If you haven’t discovered, or aren’t following From PhD to Life, please stop reading this post and go there immediately. It’s hard to imagine that one single blog/person could put me on the right path, but Jennifer has, without even realising it. She has because she did it herself. She managed to transition and make a career and she did it simply by perseverance.
It’s a hard thing, to transition. You’ve been in academic for 3 years, at least, if you’re full-time PhD in the UK, but probably you’ve been in it longer. You’ve probably got an MA under your belt too. How do you leave it all? First, you decide if you need to. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you can make a career of the academic thing. If so, I wish you all the very best in the years ahead and I hope it is as wonderful in ten years as it is now (or more wonderful!)
If you’re already contemplating leaving academia, you’ll need to transition out of it. If you’ve had a professional job already in your field, it’ll be that much easier to transition back to it after you leave the academy, even if it isn’t the same job.
But for a large number of PhD graduates, the transition is new and absolutely terrifying. It’s so terrifying, I’ve basically been a deer in headlights for the last year and a half. And I’m tired of being frozen. And just like when I reached that ‘I’m over it’ moment of my PhD, and found the drive to finish, I’ve reached that ‘I’m over’ being scared part of transitioning. I just want to get on with it now. Despite the hard work. Despite the pain. Despite the uncertainty. I want to make this work. I want to transition fully.
[I’m trying really hard not to make Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. references guys, I really am.]
But how to transition? Baby steps. How did you learn to do anything in life? One step at a time; and if those steps are small, even better, because that will make them more doable.
Are you transitioning to freelance? To a full-time job? To a related aspect of academia? Figure out your path first. What is it you ultimately want to be doing? Than figure out how you think you can get there. That might not be your path, but it’s a place to start. If you can find people who have transitioned on a similar path, all the better, because they can tell you what worked and didn’t work for them. That isn’t a sudden roadmap to your future, but it’s good information to have, because it might be the path you end up taking yourself. And if it’s not, it’s good to know other people have forged their own way and made it.
You don’t have to have lofty goals. You don’t have to have a dream job in mind, but you need to figure out what will make you happy and safe. And that’s hard. Man, is it hard. But trust me, the day will come that you figure it out. And don’t be too worried about how far off that day is either.
People will constantly pressure you while you are transitioning to try things. To figure things out. To know things. But transitioning is about learning. It’s about steps. You can’t see the future anymore than the person asking those annoying questions can. So don’t bother answering. You’ll figure it out as you go, most of the time at least. And that’s okay. That’s life. We never have all the answers.
But have a direction, that’s all I’m saying. Have a goal, even if that’s just one goal of many to come. And go after it. Make it happen. But know that sometimes, it really does take that ‘I’m over it’ moment. And if that’s what it takes, and if this is the direction you really want to go, you’ll get there. On no one’s timeline but your own.
And that, really, is the road to happiness.