Friday, 5 April 2013

When's it right to quit?

The PhD student in our group just quit her phd (if you read this, I hope you don't mind that I'm writing a blog post based on it).  She's got a new job lined up, if not for a while, and pretty much everyone agrees that it seems like the right thing to do.  I knew she wasn't happy, I knew she didn't want to end up an academic, but it still kinda feels like a shock.

It seems strange that I'm surprised that someone else would leave a PhD that they hated.  After all I did it and it was absolutely the right thing for me (although I now have one in a different field).  I'm a big advocate of people not slogging away at things they hate, make the leap, do what's right for you.

But there's an undercurrent that says, if you leave halfway through your PhD you're a quitter.  I suspect that lots of people continue on for this very reason.  Maybe that's why so many people have a terribly hard time with their PhD.  Obviously for people who want to stay in academia and in that field it's probably best to just slog it out, but if you don't want to be an academic anyway, what are you doing it for?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not encouraging people to quit.  I'm not one of these people who think you shouldn't get a PhD if you don't want to go into academia, either.  But you've got to want to do it.  There are a lot of things I think need changing about academia and the concept of the quitter (you get it if you bail out after a postdoc as well) is definitely one of them.  Everyone should be free to follow the path that's right for them without other people looking down on them