Successful but unhappy academic: what is wrong with you?

I get it: you are smart. You got a PhD. You landed a tenure track position or even tenure — although you suspect that was due to luck more than intellectual merit. Anyway, from the outside your life look perfectly successful. You have a wonderful partner, your children are doing great, and your academic career is well underway towards professorship. How come your life does not feel so fabulous on the inside? Why do you feel so lonely? Why do you feel different and not understood?  Read more

3 myths about leaving the academy

Many academics worry whether they ‘have it in them’ to succeed in academia. Consider Alise. Five years ago she completed her PhD. Her supervisor and colleagues in the field where enthusiastic about her talent for research and the chapters of her thesis have all been published in well-ranked journals.

Alise felt confident and gladly accepted a postdoc abroad. This turned out to be a jumping board for a tenure track position closer to home. She has now been working there for several years, but her confidence and enthusiasm are waning.  Read more

Transitioning into a career after your Humanities PhD – Or how to create an Alt-Ac Philosophical Company

“What are you going to do with your degree in philosophy?” Every philosophy student sooner or later hears this cliché question. And it is not unfamiliar in other fields from Humanities and fundamental sciences. The stakes are even higher after a PhD in said disciplines. Your slim chances at work appear narrowed down to the academic job market. But statistics are compelling: more than 75% of recent PhD holders do not find academic employment. Go figure.

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Why academics need to laze around

Let’s face it. As exciting as science can be, sometimes it is just tedious, boring, taxing. When you are plodding through your data, drudging over a pile of exams, or pegging away at your PhD, it is difficult to feel that enthusiastic flow. You are working hard, draining your energy, feeling low. Naturally, you do not want to be in that space of negative energy. So you look for an escape. Read more

How to take charge of your hypercritical brain

Laura sits down at her kitchen table. A welcome quiet evening between days filled with parties with family and friends over the holidays. New Year’s Eve: a traditional time of year to look back at the past year and formulate resolutions for the new year. Laura knows the power of being mindful of your successes. She is proud that she submitted her PhD thesis manuscript last year and got approval for it.

As she starts to look to the year ahead, her positive thoughts fade quickly. Read more

How to stop working hard when I have to revise a paper urgently?

“Since my holiday I have been at work again for a couple of days. I notice that I start to work really hard when I have to do stuff that I find annoying. Chores like writing the final report for NWO, or revising a manuscript. I know I have to do it, and I have a deadline. Automatically I stop working soft, because if I work hard the chore will be done sooner. But with the way I am currently tackling these chores, afterwards I am exhausted and have a headache. How can I stop working hard in such situations?”

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What nobody tells you about being a good academic

A little apprehensively he approaches me as I am getting my coat after a workshop on Working Soft in research. Quietly he asks: “How do I improve my focus and manage my stress? Call me Chris. I work in this open office space with 12 fellow PhDs and Postdocs. When I read, write, or analyze data at my computer people often interrupt me. I like to help my colleagues out, but I also need to finish…”

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How to start working softly in science in 4 steps

With a harassed look Mireille stows some papers in her bag that she is going to grade tonight. A smile fleets across her face: “Did I tell you I am pregnant?” She has just started a temporary teaching position, where she is to do a big introductory course and a somewhat smaller advanced bachelor intensive. She is also planning to write her NWO VENI grant application in the same period, hoping she can create a job following her maternity leave. How can she keep calm and preserve the mental space she needs for developing her new proposal?

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12 ways to look at your PhD

You might say that, basically, a PhD is a novel, in depth study of a specific field where the results are written up as a report or book in a series of chapters outlining the literature base, methodology, results and conclusions drawn from your work. You will have one primary supervisor and often a secondary one who will guide you through the process. In reality much of work in a PhD is independent and differs markedly from MSc and BSc teaching degrees.

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