A PhD is a qualification, not an identity 

Are you familiar with the Twitter hashtag #withaPhD? This hashtag originated in a discussion between Jen Polk (of From PhD to Life fame) and me. We noticed that newly minted PhDs often refer to themselves as PhDs, rather than as people who have doctorates – have you done this yourself?

We wanted to get across the point that a PhD is a qualification you hold, rather than completely defining who you are. Hence the qualifier ‘with a PhD’. As I said in one of my tweets:

In fact presenting yourself *as a professional with a PhD*, not solely *as a PhD*, is crucial when talking to employers outside of academia. Very few employers outside academia are looking to hire PhDs; but many employers are looking to hire researchers, analysts, consultants, project managers and product managers, who also happen to have a PhD. That’s you, by the way!

Here are some questions to get you thinking about the new you:

  • How do you think others see you? As a grad student, as a PhD or as a researcher or other kind of professional? Ask some of your peers for their opinions.
  • How do you see yourself – this person who’s undertaking the project/research job that’s leading to a doctoral qualification?
  • Who will you become once you’ve completed your doctoral dissertation? How will you introduce yourself to an employer in the future?

I’d love to hear your answers to these questions … please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below, or else tweet me @chrishumphrey. For further guidance on rethinking your personal identity post-PhD, check out the following posts:

Applying for jobs outside academia – from PhD to fellow professional, by Chris
Preparing for life after the PhD: retrain your brain, by Chris
How to introduce yourself to employers outside academia, by Chris

Who are you after your PhD: qualification vs. identity: part one, by Folyshade

This post was updated in March 2017, following changes to the ownership of the website withaphd.com (background here).

About Chris

I've made the transition from a PhD in Medieval Studies, into a career in business, consulting and project management. But I want to give something back to the researcher community, and help everyone who's facing the challenge of finding work outside academia. Jobs on Toast is a way for me to share my insights and experience, helping you to make a successful career change. Use my five-step plan to get started right away!

One Reply to “A PhD is a qualification, not an identity ”

  1. Pingback: Post-PhD: some thoughts on the PhD-er identity and ‘alt-ac’ choices | shakespearescholarinprogress