For doctoral students – Your relationship with your chair: Too chummy or too distant?

If you’re at the dissertation writing stage, your most important relationship (other than the one with your chocolate/peanut butter cups stash) is that with your chair/advisor/first reader. Your chair can be your best friend or worst nemesis. But there’s no getting around it; if you want to get done, finally, and graduate with those proud letters after your name, you need your chair.

When your chair is friendly, forthcoming, and responsive, you may be tempted to become friends. When your chair is too formal and standoffish, you may be tempted to ignore him or her entirely, or as much as the required paperwork allows. Either extreme is a mistake, and you’ll likely regret it later.

Friends – How to keep them but keep them away when you need academic immersion

Note: This is the first of two posts on how to handle your friends so you maintain their friendship but hold them off when you need most of your time for your academic project.

The piercing voice of Kathryn’s best friend on the other end of the phone threatened to puncture her eardrum. Penny screamed, “You’re never around anymore! Why is this damn project so important to you anyway? You think you’re too good for me!”

Kathryn mumbled an excuse about the doorbell ringing, hung up, and started to sob. For 18 years, Penny was her best friend, confidante, and supporter.

How to field those horrible questions about your academic project

Whether you’re writing your dissertation or post-dissertation, sweating through the first article from it, a book chapter, or an entire book, at least one person always turns up among your family or friends who shamelessly asks those questions that make you squirm. They’re right up there with the in-your-face “How come you’re still single?” or “When are you going to have kids?”

To help you field the equivalent questions about your academic project, maintain your self-respect, and even jab a little in return, here are several of the most common questions, and variations. I’ve collected these from my academic coaching clients who are agonizing through writing their dissertations, articles, and books.

Your life A.D. (after dissertation)

A motivational truism proclaims that the most dangerous time is when you’ve reached a goal. This is why many doctoral candidates experience Post-Parting Depression (PPD). Consciously and unconsciously you’ve been pushing hard for so very long. Preoccupied with the intensity and innumerable details of the work itself, you may have lost sight of the larger purpose of the dissertation and degree. After graduation, you no longer have to spend every moment you’re not eating or bathing on the dissertation.

For academics: Are your kids growing up without you?

You were probably thrilled beyond words (mono- and polysyllabic) when your kids were born and you witnessed the true miracle of those so-young lives. The kids grew older, and you hunkered down into your academic career. Maybe your feelings changed—you don’t love them any less, but you may see the children as distracters and interrupters of your work. After all, we have important completions of all the conference abstracts, articles, books, chapters, dissertations, even the course syllabi. And we need to finish all these projects for advancement.

Granted, children can be annoyances and disrupters. Most of the time, though, barring a fall from the tree house, they are bothering you because they want—no, crave—your attention.