“I’m a loser”

A lot has changed since the fall. Back then, my dissertation defence was several months old and the final version was long handed in. But I felt I’d barely progressed. My post-PhD job prospects seemed poor, and I felt pretty low. When friends and acquaintances asked me what I was up to, I would tell them, only half joking, that I was freelancing etc. but that basically, “I’m a loser.” They’d laugh and disagree, but the facts of the matter suggested otherwise.

Not long thereafter I decided to make changes. Toward the end of October, I first spoke to my career coach over the phone. Hillary Hutchinson and I had connected over email, because she’d posted on Versatile PhD that she had a handout on informational interviews and would happily send it to anyone who asked for it. I did and when she sent the file my way she invited me to do a free 30 minute call to get a feel for what she does. It was excellent timing on my part. So, even though I’d never heard of a career coach, I figured there was nothing to lose.

During that first chat I gave her my post-PhD narrative, which included the “I’m a loser” bit. She stopped me and argued that it takes a while for people to make career transitions. Instead of being slow on the uptake, I was, she said, “right on schedule!” She specializes in academic transitions, so I believed her. Right away, I felt much better about my situation. No, I didn’t know how to land a job I wanted (or what I even wanted), but at least I could stop being so hard on myself.

This narrative reframing is crucial. In my case, it enabled me to have a more positive attitude toward myself, my prospects, and the time that’s passing. I’m not a loser; I’m in transition. And, I’m contemplating my future for the first time ever. That’s big. A few months is nothing at all when I look at it that way.

7 thoughts on ““I’m a loser”

  1. I think that narrative reframing is key. So many things can happen from the start to finish of a PhD journey. And when things don’t happen exactly as we planned, we can either feel like a loser or simply reframe. I appreciate your candor!

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  4. Oh no! Well, I understand. I felt like an academic underachiever (at best!) for a long time. But hey: When I’m in the right place, I’m very much an over-achiever! In the best way 🙂
    Wishing you luck and patience, especially with yourself.

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