With just over 5 months before my deadline for PhD thesis submission I have been taking stock of the last few years and thinking about my next career steps. I’ve learnt a lot about science including an array of experimental techniques, but perhaps more importantly I’ve also learnt a whole bunch of transferable skills and discovered some things about myself too.
Here are a few of the things my PhD has helped me realise:
1. I can give talks in front of an audience.
When I was at school the idea of standing up in front of a room full of people and saying anything filled me with terror. Even as an undergraduate I avoided public speaking wherever possible. However, as a PhD student there is no escaping giving talks as it is such an important aspect of communicating science both to scientists and the general public. A presentation skills course in my first year of my PhD and generally being well prepared for talks have really helped and after a while I think I have just got used to it. Now I can even enjoy it!
2. I can multitask pretty well providing:
- The tasks go more or less to plan
- I don’t have to go to a seminar I’d forgotten about.
- I don’t get too absorbed in a particular task and forget the others (sometimes things can be too interesting!)
- I am familiar with most of the planned tasks (it is trickier to multitask when you don’t know how long things will take).
3. I can write and I enjoy doing so!
I’ve never been very confident in my writing skills and I found essay writing in exams quite difficult. Having left written exams behind me (I hope!) I have been pleasantly surprised at how much I have enjoyed writing during my PhD. Setting up a blog a few months ago has also really helped as I am now in the habit of writing regularly (something I’m hoping will help me out with thesis writing!)
4. After a “bad” day in the lab going home and baking cakes or knitting is a good way to unwind.
One of the more frustrating aspects of science research for me is that you can put a lot of time and effort into an experiment that then doesn’t work. After a bad day of experiments that have yielded no results I find a good way to cheer myself up is to go home and do a relaxing activity that involves making something. That way I can say to myself “Yes, OK all my experiments went wrong today, but at least I have made a tasty cake!”
5. I am better at time management
Having more or less complete control over my time has been good for developing my time management skills. I am more aware of when is the best/worst time in the day for me to work on various tasks and so I can plan my time accordingly. For example I am a “morning person” and so any tasks that involve a lot of concentration such as microinjection of root hair cells or writing tasks are best attempted in the morning. Early afternoon is a good time to do something more active e.g. lab work or visiting the glasshouses and in the late afternoon I generally have another “burst” of mental productivity so that’s not a bad time to write or do more challenging lab tasks either.
Whatever career I pursue after my PhD I think these things will be very useful to me!