Surviving the Post-Dissertation Slump


July 7, 2015

PostDocSlump

“Post-dissertation stress disorder” and “post-dissertation depression” are real things. A friend introduced those terms to me when I was trying to find an explanation for my lack of productivity after finishing my Ph.D. Turns out, I wasn’t alone in experiencing a slump. As one blogger wrote of post-dissertation life: “If you are work- and project-driven, the adjustment takes time.” People who successfully complete dissertations are a disciplined cross section of the population. We are capable of working independently, sticking to self-imposed deadlines, and focusing on the big picture. We may have thrown ourselves into the study of best writing practices, kept a strict schedule, formed writing accountability groups, and workshopped parts of our dissertation during the process. We are not people who have trouble staying on task and self-motivating.

So when the blues hit – when well-meaning refrains of “Congratulations, Doctor!” result in a cringe rather than a smile – what is going on? As newly minted Ph.D.s know, we’re not supposed to be any less driven simply because we’ve graduated. If anything, the hustle is supposed to begin anew. But as one tenured professor said to me: “These days very few students can hope to line up [an academic] job while A.B.D.” See more at Vitae.  Photo: The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

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