Let’s say that you have spent almost 20 years of your life learning and reading and writing and now it is about time to finally be on your own, outside the university gates. Your parents are proud of you, your neighbors and friends are envious of your achievements, even though you might have no idea what you want to say in your Ph.D. paper and know even less about how the Ph.D. graduate succeeds at buying his or her clothing and daily food. On various occasions, I am asked what the medical domain is that I am covering as long as I am a doctor. Then, I should answer embarrassed that I am not ‘that kind of doctor’ and that my doctoral knowledge won’t save any life at all.
You can consider yourself happy and proud of your work, but the hurry to enter the real world will diminish the enthusiasm a bit. This could be only the beginning of the new journey into a world where regardless of your impressive knowledge, you will need to pay bills, manage your online bank account and download your books ordered on the Internet onto your Kindle.
Very often, the financial pressure – mostly when you need to pay your loans – is what drives many Ph.D.s to go in the world of working at an age when you do not have much time to acquire new skills at the same pace as when you are 20 or 25. The expectations of the market are high, and if you want to have at least a survival salary you should get ready for disappointments.
Any highly educated graduate uses a computer regularly and even has a basic knowledge of social networks, but being able to use various Microsoft Word applications and editing software will help to improve the skills of a Ph.D. candidate for an editorial job, for instance. Learning how to write academic prose might be part of the basic schedule of any university, but it is more than desirable to cope with various writing styles and concision. It is true that a rich vocabulary denotes a high IQ, but it is not always the case to use long and complicated sentences when you are requested to write a grant application, a book, or an application for a scholarship.
Last but not least, a Ph.D. should have her own social network with people with whom she doesn’t necessarily need to share a discussion about phenomenology, but should, instead, be able to get some ideas about how the world outside the university looks, and to understand the basics of social, economic and political life.
I am convinced that I am exaggerating to a certain extent and there are more and more Ph.D. graduates have a deep knowledge of social life, despite the high level of specialization of their studies. What is important, in my opinion, is that both worlds meet and exchange experiences. It is never enough to read books and publish regularly, but it is even more relevant to be able to share your experiences and knowledge and make change happen. I apologize for not being able to save lives, but at least I hope that my knowledge could help add a drop of better understanding.
This post was also published in Inside Higher Ed