A PhD is a qualification, not an identity 

This week I sent some tweets publicising a new website: withaPhD.com. This site supports the fortnightly Twitter chat of the same name (and same hashtag!), #withaPhD. As the site owner Jen Polk explains on the site, the hashtag originated in a discussion between Jen and I about what a PhD actually is.

We’d been chatting about the problem whereby ‘newly minted PhDs tend to refer to themselves as PhDs rather than as people who have doctorates’. We wanted to get the point across 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 this week:

In fact presenting yourself as a professional with 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

P.S. Remember to tune into the fortnightly #withaPhD chats on Twitter – Jen posts a list of the topics for upcoming chats.

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!

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