Rebranding or repairing a broken PhD student
April 8, 2014 7:23 PM Subscribe
This seems to be a week for academia-related questions. I am an ABD student in the humanities at a prestigious university. The job prospects in my field are grim, and they are grimmer still for me because I have not performed well in my program. My history is one of late papers, lingering incompletes, delayed time to qualifying exams, and poor rapport with faculty. I am in the beginning stages of writing a dissertation that I know will serve me no real purpose. So what do I do now?
posted by redfishbluefish to Education (16 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I think that if I could bring myself to work diligently, I could finish my dissertation in 1 year, but I don't know where to go from here. Do I struggle through a dissertation that, while somewhat interesting to me, is not motivational in itself? The only carrot at the end of this stick is a relatively useless PhD. My prospects for an academic position are truly nil. On the other hand, I feel like if I could just make myself finish it, I'd at least have the degree, and not the less-than-nothing of an upcoming 30th birthday with no real-world work experience.
I wish I had taken the crippling anxiety that has been at the root of my poor graduate school performance for what it was: a neon sign telling me to change course immediately. But I didn't, and now I've sunk 6+ years into a masochistic exercise fueled by pride and stubbornness.
I thought about trying something else entirely, even going so far as to research other interesting graduate programs in practical fields, but I highly doubt I could get a single positive recommendation letter at this point. I don't know what my strengths are anymore, since I'm not even capable of delivering good work to my adviser. I used to be really good at school; now I am not. This isn't even a case of Imposter Syndrome. Maybe at one time I deserved my spot here, but my work to date has been pretty abysmal, as evidenced by my low grades in my courses and refusal by faculty members to work with me. I am even persona non grata to the other students in my program.
To summarize: Is there a non-academic scenario that would make it worthwhile to finish my humanities PhD? If not, what kind of career can I pivot to that would not require further education (since there's no way I'd be admitted anywhere else)?