Jul 01 2002
by Gail Staines
Since my article, “Ahhh, to be called ‘Dr.’: Is Pursuing the Ph.D. Worth It?” appeared in the March 1, 2002 issue of Info Career Trends, I have received several e-mail messages regarding doctoral work. This has prompted me to write this article about what one may expect after having successfully completed the degree.
Rejoice, Relax, Renew
It’s official! You received your degree, participated in the official “hooding” ceremony, and now you can be called a “doctor of philosophy.” After talking with many individuals who have gone through this process, all agree that once you graduate, you should take some time to rejoice and celebrate your major accomplishment.
- Take a trip. Some people I know visited the Far East, some toured Europe, and others stayed in romantic Rome. Yes, and several went to Disney World — just to relax and be a kid again. It is not unusual for a newly minted Ph.D. to schedule and take the trip of a lifetime. Most figure they owe it to themselves after years of hard work.
- Do things you have missed doing. “After I got my Ph.D., I returned to reading great literature (Russian novels) and didn’t read a journal article for an entire year. It was such a luxury,” says Dr. Mark Bonacci, Associate Professor of Human Resources at Niagara County Community College (NY). Reading the newspaper, even People magazine, watching your favorite television shows, or reading trashy novels can be enjoyed without guilt.
- Discover new, or re-discover old, activities. Dr. Bonacci began taking voice lessons again because he could spend time away from the dissertation. After not riding horses while pursuing my degree, I ended up taking lessons again, and even bought a horse. This was great stress relief and helped me make the transition the year after graduation to assuming a sense of normalcy in my life again.
The first few months after you receive your degree are ones of transition. It’s both exciting and rewarding having completed a major goal. At the same time, it can be a time of significant adjustment. Your hours spent reading, writing, researching, and discussing your topic with anyone who would listen are now available for other pursuits — or for none at all. Each individual transitions differently after this major experience. Some take just a few months to adjust, others take a year or more. The best advice is to give yourself time to reclaim your life again and enjoy the process along the way.
Degree Benefits and Opportunities
“Complete the degree and they will come knocking at your door!” Well, not unless you have researched a very hot topic or discovered a significant paradigm shift. Doctoral degree benefits and opportunities do come, however, in both obvious and subtle ways.
Several benefits of earning the advanced degree are obvious. Traditionally, as with almost all other post-docs, your salary will increase. One of my good friends indicated to me that she was able to increase her salary potential beyond her expectations. Outward professional respect may also be apparent. You may find it easier to get papers or presentations accepted to conferences. You may also find that editors of journals and publishers of monographs may be more amenable to publishing your work. Grant proposals that you write may carry more weight and be reviewed more favorably, because, in part, of the three new letters after your name.
Opportunities of import to your career may arise more frequently. Doors may open to you to serve as a consultant in your area of expertise. If you are an expert in a subject that is being discussed in both the professional and popular literature and/or media, you may be called upon to comment on a specific issue, provide a quote for an article, or appear on radio or television. Organizations — local and international, library/information-related, and other nonprofit or profit — may contact you to ask you to serve on their boards of trustees. Depending on your goals, the benefits and opportunities available to you can be endless.
The After Life
There IS life after the Ph.D. — and a good one, at that. Being able to relax and relish the little things in life you missed doing during your doctoral years is beneficial in and of itself. Just being able to walk around without constantly thinking about your subject material is a treat. Once you complete your degree, do something immediately to reward yourself: have your diploma professionally matted and framed, and hang it in a place of prominence; throw a party or have someone throw a party for you; or have your checks printed with “Ph.D.” after your name. (The latter activity seems to be quite common among post-docs).
Allow yourself time to transition. Do not be in such a hurry to get your dissertation published as a book or attend professional conferences immediately. You will do these activities in time, and you will know when the time is right to do them. After all, you have achieved a significant goal that will be with you for the rest of your life.
Gail M. Staines, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Western New York Library Resources Council and adjunct faculty at the Univ. at Buffalo School of Informatics. Her areas of expertise are management and information literacy, and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.