I am in my mid-20s and most people my age are years into interesting, successful careers. They work damn hard and are saving for houses, having children, etc. These are my goals too. I hope to be in the same position some day, but I see this as unlikely for quite a few years yet. So why now choose to leave traditional employment and start a PhD, knowing that this delays my other life goals?
There are a lot of different reasons that people start a PhD: to advance a career in academia, to continue researching a topic that has had a significant impact on their life; or to gain a respected qualification. For me, a PhD means learning and honing the skills needed to be a professional researcher. As I am hoping to remain in academia after I have completed my PhD, I want to get as much experience and gain as many skills as I can throughout the process. And I love writing essays. It’s the one thing I find really enjoyable!
As a little bit of background about me, I have already completed an undergraduate degree in law and a Master’s degree in Human Rights Law. I then worked as a corporate paralegal in a commercial law firm. Most people seem to prefer either practising law or continuing to research it, whereas I genuinely love both. Having seen the reality of protecting intellectual property in a commercial business environment, I feel this will make my research better. The right opportunity came along at the beginning of this year, which is why I am choosing to go back into academia, starting next month.
Deciding to do a PhD is a massive undertaking, and it is not something I have jumped into lightly. On the face of it, it’s a 3 (or sometimes longer) year commitment, a relocation to a brand new city and financially, well, it’s tight. But deeper than that, this process will stump me, many times. Every blog or article I’ve read on the topic or current PhD student I’ve spoken to have all alluded to the same thing: you will not achieve success in the same way as you did in your degree/ Master’s degree. You will struggle and doubt whether you can finish your PhD. I am already dreading drafting my first chapter or literature review, a piece of writing that I will agonise over and redraft repeatedly, to receive feedback that “it’s a start but needs a lot of work”. And this will happen to me, again and again.
So why do a PhD then? Well, because each revision and each awkward presentation will make me a better researcher. I’m in this for the long haul, as I’m sure anyone else willing to start such an epic task is too. 3 or 4 years down the line, I want to be able to look at the work that I produced in the first year and know that my research and writing skills have improved dramatically. And yes, I’ll probably have a little chuckle looking back at my work, but that’s okay.
I won’t say too much on this now, but the other primary reason I want to do this PhD is that my topic is incredibly fascinating. I will be looking at copyright laws and practices in the film industry within the EU. I have lots of ideas flying around in my head and there are a number of excellent scholars who are looking at similar areas. I will be very much standing on the heads of these giants as I begin my research. Right now, I am a little hobbit my comparison, so I won’t pretend to be a giant!
Those are my reasons for starting this PhD. I’d love to hear why you guys want to do/ are doing your PhDs, please do share your stories below!