Thursday, October 8, 2009

Ten Tips for Making the Most of Your PhD Time...Even When You Feel Like There's No Hope

So for the last tip list, Ten Tips for Staying Sane While Getting Your PhD, I slowly revealed each tip once or twice a week until all ten tips were out there.

At first I did this because I had no idea that I was compiling a list. I was just giving tips as they occurred to me during my own struggle to get out of a bad case of PhD Depression. But then, after some reflection, I noticed the trend in my tips (regaining sanity in a crazy PhD world) and thought I'd round them all up and top them off to make a nice clean list of 10.

This tip list is a little more premeditated. I liked how the last one turned out, so I thought I'd try my hand at another one. Last weekend I spent some time thinking about what I'm trying to do with my life/PhD/etc, and I came up with this list, about how to make the most of your PhD. I'd like to think that this advice applies to both those who are happy in their program and those struggling.

At first I thought I'd do a slow reveal, but then I realized that I don't really care about building suspense. What I do care about is fleshing out the tips when I get time. So, for now, here's a summary of all 10 tips. Over the next few weeks I'll expand on each.

10. Hone your skills - Focus on the skills you're getting the opportunity to build and really hone them.

9. Get a Roth IRA - Might as well see the upside to making minimum wage.

8. Act like a college student - Any way that comes to mind. As long as you live on a campus, you can do it like the college kids (other than dating your students).

7. Start sucking up...knowledge - Take advantage of all the know-it-alls around you and learn something exotic.

6. Publish - Obviously you have to, but think about your name being written into the history books and your butt being flown to an exotic island location to present at a conference.

5. Get paid to read! - It's easy to forget how lucky you are to get paid to read and research and learn. Take advantage of that and set aside some time each workday to read interesting things (in and out of your field).

4. Get friendly - Make contacts/friends/whatever-you-want-to-call-them to inspire you in the short term and help you get a job or provide a reference in the long term.

3. Beef up your resume - To the extent that it doesn't hurt your research, join committees, teach, take positions of leadership. No other job offers you this many opportunities to shine (and generally without strong repercussions for failing!).

2. Take notes on your advisor - Study what he does to see what got him to where he is (there must be something). What could you learn and what would you do differently? It'll help you in any position you take.

1. Don't waste your own time - If you're going to slack off, do it productively by doing something that helps you discover your true interests.

Do you have any tips of your own to share with us?