Checklist for After

I’m trying something a little different for a few posts this week. Each post is a checklist of things to do for a different part of the viva process. I started a few days ago with a Checklist for Submission, a Checklist for Viva Prep and yesterday’s Checklist for the Viva. Today we conclude the series with a Checklist for After!

It’s over!

How was it? How do you feel? You might be feeling a bit dazed, a bit tired, a bit hyped or maybe even a bit nonplussed by the viva. Quick checklist for you:

  • I’ve passed!
  • I’m going to do something to celebrate this fantastic achievement!
  • I’ve sketched out a plan to complete the corrections my examiners have given me.
  • I’ve passed!

What’s likely after the viva is you have passed, but you have a little more work to do. Celebrate, but get the work done as soon as possible. You might need to revisit this checklist a few times before it sinks in.

The viva is done. Tick it off your life checklist.

Now, what’s next?

Future Focus

It can be hard to look past the end of the PhD.

Try to imagine graduating. Picture crossing the stage at graduation, if it helps. Picture shaking the hand of someone distinguished. It’s a symbol that says you did it. That moment is months away perhaps, maybe longer, but it’s out there.

You’ll get there.

Imagine future opportunities (some you could be working towards now, even before you submit or have your viva). A job, a business, a series of projects or maybe even just a long-awaited break.

You’ll get there.

You just have to keep doing the work now.

A focus on the future can help make the present more hopeful. If you’re feeling stuck, if you’re unsure, if you’re bored, or even happy but only thinking about the viva or getting your thesis, then think about the future.

Think, I’ll get there; so what do I do now?

Terms & Conditions Apply

A pass in the viva is not typically no strings attached. Most candidates have to complete some kind of corrections. These can mean different requirements at different institutions.

You can’t know what corrections you might get in advance, but you can find out what conditions they’ll have to be done under. How long is given to complete them? Who do you have to get approval from? When corrections are complete, how long do you have in order to get your final, complete thesis submitted? How long from then until you’ll have graduated?

Find out now.

The Knock On The Door Of Room 524

After my viva I waited in my office for seventeen minutes for the result.

  1. Thirsty. Drink some water.
  2. Hungry. Chocolate! …mmm…
  3. Dazed. Wh-…?!
  4. Puzzled. How has it been four hours?
  5. Tired. Why did I have insomnia last night?
  6. Anxious. What did they think?
  7. Self-critical. Why did I not spend more time on…?
  8. Curious. It’s two in the afternoon, where is everyone?
  9. Confident. I did well, it’s a pass!
  10. Confident………? …….it is a pass, right?
  11. Lonely. It’d be nice to have someone to talk to.
  12. Perplexed. Seriously, how was that four hours?
  13. Exhausted. Three hours of sleep, four hours in the viva…
  14. Confident. (…I think…)
  15. Hungry. …but I should wait until after they call me back.
  16. Shattered. Do I have to celebrate today?
  17. Poised. How much longer until they come and get-KNOCK KNOCK

Those seventeen minutes felt longer than the four hours. And then it was over.

Not The End

One way to look at the viva is that it’s the end of the PhD. The finish line. The finale. You’ll probably have corrections to do, but in your mind, this is it, the end.

Except… It’s not. Not by a long stretch. Whether it’s been three, four or seven years, all that time has been when you were doing a PhD. The viva is the start of having a PhD.

Being a PhD.

Something to remember.

Party Time

After my viva I felt like I was celebrating because that’s what I was supposed to do. My family was thrilled for me, but I just didn’t want to celebrate that evening. My viva wasn’t bad, but by the end I was tired, numb. I didn’t begin to feel like celebrating until days later.

How do you think you might feel after your viva?

Do you think you’ll be saying, “Phew! I’m glad that’s done!”?

Will you frame celebrations as “This is a treat for finishing!”?

Or will you be thinking, “Now what?” – which is pretty much what was going through my mind after the viva.

As with many things, if you can reflect a little on how you feel now, you might be able to steer your motivations. If you’re thinking, “I’ll be glad when this is over,” you’re not likely to have a positive spin on things. Maybe you’re not in charge of your emotional state completely, but you can steer things.

However you feel, remember to celebrate. Passing the viva is big.

Time Flies

15th September 2017 marked nine years since I became self-employed. My PhD was all done and dusted, and after a few weeks thinking about the future and what to do, that was the day that I had my first meeting with a client.

In the blink of an eye, almost a decade has passed. My PhD was an important part of my life and continues to be an important part of my life, but I’m more proud of all of the other things I’ve done since then. All of the things I’ve written, the workshops I’ve delivered, the people I’ve helped – they’re worth more to me than my PhD is, but at the same time I wouldn’t have had these opportunities if it hadn’t done my PhD.

Be grateful for your PhD, but it will end at some point, and you’ll go on to other things. Before you know it, years and years will pass, you’ll accomplish more and better. Your PhD can’t be the apex of your life. I wasn’t stressed out too much by my viva, but it did seem like it was the most important thing in my life. I wasn’t thinking about the future. If I had, maybe I could have put things into perspective.

Per scientiam ad meliora

A Few Words on Corrections

By submission your research has to be good. You don’t get to that point by luck or by doing only bad work. But is your thesis perfect? Is it impervious to criticism? Probably not. Your examiners might have some notes for you, or even suggestions for changes.

How would you feel about that?

Are you going to be happy if they tell you, “You should change this…”?

Will you feel alright if someone thinks you’ve made a mistake?

Remember, your examiners suggest corrections to make your thesis better. It’s not about you. It’s about the work.

Feedback & Corrections

I was six and had painted my dad. A circle with a crude face, rectangle body, chunky arms and oval legs. I showed it to the teacher, Mrs M., and all she said was, “Does your father have a green face?” Again, I was six: the response crushed me.

It was my first dose of feedback. I remember it thirty years later! Also, thankfully, I have thirty years more life experience. However it’s given, however it is meant, we can choose how we take feedback. Mrs M.’s comment was about the painting, not me. She may have thought I was a bad artist, but she didn’t think I was a bad human.

Doing a PhD, you must have done something to get to the viva. Your research is most likely great. Your examiners may not think all of your thesis is good though. They may have comments. They may have questions. They may say, “I’d have liked to see more of this…” or “You need to change that…” It can hurt to hear it. I was not immediately happy with some of my corrections.

Corrections are feedback. You can either make them about you or about the work. You can think, “Ugh, why do I have to do this?” or you can approach them thinking, “How can I make my thesis as good as it can be?”

It’s you or the work.