Monkey Forest Tales: What to do before choosing a PhD, Post Doc and even a new job?

In today’s post we are going to talk about some of things I learned of what is best to do before choosing a PhD, Post Doc and even a new job. Of course, I’m talking from my own experience mainly, and from the experiences of people around me.

Choosing a PhD is an important part of an academic career and usually you don’t know where to start and how to look for it. You see opportunities promoted by others and some others have an ideal of what kind of project or university they want. For me was a search that started by looking with who I want to work with. In my undergrad and master, I have two very good researchers with different teaching styles. For my doctorate I also want it a good supervisor and especially I wanted to work in a topic I liked, preferably in my own country… and with monkeys of course!!!

My other requirement was that I want to have a fellowship to do my doctorate. I did my master at the same time I was working, and it took me double of time because of that. So, this time I didn’t want to be worried about money. I was lucky enough to get both an excellent supervisor that was not only worried about my work but also about me as a person. And I got my doctorate funded.

So, my first piece of advice is to look for a supervisor who not only is interested in your work and give you the opportunities to growth as a professional but also someone who ask about your work-life balance and who is a good person and give you time to solve questions. Also, if you are doing a doctorate, especially if it is outside of your own country, it is important that your supervisor understand that and know about the difficulties that living in a foreign country implies. Additionally, I recommend doing a doctorate completely funded, it will reduce your stress and you will enjoy more the whole process.

When choosing a Post Doc and even a new job, my recommendations follow a similar patter in terms of choosing a good supervisor for your Post Doc and a good boss. Sometimes that is not so easy to know before hand, but it is important for your own professional development and for your mental health. Both are professional positions and in both you should be able to develop your professional skills and increase your experiences in a healthy environment. I wasn’t that lucky with my post doc position but get better after that with some of my job positions…

Although it is not always easy to decide to end a post doc or a job, especially if you have responsibilities and the economic part is restricted. No job or post doc position will give you back your mental health once you lose it because of a toxic job environment. This is especially true when you are living in a foreign country and work in your second or third language.

So, my second piece of advice is to choose carefully and if you are in a toxic job environment prioritize your mental health first. Plan carefully and keep as much as possible a good saving fund that give you the freedom to change jobs if you choose a wrong job or post doc position…

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