PhinisheD! Now What?

It’s been a while since I last posted a PhD update.

A lot has happened. I submitted my thesis for examination at the end of April, my viva was mid-June, and I deposited the final, hard-copy version of the thesis with the University Library last week.

I’ve officially finished my PhD!

I’m still not really sure what to say about it all. I expected my end-of-PhD experience to be blog-tastic: I’d spent years imagining what the final stages would be like, and planned to capture every moment in a series of blog posts. But, for various reasons, I haven’t felt like writing a single word.

I hope that I’ll go back and reflect on these experiences in detail in future blog posts. For now, just a few brief thoughts:

  • Each step turned out to be totally straightforward and pretty much entirely joyful, despite everything being strange and virtual (I submitted my thesis as a PDF, and my viva took place over Zoom).
  • I found ways to celebrate that felt suitably special: a really good home-cooked meal after my submission deadline (we’re talking three courses and dauphinoise potatoes), an at-home Champagne afternoon tea the day after my viva, and debriefs with friends and family over Skype.
  • The best advice I had about viva prep was (a) to have a practice viva beforehand, (b) to remember that it’s not a test, but a really interesting conversation about your work, and (c) to internalise the fact that nothing means anything (a gem from Nora Williams’ excellent blog post Surviving Your Viva). It’s so easy to overthink tiny things that happen before/during the viva, but they probably mean absolutely nothing at all.

If there are specific things you’d like to hear more about, let me know!

My viva!

Today, I want to write about the big question of What Happens Next. I started this blog to document my journey through postgraduate study. I’m no longer a postgraduate student. Now what?

First of all, it’s worth noting that I’m having weird and not-totally-lovely feelings about being on the other side of my PhD experience. There are definitely warm fuzzies in the mix, too: I’m seriously proud to be a Dr, and it feels amazing to see my thesis as a finished thing that exists in the world. But it’s sad to know that I’m not really part of a research community anymore – at least, not in the same way I was a few months ago. My institutional access to online resources ended within a few days of my award letter coming through. I’m not sure what to put in my email signature. Even though I won’t technically graduate from the University of Birmingham for a while yet (who knows when graduations will start happening again!), I’m no longer registered there as a student. It’s all a bit of a wrench.

I’m now starting to look forwards. My Plan A is to stay in academia (may the odds be ever in my favour). I feel ready to hop on the applications train, so I’m on the lookout for jobs, postdoctoral research fellowships, or anything else that seems like it’s worth a shot. The academic job market seems to be some kind of nightmareland, even in the best of times. My expectations for the coming months are not high.

I’ll also be thinking about what to do with my PhD research. I’d love to publish it, if I can. My post-it collection will once again be called to action as I plan out possibilities for journal articles and (touch wood, fingers crossed) a book.

I would like to carry on blogging about the ups and downs of my academic experiences. I expect I’ll learn a lot as I settle in to post-PhD life, whatever it ends up looking like for me. Thanks for sticking with me on the journey so far!