Friday, 11 April 2014

It's Not So Bad...Really!

When I first talked about doing a PhD, I was warned that it was "a lonely process". Throughout the PhD, I've seen news articles like this one about how we suffer, and this one about how doing a PhD is probably a waste of time.

Articles like these make me wonder whether I've been doing this wrong or something, because I really haven't suffered in the ways they describe, and I (naively?) don't think it's been a waste of time.

Yes, it's been challenging--as it should be. If it were easy, they wouldn't give you a title when you finish.

But it hasn't caused feelings of loneliness, isolation, depression, etc. I've had a few times when I was a bit down, a bit anti-social, but on the whole, it's been fine. It's been easier than high school, when I was desperate to get into the Ivy League and wore myself out with five AP classes, choir, extra foreign language classes, Future Business Leaders of America, National Honor Society, Science Team, and all of the other personal stresses that a seventeen year old faces (helping my mother care for her parents, crushes and heartaches, etc.). Maybe suffering back then has given me a different perspective on it now.

And I certainly don't think it's been a waste of time. I don't think education is ever a waste of time, but putting that aside, I just don't buy into this doom & gloom about the future of academia. The field will change, just like every other field does, but that doesn't mean it's not worth pursuing a career in academia. I hate being told that my dreams aren't worth pursuing because the field is too competitive, they're overproducing PhDs, etc. Professional athletes, musicians and artists don't give up on their dreams just because they're in competitive fields.

Academics are extremely privileged. They are paid to think and to express their ideas--it's incredible. If you were to talk to laborers in the developing world about "PhD Stress: Don't Suffer in Silence", they would shake their heads in disbelief (and possibly punch you in the face). It is an extremely cushy job (if you can even call it a job) and I'm tired of hearing how terrible it is.

Unless I've been doing it wrong all along, and it really should have been much more difficult...I guess we'll find out at my viva!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Networking and Job Hunting

This article from Cancer Research UK triggered a lot of thoughts about Phil for me. It's the first time I've ever ready anyone acknowledge that just because someone makes unhealthy lifestyle choices, it doesn't mean they deserve to die from cancer. It makes sense, of course, but I'd never heard anyone reject the stigma of unhealthy lifestyle choices before. It was kind of comforting, in a strange way.

I'm still a bit touchy & defensive about Phil, particularly with the way the department has changed (the new name is a go, by the way--the School of Media and Communication, or SMaC, which is appropriate, as the change felt like a smack in the face). Next month, there's a Propaganda symposium down in Kent that I'll try to attend, organised by Mark Connelly and Jo Fox in honour of David Welch--all names I recognise from the Phil conference. I may go whether or not I get funding, as it's a great opportunity to see them again. They're great for networking, of course, but also, I just like them. I instantly felt comfortable with them and enjoyed their company. Phil had good taste in friends and colleagues.

I'm so looking forward to my next job and meeting new friends and colleagues. The job hunt is daunting, but I'm irrationally optimistic. I've been hearing horror stories about 140 applicants for 1 post, and other frightening statistics, but for whatever reason I have faith that the right job will come up at the right time. I've been rejected for 3 post-docs and a research assistantship, I'm waiting to hear back about a lectureship, and I'm working on another research assistantship application now. I went to a career centre workshop on applying for academic jobs, and it boosted my confidence a bit. There weren't any surprises and I felt more prepared and switched on than a lot of the people in the room. And after all, you don't have to be perfect you just have to be better than the other 139 applicants.