So. You’re thinking about taking a leap of faith and exploring the possibility of earning a doctoral degree. Kudos to you as you’ve reached a significant point in your personal and professional career. This is a major step in your life. This decision will impact you, your family and significant others, friends and colleagues, and people that are waiting to meet you in the future. Before you begin filling out applications, start writing personal statements, or even retake the GRE (if applicable), here are three questions to ask yourself before pouring everything into this journey.
1) What exactly is my purpose or my inner why for completing this degree?
Although this question may seem pretty obvious, it is one of the most loaded questions that you will need to answer. Whether you’re considering an Ed.D or Ph.D. in education or a doctoral degree from another academic discipline, you should be able to effectively articulate the rationale of why you’re undergoing this process. Your purpose or your inner why will go beyond writing your personal statement; it will be the insight that will keep you motivated to write a paper, complete a project, or have a frank conversation when you’re struggling during the educational experience.
Your purpose, or inner why, gives your faculty insight to how they can help enhance and validate your experience. Your purpose or inner why matters because no one else can write this for you. Be clear, be relevant, and be transparent.
2) How do you intend to leverage your doctoral experience?
If you noticed, I did not ask “How you will use the degree?” here. It is understood you will use the knowledge, skills, and abilities you earned through the experience. This questions aims to explore a deeper level of understanding. There should be intentional synthesis and application of how the experience will help empower your practice, inform your thinking, and influence your actions. Do you aspire to be a scholar? A leader? An influencer? If so, the doctoral experience is a component of the profile.
3) What do you need in a program to be valued and successful?
Yes, you will need the essentials—funding, appropriate training and socialization in scholarship, etc. This, however, is the core of what you need to matriculate. Think about the factors you need out of faculty, the coursework, and the process at large and identify what is most important.
All in all, remember this one central idea: if completing a doctoral degree was easy, everyone would have one! Doctoral programs are designed to educate, train, and produce some of the best and brightest scholars and/or practitioners of their respective field. The experience is designed to be an intensive journey of critical inquiry, personal and professional reflection, and meticulous hard work.
Remember…YOU are opting to do this. As a current doctoral student, this will be a period of your life where you will do more reflection than ever anticipated. Be sure this is for you. Best wishes and happy searching!
Inspired by Parks and Recreation’s Aziz Ansari and Retta, December is Treat Yo Self month. Colleagues will share opportunities for professional development and training.
This post is part of our #SACareer series, addressing careers in student affairs, careers outside of student affairs, and the work of career services professionals. Read more about the series in Jake Nelko’s intro post. Each post is a contribution by a member or friend of the Commission for Career Services from ACPA. Our organization exists to benefit the careers of career services professionals, student affairs professionals, and anyone supporting students in the career endeavors. For more information about how to get involved with the Commission for Career Services or the #SACareer blog series, contact Cristina Lawson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Podcast With Mallory Bower on Career Services and Job Search Tips