Sunday, 25 July 2010

Choosing your career path.

Writing my first post in the Plath Diaries, I am filled with excitement and expectation. By the end of my three-year PhD odyssey, I hope that this blog will be filled with lots of interesting information on Sylvia Plath and also prove helpful to others who wish to go down the path of further education. The road to a PhD and indeed graduate study in general at times can be very isolating and frustrating - with highs and lows in equal measure. In the current economic climate, scholarships and funding can prove very difficult to acquire - especially in the field of Arts/Humanities. My main motivation for writing this blog (aside from keeping a record of my own experiences so I can look back in years to come) is that when applying for my PhD I found it difficult to get any information or advice from the internet. Any helpful hints or tips on how to present the best proposal, interview techniques, how to seek out funding were either designed for science-specific subjects or related only to US Universities. I hope to provide a better insight into applying to UK/Irish Universities and focus more directly on the Arts side of the coin.

At this point it may be appropriate to divulge some information on my own academic background. I recevied a BA Hons in English Literature and Modern History in 2006 and then went straight on into Masters study, acquiring an MLitt in 2007. It is fair to say that I may have been too young and scatterbrained to get the fullest I could have from my MLitt qualification and as a result of my lukewarm feelings, I took time off from study and worked a variety of jobs upon completion - from waitressing to private tutoring to administration - before I woke up and realised that the library and dusty books had been calling my name all along and finally I was ready to commit myself 100% to further education! From this experience, I would definitely recommend to anyone who is graduating soon and not sure what career path they want to take - time is your friend!! I would recommend to anyone who isn't ready to commit to a career path or even just a specialisation: take time out and work different jobs and sit and really think - is this what you want to do??

One of the hugest problems with taking an Arts subject to degree level is that the qualification leaves you qualified for everything and nothing. The spectrum is so wide, it's almost intimidating. I have spent many nights since 2007, sitting up wracking my brains, asking myself 'where did it all go wrong'-type questions before I relaxed and realised that going back to University was the career path I wanted to take.

Unhappily, current graduates are a demographic bearing the brunt of the recession. We need only look at the plethora of articles reporting the difficulty of acquiring a job in the current climate. This reality may add additional stresses to Arts students in particular: being qualified for everything and nothing does not just translate as worrying whether to be a teacher/lawyer/academic/administrator/journalist/librarian/ or any of the other multitude of jobs applicable out there... Surviving during the recession also brings the deep feelings of rejection and disappointment that your degree may see that you are not even qualified to work in a coffee shop or sandwich bar - much less worrying about what £20K+ job route to go down! It is for this reason that I really wanted to include a careers aspect to this blog - to say that there is hope. To say that even if you are stuck in a job you can't stand; that time is a friend to the graduate and sooner or later, things will turn back on an even keel again. And by that time, all the worthwhile thinking and stressing and tears and drinks shared with friends over the misery of a tiny paycheck; these emotions and strength of resolve will prove only to make us all more driven and ambitious. And that once we graduates decide what it is we want to devote ourselves to - nothing will get in the way!

From my personal experience, after working in an administrative job for just over two years, I realised I really missed learning and reading. My life felt less full when I wasn't learning and being in a place where I could pass knowledge onto others and learn more from them. It took me a long time to really decide that going back to University was the right decision for myself, but I used the time I had to spare and really thought everything out. I began to put feelers out, wanting to talk to people I knew who were undertaking further graduate study, beginning to develop a passion for reading critically again (not just re-reading the 'Twilight' saga in my spare time anymore!) and slowly, with research into what a PhD entails, I realised it was the right choice for me. I am well aware of the possibility that a job may not lie at the end of this road, but I do feel that hard work and application will hopefully bear fruit in terms of a career. So this is me, throwing all my eggs in one basket and getting ready for an exciting experience!