The ‘back-up plan’ – Lauren

No, not the terrible Jennifer Lopez vehicle…

The Back Up Plan poster

…although, knowing my thesis, that could be relevant too!

No, I’m talking about my fallback, my Plan B, my alternative career choice. Yikes!

It’s a sad fact of what news-bods like to call the “current economic climate” that the job that I am currently in training for by doing a PhD is starting to look a little less attainable than it once was. Not that I ever thought becoming an academic was going to be easy, mind, but it has become clear that it’s definitely time to stop putting all my imaginary eggs in one metaphorical basket.

So recently, my thoughts have been occupied by what I might do instead. Unfortunately, some of my other, previous Plan B’s (e.g. working in arts administration) have also been shot by current policy. So here are my current dream careers:

1) Running my own business. I’m not sure doing what, but having seen through family and friends what a positive experience it can be, I’m sorely tempted to go out there on my own. It appeals to my sensibilities to make money for myself and those I love, and not for ‘the man’! The PhD will have prepared me well for working under my own steam and setting my own schedule. I am an extremely disorganised person though, so volunteers to do my books for me most welcome.

2) Something creative. I find sewing, knitting, designing, writing, and playing with images and text on the computer all really stimulating, rewarding and exciting. If there is some way to make money out of any of these, I’m on it! I kind of wish I’d studied graphics or design at some point. I’m thinking of looking into an evening course in Photoshop or web design

3) Film-making. See point 2). I kind of lost the love for film-making after my undergraduate degree, thanks to a very heavy workload in year three that involved 2 film projects on top of dissertations, research projects, essays and exams! But every now and then I’ll watch a few short films and wonder if it’s time to dust off the old MiniDV camera and pull my tripod out from under the bed…

4) Something within the charity sector. I figure that this is one sector that should theoretically expand under the ‘big society’. Working for a not-for-profit would sit very well with me ethically, and I imagine there’s a higher degree of job satisfaction (if a lower pay packet) than in working for a corporation.

If I did want to go down one of these routes, I don’t necessarily want to wait until I’ve finished the PhD to start it. Equally, I am also very aware that taking my eye off the ball two years in is a dangerous game, and that to maximise my chances of success at Plan A, I also need to invest time there – trying to get published, attending conferences, and, oh yeah, writing my thesis!

It’s a very difficult juggling act, and on the one hand, I’m extremely peeved that I feel like I can’t just concentrate on the academic career. On the other hand, it’s incredibly exciting to think of all the things I ‘could be [when I grow up?]’.

How are you managing thinking about your career while still carrying on with a PhD? Is it something that you’re thinking about now, or that you’ll worry about when the time comes? Which route do you think I should take, or should I just concentrate on my last year or so of being a student?

Hmm, maybe I should just watch the J-Lo film…


This post was originally published on The PhD Life blog in 2012. 

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