Keep that fire burning!  1

It has been one and a half year ago since I have started my PhD research project and although most of the time I’m in a flow, fully enjoying the work, some challenges I face along the way will prevent me from keeping the fire burning. As Anna van der Want has shown in her blogpost humor can be helpful in dealing with struggles that come along in a research project. In this blogpost I present four ideas that can brighten up your days as a PhD-student, which I’ve found during a symposium of the PhD-network from the Netherlands Educational Research Association (VPO) last week.


On a rainy Wednesday afternoon a group of Dutch PhD’s gathered in Den Bosch to hear not just any story about being successful in PhD-life from experienced professionals in PhD supervision and planning. Especially Joseph Kessels’ story will help me when I’m in need of a research related energy boost, since he shed light on two sides of becoming a researcher. He came up with some realizations that can help PhD-students to be proud of your work even when you lost the spark for a while.

You follow your passion!

How many people in working life can say that there job is about working on your ideas and interests, together with others helping to furthering the field or discipline? Probably not that many… Perhaps this helps to better understand ‘thorough’ feedback from reviewers; it is also their passion!


Your project is a very adventurous endeavor

At the beginning you don’t know exactly what your project will look like at the end. Chances are that in all other jobs after your PhD you will never have that much freedom in making your own decisions. And of course this comes along with some feelings of uncertainty, but hey, that’s part of adventure.


Doing a PhD is a once in a lifetime experience

Doing a PhD is not that common which can make it hard for others to understand what you’re doing all day. On the other hand, this also means that your journey towards graduation is pretty unique.


You’re engaged in international networks

You share and present your ideas on international conferences. This means ample opportunities to learn from experts in the field.


The other side of the story has to do with pressure that can be felt as a PhD when you try your very best to not let yourself (and your supervisors) down in doing the job. Perhaps I need that pressure to some extent to be able to fully enjoy graduating in the end. Joseph described the moment that he was about to hand in his manuscript to the committee as very emotional. That special feeling wouldn’t have come up if all of our work was easily done. I think other PhD stories at this symposium and the happy hour (booster! :)) are the kind of pick me ups that are very welcome every once in a while in PhD-life. Thank you VPO for organizing this one!

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1 Comment

It really isn’t alawys about your degree. Let’s say that you did very well in your Masters and barely scraped by your PhD, it’s not going to be as good as someone who graduated with honors in their Masters and didn’t do a PhD. There is no standard because employers don’t hire you for a piece of paper. They interview you to see if you’re a great fit, if your personality meshes with that type of work or environment, how your references look etc. They don’t hire you for what you have, but it’s definitely a way to get in the door.

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