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.