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It’s official. I’m Dr. Erika Romero. Erika Romero, PhD. So exciting!! It’s been a hard 7 years as a PhD student, and I’ve learned a lot about myself during this time. In today’s blog post, I’m discussing 7 mistakes I made during my time as a PhD student and candidate. So if you’re a new PhD student or are in the early candidate stage, I recommend giving this post a read and learning from my mistakes. [Here’s my video about my 7 best decisions.]
Video Version: 7 PhD Student Mistakes I Made
No Annotated Bibliography
I read so many articles, book chapters, and books during my coursework. Many of these texts proved useful for my dissertation, though I didn’t know that would be the case at the time I was taking these classes. So, I had to search all my course files to find those articles, books, etc. that I vaguely remembered. Luckily I have very organized files, but it would have been helpful to have an annotated bibliography that I could reference to remind me of exactly what I could find in those old readings. Looking back, creating a running google doc would have been super helpful down the line.
Procrastination, Perfectionism, & Imposter Syndrome
Mindset is everything. Unfortunately, procrastination, perfectionism, and imposter syndrome were my unwanted best friends during my PhD years. I put off so much work, worried that what I was writing wasn’t good enough for my professors or journal reviewers and editors. I took much longer than anticipated to finish my PhD because I procrastinated so much, trying to make every draft
“perfect” before turning it in. I perpetually felt that I didn’t have enough research, that my analysis wasn’t innovative enough, that I was overlooking something important.
STOP THE NEGATIVE THINKING!
Turn in the imperfect draft. Stop falling into unhelpful research rabbit holes. We are worthy of earning our degrees.
During coursework, you’re often around new classmates/colleagues, aka new friends. After coursework, you might only be on campus to teach, do your research, and host your office hours. This transition is a slipper slope into isolation. Don’t fall into this trap! Host or attend game nights. Have a monthly movie night. Do potlucks. Make sure you are keeping close ties to your PhD friends. They can be such an amazing support system, but I definitely let my introverted nature get the best of me.
Side Note: I’m working on community building right now via the Twitter account, @YTAcademics. Today’s video is a collaboration with the other amazing academics who co-create that account with me. We each share our top teaching tips. Check it out!
No Accountability Group
I started attending accountability group meetings more consistently while finishing my dissertation edits. Wow, I should have done this much much earlier! I could have cut down my time commitment by a year or more had I joined and stayed consistent with a group or partner much earlier on. Accountability is so important and finding or starting an accountability group is very simple. I used Meetup to find my current group, but your university or department probably already has some options. Or, create a small group from a larger academia-themed Facebook group.
Not Prepping for a Wider Job Market
I’ve been on the academic job market for two years. My research area usually has less than a handful of jobs posted each year, with hundreds of interested applicants. I should have started considering alt-ac or non-ac jobs much earlier on in my program and done more prep to make myself a strong candidate for those jobs. I’ve done this to an extent with my digital content creation and teaching experiences, but could have done so much more.
Have you made these mistakes, too? Or are you early on in your program? If you’re looking for grad school tips, here’s a YouTube playlist. Most of my YT content focuses on teaching tips, tools, ideas, and resources. But, I do have some videos specifically about grad school life. I plan on posting a video next week about great decisions I made as a PhD student. So if you don’t want to miss that, subscribe to my YT channel.