Permanently ABD

It is no secret that I ❤️ The Professor Is In. She is the Bee’s Knees. (See what I did there? Because I also heart puns? And Bees? Okay, I’ll show myself out now…) I read just about everything she puts out there.

Her most recent column: “A Few Good Reasons to Switch Graduate Programs” in The Chronicle of Higher Education only touched upon the question of “should I quit my PhD program?” but having been there – and done it – that one little aside gave me a lot to think about.

I quit for a whole host of reasons, none of which are uncommon.

First, I went into my PhD program largely because I didn’t know what else to do. I had a Master’s, and I loved higher ed, I loved learning, so why not? And my thinking was that a Master’s was better than a Bachelors when it came to competing for jobs, so obviously having a terminal degree would help me edge out even more competitors. So in large part, I exited my program with just as much “meh” as I had started with.

Except I had more cynicism.

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Flipping the Script: An Appreciative Inquiry-Based Approach to Career Planning

There are some interesting intersections in my (day job) as a Professional Development Manager and my career coaching. At work today, I was talking about appreciative inquiry theory. This is an approach to organizational and personal development in which we focus on strengths, possibilities, and a future-oriented vision. As you can imagine, it’s far more inspirational and motivating than focusing on problems, weaknesses, and gaps. And it made me think about how powerful that kind of approach could be for career planning, too.

If you think about where you want to get to, rather than how stuck – or miserable – you may currently be, then career planning can become more powerful. Thinking this way helps you think of and build a vision for your own future. And sometimes is what we all need – especially when they are mired in a job or career that stinks. What if you used your happy hour to think about where you could get to, rather than commiserate about how broken it is now?

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On Grad School & Mental Health

In the not-at-all-news for anyone in grad school category, here’s a fresh take: “Graduate School Can Have Terrible Effects on People’s Mental Health.” 

Intense work expectations? Check.

Lack of sleep and social life? Sure. But isn’t that the charm? 

Little pay? Yup. When I was making $10k a year as a graduate assistant (in 2003), my dad once said: “I know you aren’t making much money. When I was getting my Ph.D., I was only getting paid $9,000 a year!” Reality check, Dad: that was 1971. When strawberries were 29 cents a pound. (Yes, I looked it up).  

And when Ph.D. students weren’t saddled with the student loans of today.

Why wouldn’t grad students be plagued with anxiety and depression? 

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Beware Career Guidance that Doesn’t Suit You

I was talking with ranting to my husband last night about this recent report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce: Women Can’t Win: Despite Making Educational Gains and Pursuing High-Wage Majors, Women Still Earn Less than Men.

It is absolutely maddening that women with advanced degrees continue to earn less than men with only a Bachelor’s degree, particularly since women outnumber men in many fields. The report points out a number of factors at play, most of which I’m betting you can guess. Women are concentrated in lower-paying fields, such as teaching. But women who pursue higher-paying professions (e.g., engineering) are more likely than men to go into lower-paying areas within those professions (e.g., environmental engineering as opposed to petroleum engineering).

There’s this incredibly depressing finding from the report:

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