How is life after PhD?

I submitted my thesis a month and a half ago, well before my deadline. I was done with my PhD, I couldn’t manage the stress and struggle anymore. I didn’t even spell-check my manuscript. I honestly couldn’t go through it anymore. I just wanted to finish and put it to an end. Feeling numb after submitting your thesis is very common among students, you are supposed to feel proud and happy about this huge achievement, but, in fact, you feel nothing of nothing. You are just glad that it’s all done!

Since the day I submitted, I did not read any paper, I did not go to my office or lab other than for cleaning my mess and picking up my stuff. I put my PhD in a far corner of my brain and do not want to deal with it up until the day I get an email from my committee to arrange a potential date for my oral defence. Instead, I am taking care of my physical and emotional wellbeing. My sleeping routine has massively improved. I manage to sleep for 7 hours straight at night without waking up in the middle of the night for no reason. It happens at times but it’s a rare event rather than a constant pattern.

I started going to the gym more regularly, cooking for myself other than going to the pub or doing takeaways because I have more time for myself. My writing has been way more prolific, I started my Medium profile, I managed to finish an article which I will get paid for, my Instagram page has been growing again.

I feel like I started living my life back again.

There is a lot of unstructured time and to be honest, I did feel a bit overwhelmed at the start. I wake up in the morning with no major commitment. I don’t have a plan for my day. That was something new from me because I used to run 100 miles/h and, suddenly, I found myself with having a lot of spare time. It took a bit to readjust. I initially felt guilty about it, like “why should I waste my time by doing nothing? I should be productive!!”. Then, I reminded myself that I have been working non-stop for the last 4 years. I finished my PhD, I sorted out my mental and physical health, moving from a fatty and depressed person to an active and empowered woman. I invested a lot of time and money in my personal and professional development. I created my own brand and public profile from scratch.

I think it’s fair enough if I take the time to enjoy my life and binge-watching TV all weekend now!

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Finishing a PhD programme also means finding yourself without a stable income. Unless you secured a job before your PhD thesis submission or your professor found some money for you to keep doing the same research as a postdoc, you will find yourself jobless and unemployed. So, while waiting for my oral defence, I have been teaching in undergraduate labs as postgrad teaching assistant. I never did it before and I was scared to show students, who have never been in the lab before, how to set up chemistry equipment and do reactions. But it’s been good learning. I currently manage around 20 students and I feel more confident to mentor and train a large group of people. Definitely, a new skill to add to my CV.

I am also applying for jobs outside academia. I had a few job interviews over the summer for a position as a medical and science writer which didn’t go very well. I wasn’t happy with all the rejections back then but I am glad I did it. In fact, I got to the conclusion that I don’t have enough knowledge and skills to apply for these roles. I also gave up with the idea of working in science communication or science policy because a scientific background isn’t enough for these roles and I don’t have any professional experience in communication or policymaking. Excluding all these potential careers from my job search was a very wise decision because it narrowed my research for jobs as a senior scientist or science editor. I managed to have 4 interviews last month which all went very well. I was confident in answering questions, showcasing my knowledge and skills and if I don’t get selected for these positions, at least, I know how to better narrow down my future job search.

Personal recommendation for this month:

Books: How to write a lot by Paul J. Silva

Shows: Explained on Netflix

Podcasts: Chemistry Cayk and The Burnt Out To Lit Up Podcast.