8

I submitted my PhD thesis a couple of months ago and am in the weird place between submission and waiting for the viva. The last 4 years have been hard, and I can no longer face the idea of staying in academia, research, and i'm even fatigued of my subject area (psychology). I've taken up a temp placement in a completely different area since i have no idea what I want anymore but need money and industry experience. It feels very weird to be doing something unrelated psychology, i'm having to learn a new subject area from scratch. I'm still feeling the burnout of the past 4 years and am still coming to terms with the fact i've completely lost all motivation for the goals I pursued the PhD for in the first place, and feeling like there was little point in giving all of that energy towards something I no longer want. I'm tired, confused, sad, struggling to come to terms with figuring out a new path and am dreading preparing for the viva etc as I am so done with it all (but of course i've come too far to give up now). I'm also struggling with knowing my worth within an industry setting because all of the high pay grades they say you can expect post-PhD only make sense to me if I was going into a post that i'm specifically qualified for (e.g., post doc research). I couldn't feel confident applying for a high-paying role which isn't what the PhD trained me for. I've spent 7-8 years studying psychology and learning how to be a researcher, I'm now put off going for any further long-term training because what if I end up deciding its not for me again?

How do people cope with that feeling of 'what now?' after deciding to leave everything you've been working towards? I've heard/read that most people who leave academia/research end up much happier in the long run, but how to cope with the here and now burn out, lack of motivation and the sense of losing one's identity (at least in terms of what you felt you thought you were 'meant' to do), as well as a sense of feeling like there is little reward at the end of the struggle. I guess i'm just feeling a bit lost and wondering what other people's experiences are. Thanks.

2
  • 2
    Burnout is pretty natural at your stage. So is Imposter Syndrome. I was "lucky" enough to go through my burnout stage earlier. Some other folks helped pull me through.
    – Buffy
    Aug 4, 2021 at 12:25
  • 4
    Oh Christ, not imposter syndrome again; can we have one thread where we don't bring that up. (It's not even the issue here.)
    – Ben
    Dec 23, 2021 at 23:29

2 Answers 2

2

How do people cope with that feeling of 'what now?' after deciding to leave everything you've been working towards?

Take some time off after graduation. Finishing a PhD is a lot like completing a marathon. You're drained, and need to rest - and that's ok. Things seem really bad right now, but you've still got really great options even if you don't continue researching.

but how to cope with the here and now burn out, lack of motivation and the sense of losing one's identity (at least in terms of what you felt you thought you were 'meant' to do)

You don't have to plan out the rest of your life now. In fact, you probably shouldn't. Use this time to explore hobbies you may have ignored during school. Many people who pursue PhDs are very goal oriented - I'm guessing this applies to you. You've got plenty of time to figure out your next goal.

I'm tired, confused, sad, struggling to come to terms with figuring out a new path and am dreading preparing for the viva etc as I am so done with it all (but of course i've come too far to give up now

You're right - stay the course. Do whatever it takes to cross the finish line which is VERY close. I've know other PhD students with your sentiment - they were done, but too close to the end not to see it through. They are all happy successful people now.

Finally, most universities offer some level of therapy for students. If nothing else, a therapist will be a neutral 3rd party, which I think would be beneficial.

0

While the question is specific to your pursuit of a PhD, if you just think a bit, it is no different from choices all people make. Someone took up medicine and it did not work out after eight years. Another built himself as a retail professional only to see covid and on-line retail killing any passion that could exist in a quota-focused role.

In essence it's all about learning (maybe) and moving on. The world has never been a place of greater opportunity, and making a decent living is not terribly hard.

As I've heard said - most of us are standing with one leg in the past (regret) and one leg on the future (anxiety) and pissing on the present.

Let the past go and embrace your choices you make now. And yes, these too can turn our 'wrong' - make other choices.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .