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Archives for July 2012

The Top 10 Downsides of Graduate School

1) You miss out on valuable real-world experience working your way up in an established career. Not only experience but also opportunity.

2) You miss out on earning a real income.

3) You spend the best part of your life, your 20’s (in most cases), in school. It’s also a huge time investment and takes a lot of patience.

4) You may delay marriage/relationships until you graduate.

5) Poor living conditions make it difficult to have an enjoyable and entertainment-filled lifestyle.

6) Your social life and social interactions may suffer since graduate programs (PhD) are spent mainly in isolation.

7) You will watch your friends move up in their career, get married, buy a house, and move on with their life. This will make you feel jealous. Your life will be put on hold.

8) Graduate students are prone to depression and anxiety. This can have long-lasting effects even upon graduation. The 50% that do not drop-out and stick it out till the end are not immune.

9) If you are the 50% that drops-out, you may live with regret (typically during the later stages of graduate school). Others find out early enough, get a real job, and live very fulfilling lives.

10) Education Inflation:
Just because you have a higher degree doesn’t guarantee you the better job (or even get you the job).  The catch-22 nowadays is that most jobs are suffering from “education inflation.” This means they require an advanced degree just for entry-level positions. In fact according the BLS, the number of jobs typically requiring a doctorate or professional/advanced degree is expected to grow by 20% between 2010 and 2020. The number requiring a Master’s degree for the same time period is expected to grow by 22%. In addition, in the U.S., institutions responding to the CGS/GRE Survey of Graduate Enrollment and Degrees reported awarding over 488,000 master’s degrees in 2008, compared with about 56,000 doctorates. So here’s the catch: You also need the job experience to go along with it. So it really isn’t an entry level position anymore and you are competing against those in the workforce who have the same advanced degree plus the real-world job experience. And in some cases, a PhD may overqualify you and make you more of a “liability.” This of course depends on the type of position you are pursuing.

But don’t fret. Find what you are passionate about and pursue it. If you don’t think grad school is right for you.. Don’t do it. Life is too short. Move on with your life.

My advice: Get any edge that you can. If you can get an internship during the summer (while in school) do it. Get your ‘foot in the door’ any possible way. Chances are that past experience or internship will come in handy later on down the road. It gives you real-life experience and will give you an edge over others who spent their whole life/time in academia. It will beef up your resume and make you look more well-rounded. Sound easier said than done? If you don’t have any internship leads.. Start networking. Use your network to land a position. Even if it is minimum wage, it is an invaluable experience.

Or.. Get a job right out of undergrad. Work for a few years. Get a feel for the job market and real-life work experience. Chances are you will move up the ladder, get promoted, and you may not even need to go get a Master’s or PhD. And if you’re really an asset.. They will pay for your education while you are working. That’s when an MBA makes perfect sense. Many people go in graduate school because they can’t find a job out of undergrad and it makes them seem more attractive to employers. Or to dodge the economic recession. I hate to say, this is the wrong reason to go into grad school. You have to go in knowing what to expect and only because you truly want to and are passionate about pursuing a specific field (like science). Otherwise you are in for a big surprise. So try to avoid the graduate school ‘saturation.’


Further Reading

Reasons Not to Get A PhD

7 Easy Ways For Graduate Or College Students To Earn Alternative Income Or Make Money Online

Why A Struggle?

I have struggled with the question, “How Do I Earn Extra Money On The Side While In School?” my entire college career. When I was an undergrad, I was taking 18 credits (with 3-4 science labs), working in a research lab, and working a part time job 20 hours a week. I only knew of one way to pay for college tuition and fees: working a second job in the evenings and weekends. So I went into sales.

I sold cellular phones for TMobile, Alltel, Sprint, and AT&T. I did this for 4 years. The timing was perfect since the market was young and new customers were not uncommon during that time (cell phone bubble). When the Motorola Razr was worth 300 dollars back in 2004. Anyways, this job was hourly + commission and I made a killing. I was making 15-18K a year working part time while in school. But jobs like this are hard to come by (I had extensive sales experience prior), and require a lot of effort. Nowadays, cell phone sales will not pay as well because instead of new contracts everyone is upgrading. There are 300 million cell phone users in the U.S. I wonder what it was in 2004?

So.. With that said. Say you are studying for the GRE or MCAT. Say you are doing an internship on the side. You’re really hurting on money. You don’t have time to fit in a second job. You didn’t qualify for work study. Or you are in graduate school and aren’t allowed to take on a second job. Or you simply just don’t have time. How can someone earn extra income on the side without having to put in 20-40 hours a week? Without having to put on a work uniform and put in the set amount of weekly hours on top of your already busy life?

1) Online Tutoring.

Yea that’s right. If you are good at something like Math or English you can get paid to be an online tutor. A lot of them will require you to pass a certification test. But if you do (and meet the requirements), you can earn money in your spare time being a teacher. That is if you like to teach and have the patience. The payout can vary, you can get $15 an hour and this can go up depending on assignments and prior experience. You can check out more here:

2) Teach A Musical Instrument.

A lot of people grew up learning/playing piano, guitar, trumpet, etc. If you have 5+ years of experience, all you really need to do is buy a book on the musical theory. I did it for guitar. So not only could I teach the technique of guitar but also the theory to support it (I had to brush up on this). Payout (on a craigslist ad and other sites) was $10-15 for a 30 minute session. You set the price. Build your client base, reputation, and watch your income increase.

3) Sell Stuff On Ebay and Craigslist.

You’ve heard it before. But I took my parents old car rims and sold them for $200 on a 7 Day Auction. They were just sitting there taking up garage space. They said I could have all the profit. We also had some old cherry furniture and dinette set sitting in our garage. Sold that for $150 in one day. More cash in my pocket. Electronic items will also sell. Did you upgrade your cell phone? Sell your old one. If you have the box and manuals then you’re golden.

Don’t want to ship something? Sell it on craigslist. Once you get used to writing sales ads, it comes pretty natural. Just make sure you have the full description and take PROFESSIONAL pictures. Yes lighting, background, and presentation will make a difference in the payout. Even having the full title makes a difference (especially when it comes to keywords).

Selling on Ebay and Craigslist is not Rocket Science, but it’s funny how people are too lazy to sell their old stuff because they think it has no value or they say they “Don’t have time.” Even old furniture has a price. Don’t just throw your futon or couch by the dumpster if you need the money. You can post a Craigslist ad or Ebay ad in under 5 minutes once you have the pictures and description. Lack the description? Well that’s what Google is for. Get out there and do your research! Get the specs. Go on Ebay and see what stuff is selling for. Look at the completed listings. I have made thousands of dollars on Ebay and Craiglist over the past 10 years. I have sold stuff from car stereos to clothes to ram air hoods for camaros. And you can too. You can sell simple stuff on Craiglist or Ebay like your student season football tickets. It doesn’t have to be some big ticket item. The possibilities are endless.

4) Get paid for your expertise or opinion.

We are all experts at something different. Say someone is an expert at waterskiing or snowboarding. Could they get paid to be an instructor? Yes. You factor in the time and the need for resources. Maybe you want to become a personal trainer because you are really into fitness (this does require certification). Maybe you speak a second language. Get paid to be an interpreter. You’re good at writing. Take it one day at a time. Write a book. Easier said than done right?

Only you truly know whether your expertise would have an immediate or more long-term payout. So you could invest your time to see payout later. Be a consultant. Teach a class. Be a coach. Be a photographer. You decide. Do you have the time to invest and what’s the risk/reward? If it isn’t feasible seek alternatives. Either way, pursue your passion and you can’t go wrong.

My Favorite OneCheck Out Focus! If you take the survey by answering some questions (you fill out your profile first), qualify, and they pick you.. You’re in luck. Can range anywhere from $50-200 bucks for only 1-2 hours of your time. They do national studies as well as local (more if you are in a big city). I got paid $75 via a Visa Rewards Gift Card immediately after doing a 1-on-1 tobacco study. Getting selected is not easy, but when you do (if you do) it’s well worth it.

I’ve also heard of people getting paid to do online surveys. Although I’ve never really dug deeper into this as a way to make income on the side, I definitely think it is possible (from what I’ve heard). The only downside is that it is annoying and tedious. Check out sites like I’ll leave it up to you to find which sites are legit. Make sure you set up a separate gmail just to send all the spam mail that you’ll get.

5) Start An Online Business.

Who has time, right? What happens is people think they have to do this all in one night. Or they need the idea NOW. If you want a successful online business it takes MONTHS. Sometimes years to even get it going. How do I know? I started my own online business while in graduate school. Back in 2009 I launched a site that sold various woodworking products. None of these products sold and that was after weeks of developing the website and paying for a dot com. People didn’t want to pay shipping. They wanted something they could see in person and buy locally.

So it seemed like I really had no marketable product or target audience, and that it was going to be another failed business. By accident, I tested the market with a sporting goods product (bean bag toss boards) and it sold the next day on Craigslist for $99. From there it led to a very successful business on the side (took one year to get established). 3 years later and it’s still going strong to this day. Sell whatever you see fit whether it is goods or services, it could even be developing your own iPhone app.

The key is consistency and to be persistent. It is wise to have an exit strategy, but don’t give up at the beginning, become impatient, or get easily discouraged. Now you may not be as fortunate as me and have the time to make products like this and sell them. In that case I’ll leave the idea up to you. You could buy products for wholesale and sell them for profit. This is not uncommon to buy in bulk (from China), add to the product features and sell it above wholesale.

I did this for cell phones and was an Ebay Powerseller for 2 years straight making 40 dollars on each phone I sold. Anything is possible when it comes to running your own business. Are you frustrated because the idea hasn’t come? That’s why you test it with a Craiglist ad. Test your market. A lot of times the idea can come by accident or when you least expect it. Forced ideas rarely work in my opinion. The best ideas are the ones that come when you least expect it.

If you do a Google search for ‘Earning Income While In College’ you will always get some list like ‘Top 8 Ways to Make Money.’ The site is littered with affiliate links and hyped up reviews. You have to wonder if the author even tried it for him or herself. Most likely they didn’t. Don’t waste your time. It is another example of a forced idea.

The best idea is your originality. That’s right. Stop giving plasma. Painting houses. Mowing Lawns. Doing Paper Routes. This is old-fashioned thinking. We live in a current day and age where you can utilize technology to your advantage. You just need to know-how. There are much better ways to make money and this brings me to my next point.

6) Get paid to be a writer.

Ever heard of Textbroker? If not, you have now. Get paid to be an author. You don’t have to be a professional writer. Typically, you can get paid close to 100 bucks or more for an 8,000 word article that you write (starting). As you build up your reputation and rating, you can get up to 5 cents per word. You pick the topic. The client sets the deadline and you have X amount of days to finish the article in your spare time.

Some people have also reported HubPages as a great way to earning money online. Every time you write an article or “hub” you can generate a large amount of traffic to your site. The more hubs and the more you grab your reader’s attention, the more hits you get. Then you can earn money through Google Adsense. HubPages has a very user friendly way of setting this up. I would look into it if you haven’t already and if you enjoy writing: HubPages Success Stories

Also see: 7 websites that pay $50 or more for guest blog posts

7) Sell An Informational Product Online.

This is by far the best way to earn a second income. The focus here is to create an informational product that truly adds value back to your readers. The extent and measure of value creation will be based on how well you truly help solve your audience’s problem or issue.

Once the value has been created, it is a win-win because you are helping others solve their problem(s) while at the same time you are receiving compensation for all your hard work.

Once you have a good informational product that is well-written and informative, this is the best bang for the buck. It’s a slow crawl at first and takes patience and persistence. It takes hard work. But with anything, hard work is a given. A lot of people want the immediate answer. They get short-up. They Google something and get caught up in some money making pyramid scheme or scam. There are thousands of money making methods online. Many methods lack the truth and best way to effectively do online marketing. Why? Because they pile on a million things that try and get you to purchase their product. Then you make some cookie-cutter website.

I know because I am an example of someone who got suckered into one of these get rich quick scams. They put you on some 14 day or 30 day plan. Deep down you know it probably won’t work. You have your doubts from the beginning. If it takes away the originality from you, your gut feeling will usually tell you it won’t work. And your gut feeling is almost always right. Without hard work and originality it most likely will not work. It produces clones of the original.

What happens is it dilutes everything. Lowers the quality. Discourages people. Who makes all the money? The person at the top. But what’s funny is the person is making money off telling you how to make money. The problem isn’t really being solved because nothing is being created that has substance or originality (there is simply promotion for more promotion). If the person selling the product actually told you useful information then I don’t think the market would be so saturated and confused. The truth is obscured.

My whole point here is what is the one TRUE method to actually earn a second income while in grad school or college? I have yet to read one or find a method that is geared towards specifically towards graduate, professional, or college students. How does one create a product to help another OVERCOME A PROBLEM? And keep the originality? And not product some cookie cutter website or product? The answer is you create your own informational product. The easiest one is an E-book.

And you don’t have to be a writer for this to work. You can pay someone on Textbroker to write it for you (this is optional). You’re busy with school. Time and money are scarce. So you can outsource your article (and add to it on your own if you want). You can invest your money in someone else. Or if you have the time, write the article yourself. Then it comes down to online Marketing Principles. You earn all your money back and more. It’s a no-brainer.

The hard part is getting the Traffic to your sales page/product and promoting your product. Once you get past this, the profits start rolling in. There really is no secret to it. It does take time and hard work, but it will be even harder if you try to learn it from scratch. In my book, I’ve done all the research for you and I’ve found out what does and doesn’t work. So you are already two steps ahead if you buy it and follow it. Why is this original? Because you pick the product or idea.

You pick the problem that you want others to overcome that is UNIQUE to your situation. Something you are passionate about. Maybe you’ll title it, “How I Found Ways in Grad School to Make Money on the Side.” Or “How A Science Blog Saved My PhD.” Or “Using A Science/College/Graduate School Blog for Online Advertisement/Promotion.” Or “How I Effectively Wrote My Thesis in 4 weeks.” Or “How to Effectively Network While in Grad School to Land Your Dream Job.” Lastly, “Top 10 Things I Learned in Grad School: For The New and Prospective Students.” Many more ideas here.

Tell people your story. Share your hardships. Your audience will listen. And you can sell your product and help others learn from your experience. Maybe it’s something you struggled with and now you look back at all you have learned and you can’t wait to share that information. But not only are you creating a product to help yourself earn income and tell your story, you are helping others along the way. So they can learn from your struggles or hardships. It’s a win-win. If you want to learn more, check out: Ebook: Second Income

I wrote it to help people like you. To give a step-by-step guide that isn’t sugar coated. That actually works and isn’t all hype. The best part: IT’S FREE.

Ultimately the idea is up to you. The only thing right now holding you back is yourself. If you want to go and work the traditional ‘second’ job to earn income be my guest. But the whole point of this blog is to make you aware of easier and more feasible options while you are enrolled in graduate or professional school. #1-6 all have the potential to work. I know because I’ve done it the past 10 years of my life. But the best bang for the buck while in college/grad school in my experience is #7. Dig deeper and you will not be disappointed.

Still Skeptical?

Check out my interview on I’ve Tried That, where I answer a very long series of in-person, in-depth questions.

Other Suggestions

Make money online by reviewing websites and mobile apps

Get paid to work at home and surf the web?

Hey! Not Bad..

Top Ten Lies Told By Grad Students And Signs That You Are A Grad Student

From the Harvard Crimson:

10. It doesn’t bother me at all that my college roommate is making $80,000 a year on Wall Street.
9. I’d be delighted to proofread your book/chapter/article.
8. My work has a lot of practical importance.
7. I would never date an undergraduate.
6. Your latest article was so inspiring.
5. I turned down a lot of great job offers to come here.
4. I just have one more book to read and then I’ll start writing.
3. The department is giving me so much support.
2. My job prospects look really good.
1. No really, I’ll be out of here in only two more years.

You just might be a graduate student if…

…you can analyze the significance of appliances you cannot operate.
…your office is better decorated than your apartment.
…you have ever, as a folklore project, attempted to track the progress of your own joke across the Internet.
…you are startled to meet people who neither need nor want to read.
…you have ever brought a scholarly article to a bar.
…you rate coffee shops by the availability of outlets for your laptop.
…everything reminds you of something in your discipline.
…you have ever discussed academic matters at a sporting event.
…you have ever spent more than $50 on photocopying while researching a single paper.
…there is a microfilm reader in the library that you consider “yours.”
…you actually have a preference between microfilm and microfiche.
…you can tell the time of day by looking at the traffic flow at the library.
…you look forward to summers because you’re more productive without the distraction of classes.
…you regard ibuprofen as a vitamin.
…you consider all papers to be works in progress.
…professors don’t really care when you turn in work anymore.
…you find the bibliographies of books more interesting than the actual text.
…you have given up trying to keep your books organized and are now just trying to keep them all in the same general area.
…you have accepted guilt as an inherent feature of relaxation.
…you find yourself explaining to children that you are in “20th grade”.
…you start refering to stories like “Snow White et al.”
…you often wonder how long you can live on pasta without getting scurvy.
…you look forward to taking some time off to do laundry
…you have more photocopy cards than credit cards
…you wonder if APA style allows you to cite talking to yourself as “personal communication”

6 Ways To Survive Grad School and Achieve Work-Life Balance

Most people don’t want to admit the struggles they went through in grad school or even relive those memories. Working weekends and late nights are just one example. What I want to share with you are things that people take for granted. The things that get you through the Daily Grind of Grad School (all the way to the end) and working in a lab. Thinking about dropping out of grad school? Keep reading.

So how do you get through the daily grind for say 5-7 years? Most people laugh when I tell them this.

1) Your iPod.

Music can do wonders for your graduate school experience. I am able to listen to music while writing. More importantly, I listen to music while doing my experiments. Although this isn’t 24/7, I can testify that music has helped get me through graduate school because of its positive effect on your mental state.

You need to take everything in grad school that is at your disadvantage and make it your advantage. What I mean by this is that in most cases, you are a lone ranger in lab. You don’t really work in a team as you would in industry. Your project is your own and no one really cares about your work except you and your PI. If you experiment doesn’t work, you haven’t let down an entire team that is relying on you.

So with that said, you can ‘get away with listening to your iPod” since you aren’t spending a lot of your day in business meetings (if you went into business), or interacting with patients (if you went into the medical field). Plus you aren’t really talking to people in your lab the entire day (this can vary).

You are at a ‘disadvantage’ since working in a team is better IMO than working on something in solitude. So you can turn around, make the most of your situation and turn it into a positive. The ‘lone ranger’ scenario is also a disadvantage I think for someone who is a social person (like myself) and enjoys working with others.

But, if you love music like I do, pop in your headphones and you will see just how quickly your day goes by. Rough day or bad data? Crank up the heavy stuff. I let it go almost the entire day depending on my mood. I still keep the volume low enough so I can hear if someone needs to talk to me. And you know what? It calms my mood, motivates me, and takes my mind off the repetition and mundane routine. Not a big music listener? That might change.

2) Do not let your physical and mental health slip.

I noticed a lot of this has to do with not eating right or working out. I cannot tell you how many grad students skip lunch or dinner, or don’t eat breakfast (I am guilty of this). It is not wise. What happens is it throws your whole metabolism out of whack. It can also change your sleep patterns. You need to stay in a constant routine and STICK to it.

Stemming from this, you need to hit the gym. You need to go running, swimming, weightlifting, biking. It sounds so obvious. If it was so obvious then why don’t people find time to do it? Why do all the people who work in a lab seem so out of shape? You know deep down they care. They have to care. Or they live in denial. They claim they are so busy with their work lives that there is no time to exercise. If you aren’t exercising the excuse then becomes, “Well then I don’t need to eat right either.” That is where the poor attitude sets it. You become lethargic and may not even realize it.

You cannot tell me that poor diet and lack of exercise doesn’t affect your work. It does. It affects your mood, how you think, and how much energy you have throughout the day. I find time to hit the gym 2-3 times a week no matter what. This is almost as important as the actual thesis work you are doing. If you neglect yourself.. Your self-esteem will suffer. It can have permanent consequences if you spread this out over 5-7 years. Exercise is also a great way to release and lower stress levels. And guess what? Lack of exercise/poor diet is one of the reasons why the depression rate is so high in grad school. Which brings me to my next point.

3) Make an effort to hit up your friends and be social.

That means plan ahead. That also means during the week you should ask your friends to go to lunch or at least meet up. Does this sound lame? Well it’s not. I can’t tell you how many grad students eat lunch in lab EVERY day by themselves. You need to get outside and get some fresh air. Seriously put the can of soup down, get out there and God forbid spend 5 bucks on a lunch.

You need socialization to keep your sanity. So your daily grind includes lunch with your fellow grad students or friends. When the weekend hits it’s a whole different story.

The first couple years of grad school people tend to hang out more, that is also obvious. Why? Even though they are taking classes and are busy, it isn’t as bad as writing your thesis or busting your butt trying to finish up your last set of experiments. Plus everything is new, you’re getting settled in and you haven’t shaken off your undergrad years. When you get older (26+), people tend to go out less, have significant others, be annoyed by undergrads who stay the same age (you are the only one who gets older in this case), be more focused on their work, and just be less social overall. It fades out.

So what I’m saying is you need to find something you love and hold onto it. For me it was hitting up rock concerts. I have a group of friends who like rock music. I joined a softball team. I joined a rock band. I kept the ball rolling. I made an effort every weekend to call my friends and make plans. Find someone who has a pool, gas grills, likes to slam a few beers and you’re golden. Whatever it is, you know you have an interest with someone in your grad program.. Or you have an interest/activity.

You want to be in a Dance club? Do it. Cuz once you get out of grad school everything will change. The real world will set in. You need to enjoy these years of your life the best you can. You need to have as much fun as you can during some of the hardest years of your life. Keep the balance and everything will be OK. If you let the balance tip to ALL grad school, then you are in trouble. And that is why some people’s mental and physical health suffers so much. You need to vent frustration and relieve stress.

You also need good friends and family to get you through it. Let’s face it. Research is frustrating. 90% of it doesn’t work. My first few years I had to learn to accept this as normal. And realize that I am not a failure. Sometimes experiments fail for no and unforeseen reason. But to get through these frustrations took time on my part to keep the balance in check and have friends to help me along the way.

4) Find that ‘fun’ activity and hold onto it no matter what.

Some grad students have told me, “You know what got me through grad school? Lots and lots of beer.” I wouldn’t recommend this lol, but a lot of people just unleash on the weekends (especially first or second year grad students). I guess everyone has their own way of dealing with the stress.

My recommendation over beer is find that one activity that you absolutely love, similar to #3. Play guitar.. And if you have the money, take a vacation. You cannot be thinking about research 24/7 or you will go crazy. That is what professors want you to believe. To be completely submerged in your research.

Well guess what? A lot of great scientific discoveries were made when they weren’t doing what they were supposed to be doing. The point here being that a lot of great ideas or innovations can come at random times or even by accident, instead of being forced. So that means by you doing that one thing that you love so much.. Is a good thing.

If you let it slip away it can lead to grad school blues or depression. I have a friend that loves to fish. I know someone who joined a book club. Another friend of mind travels a lot. Another goes boating/waterskiing in the summer and snowboarding in the winter (more along the lines of what I like). Anyways, don’t use alcohol as a ‘cop-out’ way of dealing with the stress of grad school. You’ll wake up sober the next day and you’re back to reality. So if you have something real and concrete to back it up and fall back on, so you won’t have to worry about tomorrow.

5) Don’t constantly obsess about your future.

Did you catch that? Don’t constantly obsess or worry about your future. Many times however, grad students delay the inevitable until it is too late. So what can you do? Start networking. NOW. It is never TOO early to start! This can tie in #3 above.

I see a lot of grad students who have NO clue what they want to do when they get out of grad school. Ok so why not plan ahead? Figure it out now! Why wait till you graduate, do a post-doc then decide?  That is a complete waste of time. Get on LinkedIn, find people in your field and start doing informational interviews.

Why do informational interviews? You learn about how others made their transition. You learn from their mistakes. You learn about the job market. You learn about what positions might fit you and what you might be interested in/good at. You learn about how you can have your ‘leg up’ over other applicants. You build a relationship with that person. They aren’t just a network contact. They are someone you can have lunch or coffee with for an hour and they’ll fill you in on whatever you want to know.

I think if grad students weren’t so lazy and did this prior to graduating, we would have a lot less post-docs and/or unemployed PhDs. A post-doc is only a continuation of grad school. Almost seems like the only thing you gain is slightly higher pay over your already very low graduate school stipend (if you are in the sciences), but it is a ‘cop out’ for those who still haven’t figured out what they want to do.

If you want to become a Professor than great-by all means do a post-doc and see if you can beat the odds. But I can tell you there are a handful of Post-docs that I know that say, “I’ll figure it out later.” Wrong attitude. Why are you doing the Post-doc without having a reason? You love research. Great. That doesn’t mean you spend the next 5 years of your life as a Post-doc. You’re only burning up more time and delaying the start of your life. So my advice is:

1) Don’t worry about your future (unless you haven’t spent any time finding about what to do with your PhD)

2) Start networking now so you don’t have to have a need to worry

3) Land a summer internship if you can leverage it via networking and come out with real world experience

Further Reading:

A Graduate Student Guide to Developing Your Professional Profile—Part 3: For Professional Careers in Industry, Nonprofits, and Other Fields

6) Don’t live with regret (to finish or not to finish).

A lot of grad students bicker and complain about the poor job market, being stuck as a post-doc, or low pay. You have two options: Accept your fate or make a change. If you don’t like where you are now then get out with a Master’s degree and do something else. There is NOTHING wrong with coming to a point of self-realization and quitting something because it doesn’t make sense to continue further. That is very self-empowering actually.

What doesn’t make sense is if you continued on knowing it really isn’t something you want to do, or you don’t really need the degree to get to where you want to be. The farther you string the PhD along the harder it is to quit. If you get to your 4th or even 5th year you are probably going to finish it. Why?

The more time you invest, the more you will justify the need to finish the PhD. If you don’t you will live with regret. So decide now if you are at this point. If you are a dissertator and in your later years (like me) and are doing all the things above #1-5 you should be fine. You will finish. Believe in yourself. You made it this far to the point where they [your professors] expect you to quit or when others would quit. But you pushed through. You didn’t do it for anyone else. You did it for yourself. So that someday you can look back and be proud. And know that all that suffering/hardship was not in vain.

If only you could see where you will end up 5-10 years from now… Only time and your work ethic will tell.  The PhD says something in itself. Some people will justify the need to finish a PhD with what’s called ‘Sunk Cost Fallacy’ (if you invest X amount of years this justifies the need to invest Y more years to finish), but deep down it comes down to what you truly want.

Not what other people try to explain or convince you of. You are the only person who knows what is truly right for you.. Sound cliche? Well think about it and put the family and peer pressure to the side. What do you ultimately want to do? Where do you truly see yourself 5 years from now? Do you need the PhD to get you there? If the answer is ‘Yes’ then focus on the now. The only thing that I will say… 5 or more years in a PhD program is a long time.

My best advice is to take each day one step at a time. You’ve heard this before. If you think about all the data and bad or future experiments that you are faced with on a normal basis, you can become overwhelmed. Break it down into little chunks, treat each day as its own. Watch yourself get that PhD. This is what worked for me over the past 4 years and helped keep my stress levels down. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” ~Mathew 6:34

Find what works for you, stick with it, and never look back.

Further Reading:



Should you quit your PhD?

Living in social isolation in grad school and what to do about it 

How Grad School Is Just Like Kindergarten