Thinking of doing a PhD?

For some, doing a PhD is because it is a ‘nice to have’ qualification or is imposed on them through their work context, rather that being something they have always aspired to do. However, I have found that those that actually complete a PhD (which is a four-year full time process; much longer for part-timers!) do so because they really WANT it and make/find the time to finish it by incorporating it as part of their lives (living, breathing, working it). For myself, when I completed my MSc by research many moons ago, the ‘bug’ for academic reading, scrutiny, reflection, research and discussion was initiated. It was tough, it was isolating and lonely, but it was rewarding and invigorating: exploring a topic from a particular perspective (or perspectives) in order to further the existing knowledge in that area was/is self-actualising.

It was several years after my MSc that I had the opportunity of returning to academia, after an interlude in the private sector. I completed my PhD (which is Doctor of Philosophy by the way) in Management at Lancaster University (England) as a part-time, away student. This meant I was not physically located on campus, but very isolated in working with my supervisors (I had 2 supervisors) via skype and email and occasional meetings, as well as regular visits to Lancaster University for and in preparation of annual panel review presentations and discussions. Perseverance and self-discipline were required to ensure I worked on the PhD while also working full time as a lecturer. To add further pressure, I moved country during the course of my PhD journey and had two maternity and parental leaves (beat that!). The point I am fundamentally making is that the PhD journey is a very personal and individual journey and you need to really WANT a PhD to see it through to completion. 

Setting out on and during the PhD journey, one is faced with self-doubt (‘Can I do this?’ ‘What am I doing?’ ‘Is it relevant?’ ’Is it interesting?’ ‘Does it make a contribution?’, etc), performance pressures (annual reviews of work done), financial pressures (the ‘eternal student’ labelling from friends and family), time pressures (‘when will you be finished?’) etc.). This is normal. However, on the plus side, it is an academic journey of revelation, of opening your mind to different perspectives and lenses through which to analyse the world, which is addictive. It is what makes an academic. It is what promotes the love of learning and life-long learning.

Now as a PhD supervisor, I enjoy sharing my PhD journey with my students and guiding them on their PhD path. Note that undertaking a PhD results in YOU being the expert in your chosen area, not your supervisor. So the supervisor-supervisee relationship changes during the course of the PhD journey from advisor to reviewer to facilitator and administrator. At the end of the journey, it is the PhD student that informs the supervisor in the particular research domain. As a supervisor I find this the most rewarding part of the supervisory relationship – learning from my students and being enthused by their enthusiasm for their research.

I am a lecturer, researcher and PhD supervisor in the School of Business at National University of Ireland Maynooth. My current research interests are in international human resource management, self initiated expatriation, skilled migration, gender, work-life integration, careers and identity.