Working during a PhD

There are two types of work that you do during PhD: the type that pays the rent, and the type that gets you relevant experience which also the rent. While I appreciate that the first type is extremely important to some people, I was in the happy position of holding a scholarship for most of my PhD.

I like to be busy and to have lots of different tasks on the go; I like hustle and bustle and my favourite workspace is in a busy café. It’s unsurprising then, that spending 8 hours straight on the same thing drives me bananas*. I like to spend an hour doing this and an hour doing that.

It’s fairly easy to achieve the ‘multiple task’ life during PhD what with grant applications, administrative tasks, experiment preparations, lab analyses, data analyses, manuscript writing… even with all of these tasks though, I took on many jobs while working on my PhD. Small ones, big ones, short ones and long ones. Jobs ranging from ‘conduct nitrogen analyses on 25 samples’ through to ‘spend four months preparing a literature review’ and ‘spend four hours a day ploughing through reference proofing’.

Aside from the obvious and tangible benefits of increased income, I think taking on these extra jobs gave me excellent opportunities to connect with people, industry, government, and other research institutions. Taking on teaching commitments grounded my understanding of soil systems and increased my verbal communication skills; conducting the literature review honed my ‘educated non-specialist’ writing; managing a rapid soil property classification team developed skills in people and time management… These are all skills that you should gain in some way during a PhD, but which are easy to miss when you spend three years writing four articles for academic audiences.

Although I’ll be honest – hitting an 80 hour week is always pretty trying.

Even considering the extra work and extra time management, I implore PhD candidates that see a relevant opportunity for paid work during their candidature to take it! Know your strengths, know your weaknesses, and use the opportunity for self-improvement!



*note that this doesn’t apply to recreational activities.