Post-Viva Feelings

Following up on the previous posts (here and here) about preparing for your viva, and the day of the viva, here comes the ‘what happens after your viva ends?’

You will probably be conflicted, unless you managed to breeze through with no amendments. Then you will just be smiling so hard you’ll worry your face will hurt tomorrow. That’s good. Keep doing that. Who cares if it hurts tomorrow? It’s worth it.

If you aren’t one of the lucky ones (i.e., you’re most people), then the moment your viva is over is going to bring all sorts of feelings you can’t really classify. You don’t have to classify them. You don’t even have to understand them. Every single thing you feel after the viva is valid. There’s no ‘right way’ to feel afterwards. Some people, even with many amendments, might be absolutely thrilled. Some with only a few amendments might feel awful that they didn’t do better. A lot of that is going to be something you know going in. If you’re one of those people that wants to knock yourself over the head for getting one question on an exam wrong, you should probably prepare yourself for what you’ll experience if you get a list of amendments a page or more long.

Alternatively, if you are the type of person that’s just glad you passed, no matter how well you did, then you’ll probably be happy no matter how many amendments you got.

Also, if you spent the last six months of your Phd trying to figure out how you could justifiably quit, getting lots of amendments may feel like the worse thing ever, because it means you have to do MORE of your PhD, when you were so glad to be done with it at submission.

Whatever type of person you are, you should prepare yourself for what comes after. The viva is scary and stressful and wonderful, all at the same time, and how you react to it is important to understand going in, because it will make you more confident dealing with whatever happens in that room.

But equally, considering how you will feel if you pass magna cum laude, or if you end up with 12 months of amendments and a complete rethink of your thesis, will at least prepare you for the initial ten million thoughts that go through your head the moment your viva ends. And if you can understand how you will react to whatever the situation is, you’ll be more prepared for it.

I tried to be. I knew I was going to feel bad unless I walked out with no amendments, and since the chances of that happening were in the realm of winning the lotto (I assume), I knew I was going to be very conflicted when my viva ended. I didn’t really understand how conflicted I would be. The truth of the matter is that I had dozens of people congratulating me and the only thing I could think about was ‘I have to do another 6 months of this? Why didn’t I quit last year when I had the chance?’

I sipped champagne, went out for drinks, and spent three hours on a train staring into space, and by the time I went to bed that night all I wanted to do was cry. Cry because I’d just done the hardest thing I’d ever done in life…and it wasn’t over yet.

It’s a severe reaction. Most people are just happy to be done the really hard part of it. But, for me, doing amendments to my own work that were someone else’s idea of ‘correct’, was a lesson in sheer bloody determination. And the thought of graduating was the only thing that sustained me for the next 6 months. No, the amendments weren’t awful (most were really easy, and a few were really…well, anyways), but they were still things that had to be done, and they affected the whole thesis, so wording had to be changed, etc. That’s just as much work as editing your draft before submission is (maybe even more, depending on how good your draft was). I felt justified in my reaction, but I also felt horribly disappointed in myself that I wasn’t happier. That I couldn’t seem to get it through my head that I had a PhD. Because as far as I was concerned…I didn’t have a PhD. Not yet. And if I didn’t do the amendments in a much better way than I had – apparently – written my thesis, I would never have a PhD and 3.5 years would have been nothing but a waste of time.

So understand how you’ll react. Try to plan for it. For every eventuality. If you know you’ll react badly to amendments, decide how you’d rather spend your evening. If you know you’ll want to celebrate no matter the outcome, then plan a party. Have something that evening after the viva that you will enjoy, however the viva itself goes. And don’t feel you have to celebrate. If you don’t think you want to celebrate not-quite-but-almost-getting your PhD, then don’t. Even if others want you to.

It’s your day. You do whatever you need to to get through it. And survive tomorrow. Whether tomorrow is ‘I have a PHDdddddddd’ or ‘oh god, this list of amendments if four pages long’.

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The Morning Of (the Viva)

The Viva is such a big part of the PhD process. If you are in the States, or in Europe and elsewhere, it may be different than the typical UK viva and I can therefore only speak to my own experiences. But having talked to PhDs from other countries, there are similarities in how your prepare and how you deal with the nerves.

If you missed the last post about preparing for the viva, see here.

I will do another post about the actual viva experience and, at a later date, about what happens after the viva (UK based), so stay tuned for those!

As I said, previously, I was very jet lagged when it came time for my viva. I hadn’t slept well in days and was still recovering from a trans-atlantic flight. If you can avoid that, best to do so (either avoid the need for a flight – i.e. already be in the country where your viva will be held, or come over extra early).

I woke up very early the day of my viva (a Friday). I already knew (again, don’t do this!) that as soon as my viva was over I had time for a quick (hopefully celebratory) drink and then an early train all the way back to the airport (3 hours). And then an early flight the next morning to get back to Toronto in time to attend my friend’s super important launch celebration. The kind of thing you don’t miss, if you are a best friend. It was just unfortunate timing, but I decided that as important as my viva was, my friend was just as important and missing her big event would be understandable bad.

So I got up that morning knowing I had a jam-packed 24 hours ahead of me, and the viva would only be part of that!

I had brought two outfits with me, because after much thought and contemplation, I couldn’t decide between the two of them. I still couldn’t decide that morning, but finally the fact that it was February and cold won out and I put on the pant suit. I thought it would make me more confident in a room full of men. Hard to say if that actually worked or not, but I hate wearing form-fitting dresses amongst men who I want to respect me for my intelligence. I figured a pant-suit would fit in better.

You can wear whatever you want, but be comfortable. You don’t want to have to worry if a part of your body you would rather not is showing or showing too much. You don’t want to be tugging at a skirt or constantly worried about sweat stains on a dress shirt (men, take note). If these are problems you have, dress with care, but keep it professional. You are there for your mind, not your appearance, but that doesn’t mean sweatsuits are acceptable. Dress as you would for a conference presentation.

I tried to eat breakfast – failed – and just moved on to redoing my hair umpteen times until I finally decided to just put it into a bun. I imagine men also have this problem, but it’s probably more about how spiky they should go with their fringe. Either way, if this passes the time and helps you cope, go for it.

My viva was at 2pm. That’s a long time to wait for something that terrifies you. And I knew I needed to eat something before then.

Right before lunch I headed to my department (where my viva was being held) and sequestered myself in my supervisor’s office, where he got me lunch, calmly talked to me about how bad the weather was, and tried to stop me from having a panic attack. None of it really worked, but bless him for trying. I would have been even more of a wreck left to my own devices.

Just before two, I was called into the viva.

Now, my department was pretty informal, so all vivas were held in the office of the internal examiner. And the examiner came to get you and took you to their office. Other schools have specific places on campus they do all vivas, and some you will not even have an internal from your own department. Make sure you understand ahead of time how the day will be run, where you should be (when you should be there), and what the general schedule will be (arrival time, viva time, viva length, waiting time for results). You don’t really want to be surprised about any of this.

That just leaves…the viva! Stay tuned.


After rather a lot of thought, I have decided to simplify things by posting new entries every Monday. At least until I run out of things to talk about.

If you are thinking of doing a PhD, or are currently doing one and you have a burning question you don’t think I’ve covered (or not in enough detail), please ask. Depending on what it is, I might not have an answer, but then again, I might!

Viva Preparedness

I did a favour for a friend recently. She organises training sessions for PhD students at my former university in England. She was looking for someone to offer their personal experiences about the viva, and since it was for distance learning students, I figured why not! I’m at a distance these days anyways, being across the ocean in Canada. If everyone else could be at the class virtually, so could I.

But it meant I had to think about my viva for the first time in a year. And to think of it in something other than terms of overwhelming dread. That wasn’t going to be a very helpful approach to the future viva students. The point is not to severely concern anyone. After all, viva experiences are all individual and I know many people who had lovely experiences. But then, I know people who liked exams too, and personally they always just gave me anxiety attacks no matter how prepared I was.

I think this particular topic deserves several posts, but let me start at the beginning.

How to Prepare for Your Viva

First, don’t freak out. That’s really very important and for some people will be very hard. My goal was to not think about it until I absolutely had to (to prepare) and therefore put off the freaking out part as long as possible. If you are one of those people who maintains a cool head even in the most stressful situations, you already have a leg up. If you aren’t, I sympathise. The best you can do is remind yourself that freaking out before hand isn’t useful.

Once you convince yourself (or pretend you have) of that, it’s time to prepare. Preparation is the key to being calm in stressful situations, in my own experience. Preparing for a presentation to the point of memorisation makes me much calmer going into a conference, for example. For my viva, I just read my thesis cover to cover as many times as I could handle. I used colourful tabs to mark the most important pages so I could come back to them again and again as it got down to the wire (including on the plane over to England).

With the help of my supervisor, I came up with a list of ‘likely’ questions. Not the only questions, mind you, but ones the examiners typically ask or ones that directly related to identified issues in my thesis. This might take you the  most amount of time, because you have to think like someone else and that’s hard. But if you can figure out 10 questions you have a fare chance of getting asked, you can prepare answers.

Don’t prepare answers. I mean, don’t write them down in a script. Just think about them.  Share them with your supervisor(s). Make sure you understand the question and can answer it fully in your head and out loud. DON’T memorise them (you are not going into your viva to deliver a script. You are doing this to become used to having your work questioned and being able to respond). I found it best to have my supervisor ask them to me and me answer out loud, as in a mock viva. It felt better saying them to a person, rather than just in my head, and helped me get used to the inevitable stumble that’s so common when you’re nervous! It also got me used to coming up with different answers to the same question and to discovering answers I hadn’t even thought of at first.

That was pretty much my month of viva prep. I had returned to Canada after submitting my thesis, so I had to fly back to England for my viva. I don’t travel well. I travel a lot, but never well. I get horrible jet lag and can’t sleep on airplanes. I knew I was not going to be at my best, so I went over several days in advance and stayed in my friend’s empty house (he was on holiday). It meant I had a comfortable environment, with a kitchen to hand and no one I had to speak with. I mostly slept for two days. On the third day, I went over my whole thesis one last time. That was the last time I look at my thesis. Cramming into the small hours of the night before an exam has never been my style. I always stop before dinner the night before. If you don’t know it by then, you aren’t going to. And I did, after all, work on the thing for 3 years!

That was all the prep I did. I know several people who did more mock exams and with more than just their supervisor, but all around, this was the amount of prep most people recommended to me. And in the end, I don’t think I could have prepared anymore.

Next up: Viva Day

Post-Graduation

This strange and bizarre reality happens after you graduate. You’re done. DONE. It’s all over. They can’t take it away from you now (I tell myself this because the alternative is unthinkable). You are a PhD and you have a piece of paper and a hat (if you bought it) to prove it.

You are not, absolutely not, a student anymore. And herein lies the crux of the matter. Because no matter how bad it got during my PhD and no matter how many times I thought ‘the real world must be better than this’ I knew otherwise. I knew I had it good. And I miss it. And not with rose-tinted glasses either; I just plain miss all of it, and that includes the stress. At least I had something concrete to be stressed about.

Now I just stress about life in general.

But it’s a strange place to be, post-graduation. You are done. Many of your colleagues are probably finished too. You have other friends still doing it and now you are cheering them on from the ‘I finished – so can you!’ perspective. And you are either a) unemployed or b) lucky. If you are B, congrats, I’m exceedingly happy for you. If you’re A, you are probably also thinking ‘Maybe my PhD wasn’t so bad…’

Let me tell you, it wasn’t. Oh, trust me, I had months it was the Worst Thing I Have Ever Decided to Do and I regretted all my life choices. But now, on the flip side, and definitely in the A category, being a miserable PhD student is still better than being an unemployed PhD. Because at least I have something concrete to focus on: finish the PhD. Now my concrete has become the mythical: get a job. Because when people ask you ‘what do you do?’ you get to answer ‘I’m a PhD student!’ and they get excited. Now I answer ‘I’m working on a variety of things’ by which I mean job searching and making no money off trying to freelance. Generally, people get the message and stop asking. Some don’t. Then I come up with really impressive words for what I kind-of-sort-of-don’t-really-do. And they lose interest.

But hey, I have a PhD. A a LOT of people in the last months have said some version of ‘congratulations, that’s amazing’. And yes, that feels nice. For about .5 milliseconds until your brain reminds you that ‘yes, PhD: UNEMPLOYED’. But it’s weird, this post-graduation thing, because everyone around you who has not done a PhD thinks you have done the most amazing thing ever [WHICH YOU HAVE. Let me be clear, YOU HAVE.] And in your head, if you are the A person, all you hear is ‘if you can do that, why can’t you find a job?’ Because that’s what you ask yourself every single day.

If I did my PhD, and I have a shiny piece of paper to prove it, why am I still struggling with everything else in life?

Because. I promise you, others who have not done PhDs are struggling with life, and they don’t have a PhD on their wall to slightly console themselves with. But yes, most days, looking at that piece of paper fills me with no emotion whatsoever, except failure. Because yes, a PhD is a massive accomplishment, but if that’s all I do with the entire rest of my life….I’m going to have a problem.

So, things are changing. And this post is the first public step in that change. If academia is out (it is), and if no museum in this country wants to employ a PhD (or so it seems), then that leaves only one place to go.

I have always found it best to be my own boss. Hello consulting*, how are you?

*posts galore on this step-by-step process to come. And if you haven’t check out From PhD to Life yet, head right here. Because that’s been my biggest inspiration these last weeks, and if so many other people can do it, so can I.

Guest Post: Wasn’t ready for the real world

Dr Mona Al Ali is a dear friend and colleague. We graduated together in January and she was kind enough to offer to do a blog post about her experiences since finishing.

***

While doing my PhD I was so much focused on finishing it that I totally got lost and forgot that there is a real world that I would need to live in after finishing. I already finished my PhD a few months ago; however, I am still lost and not sure where to be or what to do.

I was one of the few lucky PhD students who took a study leave from work. So I always knew that I’d have a secure job and I would not need to suffer trying to find a job or do a volunteer job till I could get a real job. However, after four years of studying I am not sure if I want to stay in the same job I left four years ago.

There is a period of uncertainty or a transformation period after the PhD. I hope it will not take more than a year, as there is a lot to accomplish especially where I come from. Living in United Arab Emirates is not easily. There is a huge pressure that you need to accomplish and do a lot. I had an interview a few months ago and they asked me if studying a PhD is my biggest accomplished. I was happy to say yes it was and I hope I can achieve more. Then I told them about my achievement of losing weight; as when I started PhD I was 103 Kg and now I am 70 Kg. They were so much more interested in hearing the story of me losing weight than my own research.

After finishing the PhD there is a lot of questions that would come to the person’s mind. One question would be, where next? Another question would be (if you are single), will it be difficult to find the right person now? Also, what do I really want now? All these questions will come at the same time and it might make you mentally exhausted thinking about them. However, you need to prioritize things and eliminate things that you do not have a hand in. You need to make an effort to reach the goals you want. Having a positive attitude is good, as it will attract positive energy and good things to you. Being negative will never help in any way. It will only make you stressed and will attract negative things.

I now know that the PhD is not a finish line. It is a beginning line for life and there are lot of things waiting for me. Having a support group and keeping in touch with the supervisor makes me feel safe and supported and I know I will find myself again.

First submission – when are you really ready?

You’re not. Seriously, I’m not trying to trip you up or scare you, but you will never, ever be ready. Not in your head. You will never feel you are ‘done’. You will never feel you are ‘ready’. You will forever think there is more you could do. More you could write. More you could research.

Your heart will tell you when it’s time. Because you will reach a day when you can’t do it anymore. When it is just too hard and you are too tired and you don’t want to get up tomorrow and still be doing your PhD. That’s when you know you’re ready. Because you are. Because your heart has told you. Listen to your head for every moment of every day from the day you start your PhD to the day you wake up and know you are ready to be done. Then start listening to your heart.

Everyone falls out of love with their PhD. Every Single Person. Some people fall out of love sooner rather than later, but everyone does it. If you’re lucky, it’ll happen later, because take it from me, not loving your PhD makes it ten times harder to do. But you will fall out of love and you will still be doing your PhD. And the longer you hate your thesis, the quicker your heart will tell you it’s time to let it go. Every single PhD ends in a divorce the day you submit. It’s mostly amicable. It’s mostly okay. But it really is ‘irreconcilable differences’. You cannot tolerate another day with your thesis. Your thesis is no longer doing you any favours. It’s time to part ways.

But really, how do you know you’re ready? What if your heart tells you before your supervisor agrees? Well, probably. I mean, maybe not. Maybe you’ll be one of those lucky ones that loves it to the time you hit your editing phase. I really wasn’t that lucky. I fell out of love in my second year, and although my thesis and I reconciled later, it was short lived. We ultimately still ended in a divorce, and I was happy to see ‘him’ go on the day I submitted. I was done. I didn’t want to talk about it anymore. I didn’t want to try to make it work. I just wanted ‘him’ gone. And go ‘he’ did.

But it was because my supervisor agreed. He agreed because he knew I was over it. And he knew I was ready. He knew I had a thesis. He knew it was good enough to submit. Otherwise, he would have told me to stick it out. He would have told me to keep trying to make it work. But he didn’t have to tell me this and I’m very, very glad he didn’t. I was so ready to be done.

Talk to your supervisor. Discuss – in complete honesty – the question ‘is it ready to submit?’ and whatever the answer is, be ready to work with it. If it’s not ready, it may only need a few more weeks of work. Don’t despair! It does not have to be perfect, but it does have to be a complete thesis. It has to have the things a thesis needs: originality, research, factual knowledge, grammatically sound, formally written, complete (all the chapters and parts are there), and it has to be your own. If it has all those parts, you’re probably good to go. But talk to your supervisor. Even if you have never talked to them through your PhD, this is the time to talk to them. This is the time to make them work for you. It’s what they’re there for.

But it doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be good enough. You hear that a lot and it is absolutely true. It just has to be good enough for you to viva. It just has to be good enough for you to stand in your viva and defend it. It can be a long way from perfect. That is not the point of a PhD thesis.

And when it is good enough, let it go.

Amendments

Oh, the envy. That green clawing feeling that takes over your heart when you hear about someone who breezed through with no thesis amendments. You can’t help yourself. You try not to compare yourself to others, but that jealousy when others do so well is something we all struggle with.

Everyone wants to get through their viva with no amendments. Few people manage it. Remember that. I have met people who treated amendments like it was part of their PhD, a necessary and inevitable part. I met people who treated amendments like failing an exam and having to retake it.

I felt like the latter. Honestly, I knew I’d get amendments. I never even expected otherwise. What I got were things that boggled my mind and made me want to curl up into a ball and cry because I felt like such a fraud. I felt like I’d written the worst thesis ever, and my examiners were being super kind to even pass me. I felt like I’d failed.

Nearly everyone goes into their viva worrying they have failed. Most people feel the same going into any exam. But to come out of your viva actually feeling like you did fail is an entire other experience. I’d only had it once in undergrad when I knew I had bombed an exam. I was not prepared for feeling like it after my viva. I was not prepared for the feelings of failure and utter misery that followed me for weeks afterwards.

But you probably will get amendments. And you might even get a lot of them. In some departments this is more common than others. In some departments it’s more a 50/50 chance. Whichever department you belong to, know that you might get lots and lots of amendments. And you will probably feel like you failed. Or at least frustrated that you could have done better. It’s normal. But don’t let it destroy you.

It nearly destroyed me. I was so done with my PhD when I submitted, and to then be told, not long afterwards, that I needed to do another six months of intensive work felt like being on the verge of being released from prison, and being told you have suddenly been given six months in solitary confinement (well maybe it’s not, but this is how I envisioned it – it’s very much what it felt like in my head). It was only thanks to a few very good and supportive friends who – nearly daily – told me I was not a failure, that what I was going through was normal, and that it would all – eventually – be okay that got me through. I’m forever thankful to them, and passing on that good will is one of the reasons I started this blog.

So you’ve got amendments. If they are simple amendments, get on them as quickly as you can, get your thesis finished and graduate! Don’t let anything stand in your way. Simple amendments shouldn’t take you very long, and shouldn’t cause you much stress.

If they aren’t simple, well, welcome to the club. I completely sympathise. The first time I read through my required amendments (after a month of not even being able to look at the document) I had a panic attack and then I cried for three days. It seemed impossible that I would ever be able to do them. It seemed ten times harder than anything I had done in my PhD.

It’s not. It’s no harder. You might feel like it is, but it isn’t. You’ve researched and written an entire PhD. You can amend it.

I found it easiest to start with the simple amendments. The ones that I knew I could do and knew wouldn’t take all that much time. That got me through half the document in a few weeks and made me feel better about things. From there, I just tackled each of the other amendments one at a time. I didn’t try to think ahead to the next one, or how hard it would be. I didn’t allow myself (well, not often) to stress about how I was going to do that one. I concentrated on one at a time. If I hit a roadblock, I emailed my supervisor or talked to my post-viva Persons. And, eventually, I got through them all. That took five months (including the month of not even being able to look at the damn document). They had given me six months though, and even with the very long list I had, and working part-time at a job, I managed it in four. Never stress about the amendments deadline. You will have enough time, as long as you don’t spend five months freaking out before you start work [having said that, I know someone who spent three months freaking out and still got everything done in five months.]

Now, once you’ve finished your amendments, you have to edit and proof read them. I had my entire thesis proofed again, because I was worried about having any mistakes whatsoever in the final document. You may only want to proof the stuff you’ve changed, that’s your choice.

And then, then you submit it again. Your university will have specific requirements for how you go about this, and who it needs to be submitted to. At mine, we submitted to the head examiner who made the final call so it didn’t need to be fully examined again, or vivaed again. I submitted to the head examiner on a Monday, and I heard back on Thursday. I fully expected it to take about two weeks, so don’t worry if you don’t hear back right away. It does take time to read a thesis!

But when you do hear back, it will very likely be good news. I don’t actually know anyone (personally) who failed their amendments (unless they didn’t do them). In fact, I know a few people who did not do some of their amendments and still passed. But they did justify why they didn’t do them. For myself, there were two amendments I did not do to the extent asked for, but they were both minor amendments, and I wrote a note to the examiner to explain why I felt they were not necessary to the thesis (but would be for any further research). This is generally okay, but you must be able to back yourself up. Just ‘I didn’t want to do it’ is never going to be an acceptable reason.

Once you hear back, you might very well feel like they’ve made a mistake. I spent three months after hearing back wondering if I’d dreamed it, even after the official letter arrived from my university to say ‘yes, yes, we’ve given you a PhD, go away now’. If fact, I still had a little tiny part of me that didn’t believe it until after I’d graduated. It was only then I felt I could send my thesis off to all the people who had helped with my research and tell them ‘I’m done’.

Amendments, particularly involved ones, can feel like your world is ending, just after you thought it had finally gotten around to starting again. But it’s not the end of the world, no matter how many you get. Because, whatever amendments you get, you did not get ‘this is not an acceptable PhD and we will not be awarding you your degree’. Amendments mean you deserve a PhD, you just need a bit of help to make your thesis ready.

Remember that, when you’re in month three of your corrections and feeling like you’re going to go crazy if you have to do another day of it. You will get through it and it’ll all be worth it in the end.

Home Again

No doubt those of you currently doing your PhDs (wherever in the process you are) are having a hard time envisioning the day you will be ‘done’. I know, because I was there! I couldn’t even wrap my head around the idea of being complete until I actually completed (and even then…).

Let me tell you that it will happen. You will finish. You will get there. And it will probably be full of mixed emotions, but the one that matters the most is that you should feel pride. You have done something that, statistically, not many people do. Sometimes it feels like everyone has done or is doing a PhD, but that’s not true. It’s rare, no matter your field. Not many people go on to MAs, and even fewer do PhDs. You will be a rare breed. You have done something that most people could not do. Remember that. And feel proud, because this is the sort of thing you get to feel proud about, without feeling guilty. You deserve every bit of recognition and congratulations.

It’s going to be a bit anti-climactic, in that it’ll be over before you know it! But although the actual event of ‘completing’ may not last long, you’ll have a PhD forever. Whatever you are going through right now, and however hard it is, it’s temporary. One day (not long now!) you will be a doctor, and that will be for the rest of your life.

Bon Voyage

Well, I’m off on a jet plane tomorrow. [I keep double checking the ticket, because I’m like that.]

It’ll be nice to see friends and my old stomping grounds for a few days, catch a museum exhibition in London, and then have a mini-holiday in Iceland. But at the same time, it feels so strange that it’s finally graduation! It’s been four and a half years and the last time I waited that long was undergrad (and I might have missed that graduation, on account of being in Greece). But it does feel good, as well as strange, to be here at last! Or will, on Tuesday, when I actually get there.

I am just crossing my fingers and hoping the snow forecast for Toronto and for England doesn’t impede flights!

 

The Afterwards of the Thing

Perhaps you are one of those lucky ones that has a job, and you’re doing the PhD part-time, or by a distance. When you finish, you will still be employed. Or perhaps you’re even luckier and you will have a job offer by the time you complete, or be in the process of securing employment in your field.

If, more likely, you’re like the rest of us, well…welcome to the club. Luck doesn’t have much to do with it, although sometimes it seems like it has everything to do with it.

Unemployment sucks. Unemployment in your own field that you’ve dedicated so much time and effort to pursue, sucks even more. I get that.

Inevitably, if you have not secured a job by the time you viva, or at least by the time you’ve submitted your corrections, everyone you meet (even those you know but haven’t seen in a while) will ask ‘so have you found a job yet?’ As if, if you had, you wouldn’t have screamed the news from the heavens for all to hear.

It gets old very quickly. It’s very much like the ‘how is the PhD going?’ that everyone asks while you are a student. It’s the most hated question. We have no good answer, because our answer is about two thousand words long and involves things that no one who has not done a PhD can understand. And a gantt chart. Searching for a job post-PhD is like that. It comes with its own set of issues.

But let’s put that all aside for right now. I’ll get back to it later (much later).

Right now, if you are about to complete, or have just completed, or are looking really far ahead, I only want you to worry about one thing if you are facing unemployment.

This year you did a PhD. This year you finished a PhD. This year you are doing a PhD.

That’s A LOT. That’s HUGE. That’s an enormous achievement. Savour that for a moment, I’ll wait.

Now, every morning, savour that again. Don’t ever let yourself forget how BIG this is.

It is 2015. This year I got my doctorate. And that’s enough. That’s more than enough. 2016 will leave plenty of time for what comes next. But instead of feeling like I failed at the final hurdle, I’m going to end this year appreciating the fact that I won the race.