Taking the plunge into unemployment

Recently I lamented about the difficulty of fitting PhD amends around a full time job and life. Well, I’ve found the solution: quit your job and move city.

So obvious, right?!

It almost sounds like I’m trying to run from my corrections, doesn’t it. In fact it is the complete opposite. I simply realised that with a full time job, they just weren’t going to get done.

I enjoy having a life too much to work on them in every ounce of my spare time (I still have that hang-up from academia that I need to justify this statement, but really, is that such a crime?), and snatching an hour here and there just doesn’t put you in the best mindset to perform the amendments to your best ability.

So I decided to take the plunge into unemployment. Now I will have ALL the time to get my amends done and dusted out of the way, and then I can get on with life without feeling constantly guilty for not working (ha, who am I kidding, I think that feeling will take a LONG time to shake).

Despite the scary thought of being penniless, this was a reasonably easy decision to make.

I was so afraid of being unemployed at the end of my PhD that my time-tracking software tells me that I spent only three times as long writing my thesis as I did applying for jobs.

That either means I spent bugger all time working on my thesis, or that I put a lot of effort into applying for a lot of jobs. A quick search of the very organised (she says, smugly) folders on my computer gives me the answer to this. In the six months before I was due to hand in my thesis, I applied for – wait for it – SIXTY SIX jobs.

So this means I spent a disproportionate amount of my time sorting out my CV, filling in applications, and occasionally preparing for job interviews. Anyone who has gone on a serious job search knows how much time a single job application can take, and looking back… yes, I spent a LOT of time applying for jobs.

I suspect the extent of my thesis amends is partly due to the fact that my mind was elsewhere a lot of the time. But the terror of being unemployed, in London, with extortionate rent to pay, meant that really I had no choice. And I got a job! A good one. One I like. So why am I leaving it?

I said it was a reasonably easy decision, and that’s because other circumstances fell into place to make it so. My other half bagged himself a good job in a city we’d planned to move to in the future anyway, and after living in London for over 8 years, I was more than ready to go.

I hadn’t considered leaving without having another job to go to however, so the terror rose again. But sensible boyfriend said “why not just spend some time getting your PhD out of our lives?” – and suddenly it all made sense. I have some savings. The new city is much, much cheaper to live in than London. It will all be okay, and most importantly, I’ll be able to give my thesis the time it deserves. I spent 4 years working towards it; it deserves to be good.

For me choosing to go into unemployment is an oddly liberating feeling. I’m lucky to have the support (both emotionally, and financially should I need it) of my family, and of course I am already on the lookout for jobs. But in the meantime, I’ll be taking those final steps towards becoming a Doctor. Taking the plunging into unemployment is a big sacrifice, but one that I sincerely will hope will pay off for my thesis, and for my own happiness.

Michelle Reeve

Michelle is the host of Clutter, and a recovering spider scientist. She now does a whole bunch of science communication things, and still regularly wrangles arachnids.

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