Which jobs require a doctorate 1

What you really learn in a doctorate - Part 2

Today we continue with the mini-series “What you really learn while doing a doctorate” by our guest author Christine Stedtnitz. Christine is doing her PhD at the University of Essex in Colchester (UK) and has summarized her collected wisdom and tips for us!

Part two of a two-blog series. Last Week: Part 1, Academic Wisdom. Today: Part 2, Additional Wisdom: Personal Insights and soft skills. You could also christen them the findings of independence, or life experience, but as doctoral candidates in self-therapy we of course attribute them exclusively to our doctorate.

Part 2: Personal Wisdom

When I studied in France for a year, I learned that every essay, just like every lecture, can have exactly three points. They are called: "big one", "big two", and "big three", numbered in Roman numerals. (Of course, the headings are also dictated in the lecture. While German students criticize the lecturer's Eurocentric glasses towards the end of the lecture, questions from French fellow students refer to the big numbers: Was point X part of the big 2 or part of the big 3? .) So: three more great wisdoms from the PhD. (We will ignore in the following that each large point must be the same length and can also have either two or three sub-points.)

I. You learn time management

During my studies, I saw time management, or none at all, more as a diagnosis. There were people who regularly turned in their homework two weeks before the appointment, but I've always been suspicious of them. I counted myself to the bigger half who had a relaxed semester break and then after a few weeks of most productive work handed in on the deadline at 11.30 p.m. punctually. A bit stressful, but life is not a pony farm. In addition, you can easily oversleep the first few weeks of the semester.

The problem with a doctorate is that deadlines are rare. Nobody really cares whether you write the part today or next Thursday. So if, like me, you tended to hang in the reading phase for far too long during your studies (all that is extremely exciting!) And move too late into the writing phase, you cannot avoid organizing yourself in your doctorate. My own organizational and time management skills are admittedly expandable, but as a proper academic, no idea doesn't stop me from giving advice. So I advise three things:

 1. a) A long term plan 

Plan your year. (If you are fully motivated, also for your next two or three years.) Start with the big plans (e.g. a paper), look at the conferences in your area (and googlemaps, because conferences are only as cool as the location, where they take place), think about what you have to do about when to get there and plan backwards: What should I do in which month to have a paper in month X? What in which week?

In my first year I looked for a simple Excel template from the Internet, divided into weeks, which I filled out for the first time on an enthusiastic Sunday afternoon and have since been adjusting every few months (= copy & paste everything a few weeks backwards). There are templates e.g. here) The effect is purely psychological: you see what you have already achieved and that you achieve your goals can. Wall calendars are an alternative to Excel. Since these remind you of missed appointments, I stick with Excel. The game is only worthwhile, however, if you also correct university-but-non-dissertation matters (e.g. 2 weeks after the end of the semester to correct homework / assess tests) and non-university matters (e.g. correct 2 weeks Mallorca after 2 weeks homework ) plan. It is also advisable to plan buffer weeks, because, according to Law No. 1 of the doctoral constitution: Everything takes exactly twice as long as you think

1. b) Todoist

An online to-do list, which can be divided into categories and marked in different colors. I use them for everything from buying toothpaste to booking flights to correcting codes. Optionally, you can give your tasks deadlines. Todoist has an app for smartphones and a Gmail plugin so that you can simply click over emails that you want to answer at some point, but not immediately, as a task in your to-do list.

However, as I was informed by one of my supervisors and the time management guru of the department at the beginning of my PhD and can now confirm, Todoist has exactly one disadvantage: todoist needs internet. No todoist without the Internet. If you, like my mom recently, are wavering between DSL 50 and 100 on your next internet contract, you can safely ignore this objection. But if you, like I have been living in the British Brandenburg for the past 2.5 years, jwd, at the end of the world, where your emotions in the daily office Internet failure between resentment at IT helpdesk ('I don't think there is much we can do '), resentment against computer scientists (only part of the university with decent WiFi) and a late understanding of the poor residents of the Valley of the Clueless, this objection is indeed an objection. Because if todoist is your head (or, as a professor, your secretary), there is no internet = no head.

Tip 2 from time management guru: Break todoist tasks into smaller tasks. So, not “write a paper” but “write an introduction”, “write research status”, “write method part”, “check models”, “transfer models to paper”, “create graphics”, etc. On the one hand, you get a better idea of ​​it what you want to do (and therefore how long it takes) and, on the other hand, you can see what you've done in the evening. For which you get karma points on todoist, by the way.

1. c) This book.

It deserves its own blog post.

After the above investment, I find that doing a doctorate develops at least a minimum of time management and organizational skills.

I also notice that deadlines are really only deadlines in Germany. In the UK, they act more like loose clues. So if you decide to go to a non-German university and if you want to submit some annoying form two weeks after any internal submission deadline, don't let your plans dissuade you, because, as I learned from my other supervisor: the key to success is an appropriately apologetic tone.

II. You get to know and appreciate your own working style

1. When do you work best

That 8 o'clock the biorhythm of the average person Notis understandable to every student and obvious to every teacher. Things get a little better at university, maybe also at work, but nowhere are the chances of a self-determined working life better than in the (not laboratory-related) doctorate. If 8 o'clock is too early for you, you start at 9; if 9 is too early, starts at 10; whoever does not like the morning is king of the afternoon.

You will find out for yourself when you are most productive. If you put the things that require thinking on your productive phases, you have the rest of the day to live your life. (In the real job, people take coffee breaks all the time. Very few work reallyfrom 9-5.).

2. Where do you work best.

While introverts struggle with open-plan offices in real life, in PhD they can easily work from home or in the bib. Extroverts go to their university's latino office or, if things get boring, turn to Starbucks. Extroverted introverts go back and forth. Latinos or Latinos at heart come for their siesta. (Which, by the way, not only increases your productivity, but is also beneficial for your health!)

The result is: if you know how and where YOU work best and if you have complete control over your work, you can get a maximum of output from a minimum of time.

III. Perseverance and problem-solving skills

I don't know a single doctoral student for whom everything went like clockwork. And if it does, he / she has-p-hacked! (Speaking of p-hacking ...) To me, doing a doctorate seems more like a marathon through a maze with obstacles. Challenge not only your own research, but the other things that life entails.

A normal job has a certain degree of stability that doctoral students lack, simply because they have to go to it every morning at 9 am. A normal job involves tasks that get done, and thus a constant feeling of getting something done. A normal job provides regular interaction with human beings and, hopefully, regular positive feedback. In a normal job, colleagues work side by side on a common topic. A normal job gives you the opportunity, if you are not currently the Facebook boss, to discuss problem cases with colleagues, to pass them on or to solve them in a team. In a normal job, it is noticeable when someone disappears from the scene for three months because something went terribly wrong in their life. In your doctorate, your topic is “your” topic and your problems are “your” problems.

Of course, there are things you can do to compensate for a lack of structure: You usually have contact persons for academic questions. It's worth trying, even if they're not totally on your subject. (The best example of my Greek office mate, still cited a year later, who, after brooding over some problem for a long time, met his supervisor, who is not even close to his field: He (doctoral student) came back to the office beaming with joy : "How did it go?" He: "Great!" Me: "And? What did he say?" He: "Actually nothing. I was talking the whole time." later left the fifteenth for a cigarette break.)

But there are also other ways and means of overcoming the institutional hurdles of being a doctoral student. Baking cakes gives instant results. (And positive feedback.) Teaching makes you feel like you're doing something useful and getting something done. (But it also costs time). Colloquia are also difficult to recommend. And not the kind of Tuesday or Thursday colloquia with which every department adorns its website and on which everything from master’s studies, doctoral students, WiMi or Prof gives you its kind opinion, but colloquia with a few PhD colleagues who are roughly on your Levels are levels that you get on well with and that you invest time well into. This has two big advantages: First, the date of the next appointment on which you present automatically gives you a deadline. Second, you give and receive good feedback. Because these are the people with whom you sit down for an hour to look for the error in their R-code, for whom you also fight your way through 30-page drafts in broken English, and whom you end up with an honest opinion and can give good and well thought-out suggestions for improvement. (And do the same for you). This kind of feedback is usually a lot more helpful than what you can give to others and what others can give you after a 20-minute Powerpoint presentation. I came up with the idea of ​​the private colloquia a few months ago (and slipped in; the result of a particularly difficult lunch with colleagues who had been hanging 'shortly before the submission phase' for months). I would recommend the same for beginning PhDs: Find a few people, not too many, maybe three or four, who are about as advanced as you, and meet regularly to discuss your ideas. At some point you will then discuss your first results. Then your papers. And then hopefully at some point the reviews after you've submitted your papers to Journals.

Based on the assumption that at least the scientific readers of this blog have already read the introduction and after a long scrolling have now reached the point where they expect a conclusion, here is a compilation of the results and conclusion (with many thanks to the three current and former Office mates whose opinion from this afternoon I am now selling as my end).

Conclusion: more wisdom from the PhD.

To keep calm. Since this was the first comment by the comrades at noon this morning, in various formulations, it probably deserves first place: You learn to go through ups and downs and to keep your head in both of them.

Boil with water. As soon as you see how people come to their highly scientific results, you will hopefully not lose your respect, but at least you will lose your respect. What they can do, you can too! Incidentally, I caught the fact that they only cook with water from a Yale doctoral student (in biology).

Searching for help. You learn to seek help wherever you need help - be it to seek help from your supervisors, fellow PhD students, or any other contact if you need a second opinion, be it other ways (or books) to acquire knowledge. We are great at Googling.

Social skills. You will learn to carry your fellow doctoral students through their tough phases and to let them carry you through your tough phases. Or: something like friendly normality emerges from a bunch of nerdy alpha animals.

Independence.You learn to deal with different opinions about your research and to make and defend your own decisions.

Flexibility.Murphy's Law must have been invented by a scientist. Something always goes wrong. In this context the concept of 'sunk costs ’ (sunk costs): "Costs that have already arisen and cannot be reversed (for example through sale)". (If, for example, in your first year you were enthusiastic about collecting data that neither confirm your hypotheses, nor were it methodically collected in your pre-professionalism, and you should then consider writing a paper from this data set , you should drop that thought and tackle your next project instead. Too bad this blog didn't exist in my first year.) So if one thing doesn't work, you learn to move on to the next. Or, as I once heard in a professional development seminar: Those who get up the quickest get the furthest.

Perseverance: You learn to work on your problems until you find out. As a rule, you will only see that you have acquired incredible problem-solving skills after you have overcome your insurmountable obstacle.

set priorities. The longer you go and the closer you get to the end, you learn not to take yourself and your doctor too seriously. Since it was confirmed years ago that there actually was life after the exam, it can be assumed that there is also life after the dissertation. Besides, there is also a life during the dissertation. And in a few years time we will probably have as much interest in our own doctorate as we have today in our high school diploma. Ergo: being there is everything!

And, last but not least(As we Germans and no one else say): my own conclusion, which is the plagiarized motto of my uncles and a restaurant chain that is widespread in Germany and not undisputed: "Chi va piano va sano e va lontano. " Those who run slowly run safely and far.

Author Christine StedtnitzPosted on Categories Oh, by the way ..., How is it actually ...? Tags guest post