy with my thesis amendments and I was officially all done and dusted.
6 months on, I’ve had time to reflect on the PhD, my experiences during it and how things have changed since I became a Doctor.
- Being able to call yourself a Doctor is awesome. It doesn’t get old… well it hasn’t yet anyway. People warned me that having everything finished would be anti-climactic, and in one way it was – there was definitely a feeling of emptiness. I was 100% convinced I would have to pick the thesis up again and make more amends. But that passed soon enough when I started to fully enjoy life without it hanging over me!
- I am much happier now. MUCH. I’ve shared multiple times about how I struggled during my PhD, and how I thought about quitting. It’s difficult to tell if I’m happier now because (a) I’m not doing a PhD; (b) I’ve got my Doctorate or (c) a combination of both. It’s hard to know if I would have been as happy if I quit my PhD – knowing myself, probably not. But it’s made me realise just how unhappy (and, very likely, unwell) I was during the vast majority of my doctorate.
- I wish I’d taken more time for myself. Whether that’s running, taking a day or two off here and there (and I mean actually OFF, without looking at my computer or thesis) or getting on holiday more often (though finances didn’t really allow, in my case). I’m very aware now of how important that is in maintaining some resemblance of sanity, and I wish I’d prioritised that a lot more. Better learned late than never I guess!
- The imposter syndrome does not go away. I still feel like I got my PhD through luck or an admin mistake. In a way I guess that partly comes from no longer working in academia – perhaps if I’d got a postdoc I’d have felt less like a fraud?
- Moving away from academia is strange. A good kind of strange in my case as it was what I’d wanted for ages. But I struggle in identifying myself as a scientist now – I know I am, but as I’m not running experiments or writing up research every day it can be hard to think of myself as one.
- Don’t underestimate the skills a PhD teaches you. Even if you move away from academia into a non-academic job, the things you learn about yourself and the way that you work best are absolutely crucial, and knowing this will impress an interview panel no matter what job you go for. For example, during my PhD I discovered that I’m a sucker for breaking down tasks into monthly/weekly/daily. I do that in my job now and it helps so much.
So, in short: my PhD is done and I’ve moved on from it. I learnt a lot of valuable things about myself in doing a PhD, and being a Doctor is ace. If you’re in the final stages of thesising, hold on – you can do it.