Completing my PhD has been my goal for a very long time, even before I realised I wanted to do a PhD at all. Now that it is over, I am reflecting on what brought me to this point, and where I would like to go next.
My goal to become a ‘doctor’ probably began around age 16. Exactly what type of doctor I wanted to be changed from month to month (mostly forensic pathologist), and over the years has taken many forms. I never made it to medical school, despite considering applying after my A-Levels, and again towards the end of my degree.
Instead, after my degree in psychology I became interested in a career as a doctor of clinical psychology. The next few years, therefore, were geared towards gaining the necessary experience and going through the application procedure. In an effort to strengthen my application, I decided to do a research Masters degree, and that was that. I fell in love with research and a new ‘doctor’ possibility unfolded before me; a new chance to fulfill my dream.
Which brings me to the present day – the other side of the doctorate. I feel like I am on the other side of a big life goal. It wasn’t as though I set out in life to get a PhD, but getting to this point in life has been the focus for such a long time. It feels as though I am at a major cross roads. This is the time to decide the path I will follow for the next few years and what the next big goal will be.
A few years ago I would have assumed that the next big goal would be a full-time academic post, but that isn’t necessarily an achievable goal. So it is up to me to carve out a new path, but I’m not sure exactly where I want it to lead. Just plodding from one short-term contract to the next doesn’t really seem like a sensible way forward without a definite career goal in mind, but maybe that is exactly what I need to do until the next inspiration or opportunity grabs me. Perhaps the one advantage of short-term contracts is being able to experience many different workplaces; each offering new skills, colleagues, and opportunities. I think it would also be valuable to get more experience of non-academic jobs – even if only to further cement my feeling that I would like an academic career – but it would feel casting the deciding vote against any possibility of progressing in academia. It would feel impossible to make up that lost time in teaching and publishing papers if I wanted to come back. Is there such a funding clause as “I only published one paper that year because I was trying out being a (insert non-academic career here), but now I definitely want to be a professor”?
I hope that time and some research will lead to a way forward from here. Do you have any advice or experiences to share? Have you completed a life-goal and how did you find a new direction afterwards?