The One Piece Of PhD Advice I Want To Give You…

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I am now in the final year of my PhD.

Wait, let me rephrase that…

I am now in the final months of my PhD (yes, it’s a little bit scary).

I’ve been approximately 3.5 years at it and it’s a long road full of ups and downs.

PhDs are hard, everyone knows that. There are lot of good resources out there on PhD life tips and tricks and so I am going to focus on the most personal piece of advice I could give. And I’ll go straight to the point…

Say yes in moderation.

“Wait, what? That’s your advice?”

Yep, that’s my advice. Terribly simple, right?

One of the best things about doing a PhD is that, if you’re open to it, it will bring you amazing opportunities. It is a fantastic way to try new things, meet new people and really work on those transferrable skills.

There are teaching opportunities.

Science communication contests and chances to talk about your work over a pint.

Biotech entrepreneurship competitions.

Conferences to attend and present at.

Societies to champion.

And so much more…

Also, remember that a PhD is not just about doing a piece of awesome research and writing a thesis. Your development as a researcher involves a lot more than that and you need to take on extra work in order to become a well-rounded scientist (see RDF framework below).

Via Vitae. More info on the researcher’s development framework here.

I’ve said yes a lot during my time as a PhD student. Maybe a little bit too much. And that’s where my advice comes in… You should say yes to great opportunities coming your way, but do think about the potential sacrifices you may have to make when you take on extra responsibilities.

PhDs are stressful. If you haven’t felt that stress yet, be sure to know it will come at some point. And having a lot of extra activities on your plate will only add to that feeling of overwhelm.

Prioritise. Schedule your time accordingly. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Make time for things that you enjoy (and if that involves taking on some public engagement volunteering in your free time, then absolutely do it).

But do make sure your actual PhD work is your top priority.

In short, say yes to great opportunities but understand that you’ll have to decline others that could be just as great.

How about you, what is your top piece of advice for PhD students?

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