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I am looking to interview individuals who have exited their PhDs (at any given time) and are continuing to work towards an impactful career.

If you are someone who has quit their PhDs and would like to help others who may be considering a similar career path, please register your interest in being interviewed here.

Background

I have recently started a one-year break from PhD (August 1st) and have received EAIF funding to help me transition towards an impactful career. My PhD was focused on improving biosafety and biosecurity regulation in the global south, and I have decided to take a year off to consider several factors related to the decision of leaving it. While doing my PhD, I also was a coach at Effective Thesis helping people with thesis topics and career choices. I hope to leverage these two experiences together in writing up advice for those thinking about exiting PhDs.

In the process of quitting my PhD, I discovered that there are very few resources that actually help one think through this decision and that helps you continue working towards an impactful career path. When writing this post last year as a joke with several others, I received many messages asking me to write up advice on how to dropout effectively.

As such, I will later post advice on “How to quit your PhD effectively”. Rather than using my own experience as the only source of advice, I want to interview several (approximately 10) people who have left their PhDs and either switched to more impactful career paths or remained on an impactful career trajectory.

My goal is to better understand the challenges that people face when making the decision to leave a PhD program, as well as the strategies and resources that can help individuals successfully transition into new careers.

What will the interviews look like?

I intend to have an online video call with all those who are interested for approximately 1.5 hours. These will be semi-structured interviews. Essentially, I will focus on three key phases of exiting your PhD. First, the decision-making process and how you ended up at that decision. Second, the technical processes of leaving your PhD and how you navigated that experience (e.g. dealing with supervisors, institutions or visa problems). Finally, I will ask you about your transition and what resources and strategies were useful in ensuring a really smooth transition towards your current career path (e.g. rest first, apply for jobs later or focus largely on your resume building or connections).

I will also be attending EAGxAustralia and EAGxPhilippines in case anyone wants to meet in person at those conferences.

Timeline

I hope to conduct all my interviews by mid-November and will leave this form open till mid-September (approximately 15th September 2023). Please feel free to share it with anyone who you know will be interested in sharing their experience.

Please feel free to email me at vorathep112@gmail.com or comment below with any questions. Again, please register your interest here.

This is my first post on the forum, so apologies if there are any errors! Please feel free to point them out and I will edit them!

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Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 6:20 AM

Registered. It also seems valuable to talk to impact-driven people who seriously considered quitting but then decided to finish their PhD as (a) it is not obvious to me that quitting is always the right choice and (b) it might be useful to know common reasons why people decided to continue working on their PhD. 

Thanks Jona! I did think of this too, but chose to not recruit those in this round for 3 reasons:

  1. There are more resources out there for continuing to finish a PhD (marginally).
  2. I did not want to create confusion in the recruitment process and may do a separate post later to interview for those after!
  3. Typically in the decision matrix of choosing to stay or leave a PhD, the staying side usually has a lot more supporters (supervisors with various reasons, your original thought of impact and decision, talking to Effective Thesis to see how you can make your thesis more impactful).

However, I do see your point that any piece of advice should not skew too much on one side of the decision that it makes it not great advice. If I feel like the advice I write out is that way, I shall definitely interview more people as you suggested!

I finished my PhD, but it would have been reasonable for me to quit. I wrote a little bit about this here: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/rJ9LBoSt9MvXJrbEf/how-to-apply-for-a-phd

Relevant section:

Don't get stuck

If you get into a program and then realize that you're wasting your time, you can always drop out of graduate school. If you're deeply unhappy in graduate school but don't want to drop out "because you're the kind of person who completes academic courses" (ht Robert Miles), take a moment to consider what you value about your personal identity. Some super wonderful Effective Altruists dropped out of their Ph.D. programs and proceeded to have majorly positive impacts on the world (e.g. Katja Grace), so you can definitely be an über EA without a PhD. Remember, your goal should be to have a positive impact on the world, not to get some fancy letters after your name ;)

This is a cool project! I've registered my interest.

Registered. I'll also be at EAGxAustralia and would love to chat about this with you :)