Don’t let the fact that you have a PhD limit the way you see yourself

My latest blog on University Affairs discusses how each individual should decide their professional identity for themselves.

You can think of research as one of your many useful skills, one that may come in handy in whatever job you have, but not necessarily your primary skill, and certainly not your primary identity. You are welcome to think instead of yourself as a teacher, or an analyst, or a problem solver, or a communicator, or – in my case – as a community builder. These are all fine. You can think of yourself as a marketer or salesperson, or as a writer or editor, or as an artist or thinker. Don’t let the fact that you have a PhD limit the way you see yourself.

Read the full post here.

Transition Q & A: Lisa Bélanger

My latest blog post from University Affairs is an interview with Dr. Lisa Bélanger, an award-winning researcher, innovator, and CEO of ConsciousWorks.

I knew I wanted to create impact for the work I had done in my PhD. I had become incredibly passionate about how seemingly small behaviours could have such a large impact on people’s health. While I worked specifically with cancer survivors, I was keen to also work with people before they got sick.

Read the full post here.

Webinar: Engaged Academics in the Age of Mass Distraction

Webinar: Engaged Academics in the Age of Mass Distraction

It’s been a crappy last few weeks in the US, and the crappiness is certainly creeping past the border. A lot of us feel strongly that we should do something — but what? And how? And what about all the other work we have to do?

It’s in this context that Maren Wood, my partner in Beyond the Professoriate, came up with the idea of us hosting an online workshop to help academics (broadly defined) figure out what their personal contribution could be. I agreed and we’ve invited our colleague Michelle Dionne Thompson to join us. So that makes three history PhDs who now work as coaches for academics (and lawyers too in Michelle’s case).

Interested? Join us this Friday, 3 March, at 12pm ET for this online workshop.

Learn more and sign up here to join us!

Transition Q & A: Stacy Lockerbie

My latest blog post for University Affairs is an interview with anthropologist and research associate in family medicine Stacy Locerbie:

I was tired and burnt out after graduate school; however, working in medicine has revived my passion for research. Although I am happy working outside of anthropology, I am grateful for the tool kit anthropology has supplied me. Throughout my academic pursuits for the Masters and the PhD, I have worked extensively on research overseas and have gained the tacit knowledge and patience about relationship building and connecting to people from different backgrounds. I feel like I have a unique voice that compliments that of physicians.

Read the full post here.

How to prepare for a future job search

My newest blog post for University Affairs is about gearing up for a job search:

[I]f you’re midway through your graduate degree — or working a multi-year contract and considering your options for afterward — what can you do before applying for jobs?

A successful non-faculty job search comes down to three main things: skills, networking, and professionalism.

Read the full post here.

Make 2017 the year of “What if I…?”

Happy New Year! My latest blog post looks at a tool a client of mine told me about, a way of switching up one’s thinking in a positive, more impactful way.

A client shared this bit of wisdom with me a while back: Instead of admonishing herself with “I should…” she replaced it with “What if I…?”

Reframing the sentiment as an open question turns it into something positive and future-oriented. The answer focuses on the benefits of taking an action, rather than the guilt or shame that accompanies not doing what she “should.”

Check out the full post on University Affairs!

Should You Quit Your PhD?

Earlier this year I published “It’s OK to quit your PhD” on my University Affairs blog; it was later reposted on the Shit Academics Say blog and shared thousands of times on social media. This post struck a chord with many people.

To quit or not to quit a PhD is a fraught topic, heavy with all kinds of baggage of different sorts. People can have strong opinions about the right answer, and have let me know what they think. My own opinion remains what it was months ago: You do you.

There is nothing inherently good or bad about completing a PhD. It’s only a good move for you if it is a good move for you. While individuals who depart sans degree will come to their own personal conclusions about their decisions, the wide world rarely cares.

If leaving before you graduate is right for you, awesome; if not, great. If you’re struggling with the decision, investigate what’s going on but then trust what you learn and act on it.

Over the years since I started working as a coach, I’ve worked with a few clients who’ve navigated the “should I quit” question. They come to me at different stages of the decision process, and it takes time for them to sort out what’s right. That’s as it should be. What they get from speaking with me about the issue(s) is an empathetic, curious listener who wants what’s best for them. Yes, I did finish my PhD, but I can easily imagine not having done so. (If only I’d hired a coach years before I did!) I don’t regret my path, but . . . well, there might have been a better way.

Are you struggling with the to quit or not decision these days?

Join me next Wednesday for a conversation and group coaching session on this topic. I’ll start us off with a few words about my own journey and what I’ve learned along the way from my clients and others. Then, we’ll have a structured discussion around a few important talking points and your own questions and concerns. We’ll end by coming up with next steps you can take to either continue your thinking, determine your exit strategy, or refocus on your studies, whatever’s right for you.

Date: Wednesday, 14 December 2016
Time: 1pm – 2:30pm ET
Cost: CA $20 (+ applicable tax) / approx US $15 per participant, paid via PayPal
Location: Online, via Zoom (I’ll provide you with a link)




Anyone is welcome to join us, and you can do so anonymously/silently if you prefer. Only I will know your contact details, and I won’t tell anyone.

This will be a live-only event — the idea is for us to gather together in a safe space for an open discussion with me and each other. This is also a test for me,  and I’ve priced it accordingly — I’ve not done something quite like this in the past. We’ll see how it goes.




Transition Q & A: Maura Elizabeth Cunningham

The newest Q & A is with a history PhD turned writing and social media manager for a scholarly association. Maura knew when she entered her program that she wanted to work as a historian, but not as a professor. So she did things during her degree to set herself up for the career she wanted:

What did you hope for in terms of employment as you completed your PhD?

I was a little bit unusual, in that I knew even before I applied to PhD programs that I didn’t plan to end up on the tenure track. I wanted to be a historian and writer; I didn’t, however, want to spend my career in the classroom. I chose the program at UC Irvine because the professors I talked with there — especially my advisor, Jeff Wasserstrom — understood this from the beginning and did everything they could to help me build up my alt-ac resume while also hitting the regular benchmarks expected of any PhD student.

Read the full post on my University Affairs blog.