Although I have not finished my dissertation, I began a full-time job a little over a month ago. I know that this is a dangerous move and that many people who leave school before completing their dissertation never complete it. I also know that even in the best circumstances this will delay my progress. This is a move motivated by the reality of five years of graduate student pay and loans, however, not by academic concerns.
So far this is working out well. For over a year, I was stalled and made no progress at all. I was paralyzed by indecision and fear and always eager to find other interesting and worthwhile projects. I was also very good at dodging or redirecting questions from friends and colleagues. But I knew that I wouldn’t be able to dodge questions from potential employers so I had to buckle down and get back on task – I didn’t have a choice. Backing myself into a corner seems to have been the right choice as it forced me into action.
As I entered the job market, I began writing again so I could honestly tell interviewers that I was making substantive progress. Even then I wasn’t writing as much and as often as I should have been doing. Once I had a job offer, however, I knew that my days as a full-time student with lots of discretionary time were quickly coming to an end. I finally got off of my ass and wrote with the effort and work ethic that I should have employed a year ago so I could finish my first three chapters and submit them to my chair. I knew that for about two months I wouldn’t have any time to devote to my dissertation so I did as much as I could before moving and starting a new job. I finished new drafts of my chapters and submitted them to my chair the day before I began packing up and moving to Delaware. It was a huge relief to have made substantial progress so I could move with a clear conscience and start a new job without this looming over me.
As I have settled into my new job, I have learned that I have been extraordinarily lucky by landing a job where my supervisor, director, and colleagues are extremely supportive of me completing this terminal degree When I was offered this job, I wanted to negotiate a pay raise dependent on completion of my dissertation to incentivize it. That wasn’t possible as my supervisor negotiated the highest pay she could get for me regardless of my doctorate or lack thereof. But my supervisor wants me to finish my doctorate for my own benefit; when we discussed my goals for the year, she asked me to place this at the top of the list. Today, she asked if I would like to carve some time out of my work schedule to work on my dissertation on a regular basis as a form of professional development. I couldn’t ask for more and I now feel a responsibility to justify the support I have been given.
I was also very fortunate in that one of my faculty members reached out to me to offer advice about completing the dissertation while working full-time but I will post that advice in a separate post because it may be more interesting to a larger audience than news about my personal journey.