Skeletons

Let’s make some assumptions about your PhD:

  • you didn’t plagiarise;
  • you didn’t falsify results;
  • you didn’t try to misrepresent anything in your work.

All fair? Then there can’t really be any skeletons in your research closet. Maybe there are realisations you feel you “should” have had sooner. Maybe there are questions or ideas that you groan at having considered. None of these are shameful secrets though. You might not feel like telling everyone about them, but they don’t disqualify you.

Fundamental question about your PhD: were you honest? Yes?

Good. Then everything else helped you learn. Your mistakes have helped you grow to be the talented researcher you most definitely are.

Origin Stories

Superheroes all have origin stories: the that show why they are the way they are. Some parts show their beginnings, or how they got their powers. Some chapters show why they’re driven to do what they do, but taken together this tells a story that defines who they are.

But origin stories change over time for superheroes. Times change, memories fade, new audiences come. Stories are remade, taken apart, cleaned and ideas added. Things are tweaked or re-emphasised in how they’re told.

So, PhD Superhero: what’s your story? How did you get to where you are now? What are the pivotal events that give you your powers and drive?

And do you need to revise your origin story? Is there a better story you can tell yourself about how you got those superpowers and how you got this far?

The Longcut

I like this term. The longcut is the anti-shortcut. The longcut doesn’t cut corners or take chances with success. It’s slow, patient and persistent.

You didn’t take shortcuts with your research. You didn’t take shortcuts with writing your thesis. When you come to get ready for the viva, you don’t want to take shortcuts, you want longcuts. You want to do good work that will help you be certain of being ready.

Don’t skim your thesis the day before. Don’t rely on the bare minimum. Don’t just think about what might happen.

If you’re busy, still make time. Think about what will make a difference, make a plan and do work to get yourself ready for success.

Take the longcut.

Prologue

People sometimes think of The Hobbit as just the prologue to The Lord Of The Rings.

The story of The Hobbit is barely a footnote in the first Lord Of The Rings movie. They take a few seconds to say “Bilbo found a magic ring” – but there’s so much more to it than that! Dwarves and trolls and fantastic expeditions, elves and a dragon and incredible heroism…

The Hobbit is an epic adventure. It’s not only so Bilbo can find the One Ring.

…we now cut from Nathan’s Book & Movie Review Corner, back to the Viva Survivors blog…

I think candidates sometimes forget that the time spent doing the PhD is not just the prologue. And your thesis is for more than passing the viva. It isn’t just there to please your examiners and pass an exam. It stands as a separate, lasting contribution. It means something.

The ways you change, the things you learn, the things you can do by the end – it’s epic, not just the prologue.

I love The Hobbit, but The Lord Of The Rings is the grander story. Your life after the PhD probably will be too.