Working while studying for a PhD? It’s not an urban legend.

by Nikoleta Kiapidou

The moment that my supervisor announced me that I got a Scholarship in order to do a PhD at the University of Sussex, I was the happiest person in the world. The next moment, he told me that my Scholarship would cover only my fees. Working while studying for a PhD is a ‘real world problem‘ and I thought it’d be an interesting topic to talk about. At the same time that I started my PhD, I also started working as a waitress at a quite busy restaurant in Brighton. For a long time I found it difficult to decide which one is harder; particularly when colleagues of mine kept asking me ‘how can you do this?’. Thus, I had to go through stress and exhaustion, until I finally accepted that working while studying would be a part of my PhD life which I could be totally capable of dealing with. And if I can do it, then everyone can. For those who are still struggling to find some balance between working and studying for a PhD here are three useful tips, which I came up with in order to help myself during this challenging adventure. 

1. Time management
The first thing you need to do is to manage your time effectively. I know you’ve heard about that lots of times already. However, it’s important to push yourself a bit in order to create and follow a certain schedule. What you probably need is a weekly programme with small achievable goals. Preferably, unlike what many recommend, it’s better to have it written down on a piece of a paper rather than a screen, because that way it’d be much more difficult to make amendments or postpone the things you have to do. Organising a weekly schedule every Sunday is a simple but effective task in order to manage your time between working and studying. 
 2. Change of perception
If you have trouble combining work and PhD, it’s also time for you to change the way you feel about your job. I know work is not supposed to be fun (or is it? Do you know something I do not know?) , but it can offer you advantages even during your PhD that you might have never thought of before. It gives you the chance to get out of your office, get some time away from your research -oh yes, we so need that from time to time-, or even socialize. Taken from my personal experience, working Friday and Saturday evenings have now turned into a tiring, yet fun ‘night out’.
3. Being realistic
My last, but certainly not least tip is about having a realistic approach to the situation. While just a few people would argue that working while doing a PhD is an easy task, many would be able to find a million things which are much more difficult than that. Why not accept that this is what you have to do in order to achieve an admirable goal as well as a personal dream? After this adventure is over, you will have the opportunity to feel great for yourself; you managed to complete a PhD while working and you deserve some high self-esteem.

This blog post was written by one of the Hive Scholars.You can contribute to our blog too! Just send your post of between 500 and 1,500 words to researchhive@sussex.ac.uk and it could be the next one you see here. We welcome blogs on any element of life as a researcher. If you’re at Sussex University and your post is accepted for publication before the end of the Autumn term you’ll automatically be entered into our prize draw to win a £50 voucher!
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