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Destination Doctorate Survival Tips

By: Dr. Jennifer Edwards

Being a mom is a priceless journey and honor all by itself. To be a mom on the doctoral journey takes your life to another level. It energizes you, challenges you, and strengthens you. Here are some survival tips along the way.

Ask your department about opportunities to teach undergraduate courses. If they do not have an official teaching assistant program, you can pose the idea to your departmental Chair. Many programs offer TA-ships in exchange for paying your full tuition. Pitch them on your value, interest, and that saves the department money on having to cover salary and benefits for a faculty member. Make it compelling and see what happens.

Depersonalize your doctoral journey. You are developing competitive research that you are likely pursuing for very personal reasons. Remember your why to keep you motivated and inspired. Forget your why as you review the numerous rounds of research revisions. The revisions are to strengthen your study and may or may not be delivered to you in a supportive manner. Just remember that it is not about you personally or your personal capabilities. Earning a doctoral degree is a learning process and any Chair who tries to make you feel personally inadequate is not on a mission.

You have the autonomy to request a new Chair if ever the situation calls for it. However, be real about if you need to depersonalize and de-escalate the situation on your own. Release the small battles and recognize that earning the degree is just the beginning. Even if you’re a leader at work, you are the learner in your doctoral process. Your energy is limited, everything just cannot matter.

Consider opportunities to adjunct. Adjunct positions are often open to applicants who have Master’s degrees. If you are struggling to pay your tuition and have not been offered a teaching assistantship, consider teaching at local community colleges, universities, or online.

During your last year, start preparing your application package for post-docs or faculty positions. You do not have to do a post-doc. They are valued more in some fields than others. Many ladies prefer to start in a professional role, which is often more appropriate given the field of your terminal degree. Either way, your last year is when you begin determining your brand, positioning yourself, and developing application materials.

Higher education hires at least a semester in advance. The application process is competitive, and your publications, presentations, and prior teaching experience will help you stand out. Online opportunities are also competitive in relation to the number of applicants and your odds, but these institutions do hire more quickly. Many brick and mortar faculty also teach online, so you have to develop an application that sets you apart.

The best mom advice there is, is to outsource. You cannot do it all, and that is ok. If you’re able, hire someone to clean, pay for meal delivery, grocery pickup, or childcare so you can write. Do what you need to do so you can have several quiet hours – if not more – daily to devote to your research. Schedule the research time and commit to it. Give yourself grace and release perfection as you proceed through your doctoral journey. If it were not difficult, everyone would do it. It is worth it in the end and you will be equipped to pursue your dreams as a doctor when you’re finished.

Dr. Jennifer Edwards

Dr. Jennifer Edwards is a leader in holistic health and an Amazon #1 best-selling author. She is Creator & Chemist at Refinne Personal Care offering hair, skin, and body products. She is co-founder of the Black Women Faculty Connection group on social; and has served on health faculty at University of North Texas and Walden University, and guest lectured at UNT Health Science Center, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and others. Jennifer earned a doctoral degree in Health Communication from Howard University. Connect with her at at @DrJennEdwards on Instagram or on LinkedIn.

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