One of the things I have appreciated about being on twitter (username @JackieKirkham) is that I have enjoyed and appreciated coming across people in a similar position with whom I can share experiences and (hopefully) pass on a bit of wisdom gained along the way, via the #phdchat hashtag in particular. I am especially appreciating that I am not the only person post-PhD and pre-first postdoc/lectureship/other academic post who is experiencing this ‘in-between’, limbo period as a rather odd one. It is really easy, from the beginning of the PhD, to feel quite isolated – you are the only one looking at your precise topic, so even if you are fortunate enough to have colleagues in a similar position or be part of a larger research group, your particular bit of the research jigsaw is entirely down to you. Having said that, one of the things I particularly appreciated when doing my PhD was the wisdom and tall tales of colleagues in my department who were a year or two before me – their tales of rescuing triumph from the jaws of fieldwork disaster gave me a lot of hope as I prepared for fieldwork myself, and I have enjoyed sharing my own shaggy dog stories from fieldwork with colleagues a year or so after me.The post-PhD period seems to be an extension of this isolation, which is why I am delighted to have discovered a number of useful resources and people which are currently acting in a similar way to my more experienced PhD colleagues a few years ago. Dr Anna Tarrant wrote about this very topic of the post-PhD identity a couple of weeks ago, as has the very helpful Early Career Researcher blog at Warwick University in this post by Hannah Andrews (I particularly appreciated the Venn Diagram, which summed up the between-rock-and-hard-place experience perfectly!). As a result of conversations on twitter with Anna (@dratarrant) and Dr Sarah-Louise Quinnell (@sarahthesheepu) of Kings College London, we* have developed a wiki precisely to serve those of us in a similar position. It can be found here and will hopefully become a useful forum for sharing advice, support, and encouragement. We are also using the hashtag #phdpostdoc on twitter, and hope that it will become as supportive and wellused as #phdchat has done.
On the wiki I have listed my goals for 2012. These are quite ambitious (although as I note there, they are still more realistic than my perennial losing weight goals), but I hope still achievable. As noted in my ‘About me’ page, I am hopeful that soon I will be able to substantially reduce my clinical practice hours so that I can concentrate firstly on my Open University teaching but also free up a lot of time to write. So my aims are to have written at least four journal articles in 2012, secure a permanent academic position, present an academic conference paper and look into applying for funding for future research. Some of these are more certain than others – reducing the clinical practice should give me a good 2 days a week to focus on writing, and I have already submitted a paper proposal for a conference in the summer (I will hear in February whether it has been accepted; whether or not it is I have the outline of the paper and for turning it into a more substantial journal article). The other two are of course less certain; however as they say ‘you have to be in it to win it’, so I will continue to apply for jobs and funding and learn and gain from the experience and hopefully reach those goals too ultimately. I had an interview recently and whilst not appointed to the job got very positive feedback and the opportunity for some possible further contact with the department, and am aware that this is significant progress from interviews I had a year ago, so I am hopeful and more confident that I will continue to make positive progress in 2012.
So here is to a successful 2012 for all of us, and the hope that we are all able to find a way along that bridge from PhD to postdoc.
* credit where it is due, Sarah did the techy bits and had the original idea. I just made the appropriately encouraging noises.