Interviews, PhDs and other scary things…


There has been a bit of a hiatus in my blogging since I have been extra stressed while planning what to do next in both the short and medium term. My first priority was to find some paid work, not only for financial reasons but because I need structure in my life and to keep busy in order to stay mentally well. Ideally I wanted something with a day off during the week so I could continue volunteering with the Soil Biodiversity Group and had the good fortune to land a temporary administrative role that filled this. Being a temp also gives me the freedom to take days off if I require them for interviews for other positions and PhDs which takes a lot of pressure off me. My first administrative position interview in 7 years was a challenge and I did find it difficult to adjust back to the working life after a year studying. My next aim was to find some paid research assistant work over the summer and a place on a PhD in the autumn.

On top of the stress of starting a new job I have applied for two doctoral training programmes and have had an interview for one so far. This was with the Imperial College London SSCP for a project based in the PREDICTS lab at the Natural History Museum which would include using data from the Soil Biodiversity Group. I was a little hesitant in applying because although the prospect of a large scale data analysis project on soil organisms was exciting, statistics are not my strong point. However I reminded myself that a PhD is a training as well as a research programme and in any case practice in applying and being interviewed for the position would be useful for me.

I was very nervous during the interview and afterwards concerned I did not do my best but feedback from the interviewers was largely positive. I was particularly encouraged that my eye contact during the interview was good as I have been working hard to improve that. The outcome of the interview was that I was placed second, a result which before my course of cognitive behaviour therapy I would have been distressed by. Instead, I reflected on how much of an achievement it was for me attending the interview, and how a few years ago I would not have been able to do that.

This was a big confidence boost for the two research/field assistant positions I had interviews for recently which to my delight I was offered both. The support I have received from members of the Soil Biodiversity Group during my applications and interviews has been so encouraging, they genuinely believe I am capable of achieving PhD and most importantly for the first time in decades I do too. So I will keep reminding myself of Paul’s words: “just keep doing what you are doing and you’ll get there”.

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