We all like to think that everyone is interested in our research. That what we’re doing is so fascinating that they can’t help but be interested. That people are out there waiting for us to publish our most recent results and to find out what we discover next.
The unfortunate truth is that this is not the case. In fact, most of the world could care less about what you’re doing.
I do notice a lot of people who don’t seem to get this. But all grad students needs to face up to a few facts:
- If you’re thinking of staying in academia you need to publish. And no one is going to be as motivated to get your work published as you are. If you aren’t pushing to get things done and submitted, don’t be surprised when no one else is.
- If you want to graduate, you need to meet your universities milestones. This includes things like passing candidacy or quals (or whatever your university calls it). It means making sure you give enough talks and meet any other graduation requirements of your university.
- If you want to be funded, you need to be on the lookout for scholarships and other funding opportunities. Depending on where you attend school (city, province, country) the funding opportunities change. Some departments are able to provide a minimal amount of funding to all their students, others don’t. Some cover tuition, others don’t. However, it’s your responsibility to be filling out the forms and making sure you’re being considered for scholarships. Even if it’s ‘only’ $500, that still covers a lot of food. Being an awesome TA makes it more likely for your department to continue to have you as a TA (and therefore continue to pay you). Realize that it’s unlikely you’ll finish a PhD in 4 years before you start, and plan ahead on how you can fund any extra years.
- Network, network, network. Both in academia and out. Make sure that people in your area know who you are. And don’t depend on your supervisor to make those connections for you. If you attend conferences, try your hardest to talk to others not from your university so you can make these connections. If you have questions about a paper you read, email the authors and see if you can get a dialogue going. The more people who know who you are, the better chance you’ll have at finding a job (in or out of academia) after.