A Year After Finishing My Doctorate

Feb. 10 2022 — I successfully defended my dissertation. In some ways, that phase of life feels so far away. In other ways, it seems like it was just a few days ago.

To say the least, it’s been a busy year — I defended and graduated, took a new job, and started writing and speaking about my dissertation. But most of all, I spent the time trying to figure out who I am in a post-doctoral world.

The past week I’ve been really reflective of the past year and what advice I might offer to those who are nearing the finish line.

Four Pieces of Advice

During my private defense, the committee asked me what would be next. I fumbled through with some answer about wanting to caulk my house. I don’t think that was the answer anyone expected. Truth be told, I hadn’t given any real thought to how I would use this knowledge and insight. Here are some better strategies that I’ve developed for myself over the course of the year. That are maybe a better fit than caulking my house.

Celebrate — Do or plan something to celebrate. This is a huge accomplishment. Be proud of yourself. I celebrated with a fancy dinner the night I defended, a visit to Lubbock for graduation, and a trip to NYC. I’m also still celebrating with a Europe trip. The husband jokes I can turn anything into a multi-tiered celebration. Give yourself permission to do just that. This is a big deal!

Use your Voice — I had several informational calls with leaders in the space about how to use my research. The great Liz Gross with Campus Sonar really encouraged me to not just stick the dissertation on a shelf but use it. That conversation has led me to crafting this website, speaking more, writing more, and trying to help our profession. Using your voice may look different than how I use mine. However, I really like the idea of finding a way to use the information to make the world a better place.

Give Back — So many people helped you in your journey. Give back to help others. I committed that I wanted to help or pay forward to those involved with my journey. After all, I wouldn’t be finished without their support. As such, I presented and am co-writing a paper with my professor, I am serving on another defense committee for a friend (so exciting!), and I have taken part in several surveys and focus groups. I’m not done with that part. I know we’re all busy, so this one sometimes takes time. However, I really enjoy helping others on their journey.

Find Something New — So much of my identity over the past four years was working on my doctorate. Once I finished, I struggled a bit with who was Carrie. I’m told that’s very normal. One of my committee members told me to find something new. It could be a hobby, reading again, a local committee, etc. It just needs to be something not related to your research that helps give you identity as a person. For me, that has come in the form of reading and more travel.

For You

If you’re finishing the process soon, first — congratulations! It is such a special time and season of life. Also know, I’m happy to talk with you more about your what’s next.

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