7 January 2017
We have asked our Researching Security fellows to reflect on what it is like to do a PhD in the field of security, organised crime and violence, including what impact it has on their private life and what they would do differently looking back. Read this interview for a very personal view – one you won’t find in a student handbook.
Part 3: Life after the PhD
Some of you have finished the PhD already. What has been your trajectory since you finished the PhD?
Jenna Muray de López: In my personal life – learning to be with my family again and rediscovering weekends! I was lucky to already have an academic post and be familiar with the strange world that is academia. The most useful thing I have done, which also helped me secure a new post, was devise an achievable five year research agenda and two year publishing plan from my thesis – giving myself a new direction to go in when the focus has been ‘finish the PhD’ for such a long time.
Susan Hoppert-Flaemig: I have had my viva about two months ago and am currently trying to turn my research into publishable articles. So I am still at the very beginning of my post-PhD life. I would like to keep working as an academic but I am well aware of the huge challenges of pursuing an academic career.
Jorrit Kamminga: After finishing the PhD, I was unemployed for about half a year, but then I started working for Oxfam within their international Rights in Crisis campaign which also focuses on conflict and post conflict countries. A few months later, I was also asked to work as a consultant for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on the research and writing of a big chapter on alternative livelihoods for farmers of drug-producing plants for their World Drug Report 2015. That was a very rewarding experience as the topic was directly in line with my PhD research.
Verena Brähler: All in all, life after the PhD is so much easier, both personally and professionally. I am working as the Head of Research at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the national equality body and human rights institution for Great Britain. I manage a suit of research projects, have responsibility for budgets and risks and a duty of care towards the people in my team but I am finding it much easier than doing a PhD.
Looking back, what is the most important thing you learned that helps you in your career today?
Susan Hoppert-Flaemig: You need a lot of stamina and tenacity to do a PhD! I hope these qualities will help me during the job search.
Jenna Muray de López: Resilience and owning your ideas – they are no better or worse than anyone else’s.
Verena Brähler: Wherever I work, and for whoever I work, I want to be clear on what we are trying to achieve and why and how. Life is too short to waste people’s time and do work that has no impact. Therefore I think the PhD has raised the bar in terms of what I expect from my work environment and those around me.
What would you do differently?
Jenna Muray de López: Keep writing more during fieldwork. I became so immersed in data collection that I forgot how to think about writing large pieces.
Susan Hoppert-Flaemig: I wish it had taken me less time to write the thesis. Having a clearer idea about my research goals at the very beginning of the whole PhD process would have helped speeding it up.
Verena Brähler: I would use more project management skills to plan out my PhD from start to finish, with deliverables and milestones, and always being clear what is coming on the horizon. Sometimes I was writing on a chapter for months and never thought clearly about what would come after that, and then after that.
Jorrit Kamminga: I would try to keep the scope of my research as limited as possible. I thought I already had narrowed the topic down considerably, but the next time I would definitely focus even more. I think that will make the research not only more manageable but in most cases also better.
Read the full interview here.