Hindsight is always 20-20. But it is always better late than never, right?
So many cliches.
Even though I wrote this list with Ph.D. students in mind, many of these principles apply to life in general. In any case, here’s what I wish someone had reinforced for me when I started my Ph.D. in 2009.
Your research is important. But you should cultivate other aspects of your life too.
You are more than your Ph.D. I did this to some extent during my Ph.D. but I know people who make research their whole lives to the detriment of important things like relationships. I don’t think that is healthy for anyone.
Build your network.
Build your network. Building a network doesn’t have to be sleazy. Genuinely build interest in others and provide value where you can. Conferences. Poster presentations. LinkedIn. Over the last two years, by consistently creating content on LinkedIn and YouTube, my network has grown naturally.
Open yourself to opportunities.
When opportunities arise for you to learn new skills and techniques that stretch you, do it if you can.
Take stock of what you’re learning.
Tied to the point above, document what you’re doing and learning. This usually goes without saying when it comes to your PhD. Nonetheless, as highly trained individuals we can sometimes assume that what we’ve done so far in our programs is mundane. What you think is a “mundane” skill or research methodology is worth a lot of money to some company somewhere. And we forget that only about 2% of the world’s population will ever get a Ph.D. and acquire some of the skills and knowledge we have.
I’ll always find an excuse to talk to people about LinkedIn because personally, it has changed my life. If you do nothing at all, fill out your LinkedIn profile and upload a picture. Get three more tweaks on how to improve your LinkedIn profile here.
Be open-minded to different career paths.
Think about the career paths you want to pursue, especially if you plan on working outside academia. Here is a list of twenty career paths. I also encourage you to have an open mind because some careers will exist five years from now that don’t exist now.
As a Ph.D, you’re versatile.
Just because you have a PhD in ABC doesn’t mean that is all you can do. Your PhD is just a starting point. I am a Microbiology and Immunology PhD with a role in medical communications. I’ve met History PhDs who work in tech and English PhDs who became data analysts. Don’t limit yourself.