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From PhD to Life

Supporting dissertators


As a graduate student I had relatively little support and guidance. I say this not to denigrate my supervisors or imply lesser service from my department or university. Not at all. In fact, I would have told you back then that all was well — I much preferred the hands-off approach to dissertating, feeling strongly that if I was left to get things done, they would indeed get done the way they needed to be. Well, I was partly right. What I didn’t realize was that a different kind of help would have likely gotten me through my dissertation quicker and easier, while still allowing me the autonomy I valued.

Now that I’m taking coaching classes, I usually get coached by classmates three times a week. This is a big change; it was only a year ago that I spoke to a coach for the first time! And, experiencing the benefits of the process as a client on a regular basis, I wonder how different my PhD years would have been if I’d signed on with a coach while still a student. In my present life as a coach, writer, and businesswoman, I need support to do my best work. The life coaching model I’m being taught is ideal for bringing out the best in me. (Seriously. It’s awesome.)

Some of the benefits of coaching — greater clarity, renewed motivation, coming up with strategies that work for me — are being experienced by my graduate student clients. That I even have these clients has been a surprise! I did not intend to market myself as an academic, student, or dissertation coach. These brave, determined people know something I didn’t when I was in their place, that the right kind of help might be out there.

So now it’s time for me to offer something else. I’m launching a virtual discussion and support group, open to dissertators and graduate students in general. (In my group for PhDs and ABDs seeking careers beyond the tenure track, I’ve found that curiosity, openness, and empathy are more important to a successful experience than matching everyone up by the particular stage they’re at.) Here are the group details:

What: Discussion and Support Group for Dissertators
When: 6 Tuesdays, 5:30-6:30 p.m. ET / 12, 19, and 26 November, and 3, 10, and 17 December 2013
Where: Over the phone (you’ll be calling a US [long-distance] number, but let me know if you’re outside North America)
What else: A private Facebook group for discussion between calls
Who: Open to 5 or 6 group members
Total cost: $60 CDN (+ tax for Canadians, as applicable) for all six 1-hour calls

I’m excited! You in? Email me, and include your full name and address. I’ll send you an invoice, with more details to follow. Want more information? You can email me too. First come, first served. My intention is to continue the group in the New Year, but let’s try it out and see how it goes.

Oh, and I’ve got a couple spots open in my Tuesday 7 p.m. ET career seekers group for PhDs and ABDs. Email me for details.

Jennifer Polk
Jennifer Polk is a career coach and entrepreneur. She earned her PhD in history from the University of Toronto in 2012. For more information and resources, check out her website:
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  1. Julie Graves / October 25, 2013 at 17:55

    Hey fellow dissertators – I’m defending in a week, and I strongly encourage ALL of you to do this! I’ve been meeting with Jen’s ABD/PhD group for the final few months of my dissertating, and found it extremely helpful to have the community. We tend not to even realize how isolating the dissertation process can be, and this will help you realize (and remember!) that you’re NOT ALONE!

  2. A. McLean / October 30, 2013 at 15:47

    University Affairs is a fantastic resource and I eagerly anticipate its arrival each month. However, shameless self-promotion has no place in UA. This column is nothing but advertising. I wish Ms. Polk well with her coaching business, but I encourage anyone who feels this space is used inappropriately to write UA with their concerns.

  3. Janet Holmes / November 5, 2013 at 00:44

    Advertising is only unacceptable if it’s for something you don’t want. If it’s for something you DO want it’s a blessing.

    • A. McLean / November 6, 2013 at 20:42

      Advertising thinly disguised as an academic blog is offensive and unacceptable. UA provides options for paid advertising, and that is where this belongs.

    • Karen D. / November 7, 2013 at 02:30

      Well, at least you agree its advertising.

  4. Lauren / November 9, 2013 at 12:04

    Why do people have to pay for the services that advisors should be providing for free? Aren’t we all broke, anyway?

    • Jennifer Polk / November 9, 2013 at 15:58

      I’d love it if my services weren’t at all required!

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