One of the main sources of anxiety for PhD students is the sacralization of the PhD (see the previous post on PhD mental health) and I think that de-sacralizing your PhD would be beneficial for your mental health (it did for me).
PhDs are deeply afraid of the future, as providing a “bad” PhD will lead to a very very small chance, up to no chance, to obtain a job afterwards (publish or perish).
The problem is that the number of PhD delivered increased exponentially in the last decades but the money doesn’t keep up, ending with very few tenure jobs available. Meaning, that a tiny percent of PhDs will end up with a tenured job in academia.
One misconception of PhDs is that is can only lead to jobs in academia and that it’s the ultimate goal. It’s often is the case for many PhDs but as said before: tiny tiny chance. So, PhDs will add an extra layer of anxiety and stress as they need the best PhD possible with as many papers as possible. But it’s not that easy to perform in 3-5 years (we will talk about that in a future article “why science take so long”).
I had the same vision because I am a science passionate and thought that doing science was only done in academia and couldn’t see myself, not doing science. But I also knew that I won’t be a part of the small % and the vision of myself without job security at 40 didn’t really bring me joy.
So, I started to google “what to do after a PhD”, “Jobs requiring a PhD” and so one. And actually, you can do plenty of jobs with a PhD! You just have to learn to keep an open mind.
A good way, is to look at what gives you joy in your job: is that reading literature? Is that leading a project? Is that teaching your student? Is that writing protocols? Is that speaking in public? Is that exchanging with a collaborator? Is that taking care of animals?...
Really dissect what you like and don’t like and see which job you actually could see yourself doing outside of academia.
You may end up being one of the small % but when you have, a B plan and even a C plan, it lifts so much the anxiety that you can actually focus on your work.
See the PhD not like a dead-or-life matter but instead as first job experience and a way to learn a lot about yourself and it will help you in the future.
In another article, we will talk about transferable skill, because yes, maybe what you do in your PhD isn't really attractive to non-academic's job, but you did improve skill during your PhD that will highly interest the industry and other jobs you might want to pursue in. YOU HAVE GREAT SKILLS!