Graduating into a Pandemic

A career in academia and research are not often thought of as stable and peaceful roles. But for me, a PhD offered me that stability and career progression. I'm particularly grateful for it amongst the uncertainty provided by the pandemic we're all living in.



In May 2020, I submitted my dissertation for my master's degree in Psychological Research, a few months after the announcement of lockdown in the UK. Like all of the Class of 2020, I emerged from my degree into a very different world from the one I knew when I began my course. The certainty that a master's degree would open more employment opportunities had just destroyed.

Wanting to work in research, but fearing I wasn't ready for a PhD (thanks impostor syndrome!), I sent out applications to every research assistant, assistant psychologist and generic research role I fit the specification for. I spent hours per application reading through the required and requested experience, tailoring my CV and my cover letter and filling out endless online forms. I have a folder on an external hard drive with all these applications and CV versions in because I can't bear to just delete them after committing so much time.

A selection of all the revised copies of my personal statement and CV from March and April 2020 still live on my hard drive.

Dishearteningly, I was met with either radio silence or the notification that the position had been withdrawn for one of three reasons:

1. Funding had been reallocated due to COVID

2. Funding had been lost due to COVID

3. The research methods in question were no longer possible due to COVID

After 5 years at university and 23 years of being told that a good degree from a good university was a guarantee of a good job, I was staring at the stark face of looming unemployment amidst a global pandemic.

I will forever be thankful that I overcame my fear of being rejected from PhD studentships and sent off some applications. Thanks to the attitude of putting myself out there and hoping for the best, I'm now a year into a PhD researching a topic that I love. Despite academia being an uncertain and often unstable career path, and hearing other students talk about the stresses of PhD life (I'm certainly not immune to them myself), it certainly has its positives! I'm forever grateful for this 3-4 year period of stability and peace in an incredibly tumultuous time.

Hopefully, when I graduate with my PhD in 2024, the world will be a more certain place again.