There are many reasons to do a PhD. But few reasons to discontinue, intermit or leave a PhD (or academia). Beyond why you might leave, you should also consider what you should do on the way out. Here are some suggestions.
For many of you, COVID-19 might have forced a reconsideration of what your career may look like. Either as you finish your PhD or now that you’ve finished or maybe even your established academic, and you’ve got an opportunity through redundancy packages to move on. And so, I’ve got some questions that you might be asking, and then maybe some answers. So, the question of should I finish my PhD?
For most people most of the time, I think the answer is probably “yes”. But it might depend on your current situation. For most people, the decision to leave or to intermit might be due to the project or research in general or your supervisors or other people that you work with. If you can, try to remove the different variables and see whether you still like your PhD or whether you’re still enjoying things. If you remove one of the variables and things improve or if you know that you took out one of the variables and things would improve, then maybe continuing your PhD is the right thing to do but just change that variable.
Now if it’s your supervisor, that’s a tough topic, and there’s having tough conversations with your supervisor as a different video, and blog. If you want to go and check that out on my website. In terms of if you’ve made the decision, and to leave perhaps, and now you want to tell your supervisor when should you do it and sooner rather than later is going to be better. But of course, gain those decisions in those discussions can be tough. I told my supervisor basically as soon as I had made the decision that I didn’t want to continue on in an academic career, but I knew that I wanted to finish my PhD. Having that conversation allowed me to get a vastly different experience than I would have otherwise. That had I not necessarily pretended but continued on as if an academic career was something that was still a possibility for me or still something that I wanted to do. So having that chat with your supervisor is a useful thing to do to improve how your PhD might progress or improve how your work might progress from now until you leave.
How you should tell your supervisor? I’ve got a whole section devoted to having difficult conversations. So go and check that out. But certainly, choose a setting that is comfortable for you. Think about how the setting might be for your supervisor, and whether their anxiety might be higher or lower in the setting. There are certain tricks that you can use. So, if you’re worried about them making a scene, you could perhaps schedule. You know, in when you can get out of lockdown schedule a meeting at a cafe or at a more public place that might make them less likely to go off or make you feel safer if they do go off. All those kinds of things are worth thinking about. If you’ve got staff or students under your care, again make you know, letting them know as soon as you’ve made the decision is really important. It’ll allow them to make preparations as well. If they want to add a new supervisor into their PhD mix, that might be useful for them. If they want to take on a different staff supervisor, that might be useful for them as well. So, letting them know as soon as you possibly can is useful too. Let them know if it’s a tough thing for you to talk about as well. You can say to them, “This is a tough conversation”. For me to have you can say to them that you don’t want them to share this widely. That it’s a decision you’ve only just come to. All of those kinds of things if they’re important to you, make sure you make it clear to the people that you’re talking with that those things are important to you. So yeah, some tough questions or tough decisions might be having made for some people as in Victoria. We move out of lockdown and in certain places, and people aren’t guaranteed of you know, extending their PhD for another 6 months, even though lockdown has had a massive impact.
So, I hope that helps. And, as usual, if you like share, subscribe, and follow.