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To leave PhD during maternity leave - advice?

(11 Posts)
user1486768000 Sun 09-Apr-17 07:43:40

Just looking for some general advice on the situation.

So I'm currently on mat. leave from my PhD at a Russell group university (DS is 2 months old) having only done 3 months of my PhD prior to that. I feel like I kind of 'fell' into my PhD in many respects, the position is in the same lab where I did my masters thesis and although I am very much into the science, I now know that lab work isn't for me, I'm mostly just putting up with it and already thinking about what to do after as I don't want to go into academia and get postdocs etc...

So here's the thing, I'm thinking of applying to a job I've seen which really excites me, which is very much hands-off science and obviously comes with much better pay than the PhD stipend gives. It is also in the city where I did my undergrad and where I have always dreamed of moving back to. I'm thinking of applying to it regardless as otherwise I feel it would be a wasted opportunity. I will have to pay back my maternity leave pay if I do leave and will probably have to tell my supervisor soon as I'm going to need references etc... There's also the issue of childcare, as the job would be full time 9-5, with the PhD I was thinking of doing flexible hours (evenings, weekends) to minimise the need the childcare.

Really just wondered if anyone has been through something similar, especially in regards to leaving the PhD. I realise this is a pretty unique situation.

BrrrrrrWentTheAlarmClock Sun 09-Apr-17 08:21:31

I left a PhD after the first year. It was making me miserable. I kind of fell into it too, and probably took it as if was at a prestigious uni. Even though I enjoyed the subject and bits of the work, it wasn't enough to overcome the isolation I felt and loneliness living there. I felt I lacked purpose.

I left with nothing to go to, but instantly felt better for leaving, and ended up a few months later in the job I still have now (12 years later) which is still research but in a consultancy role. I enjoy it more being part of a team, and the more commercial purposeful side of the work. In my team it's about 50/50 split with/without PhDs doing similar jobs.

So from the PhD point of view, if it's not for you, then of course it's fine to leave -I always found it useful to think of it just like a job. If it was not a good fit, I would leave.

Congratulations on your new arrival! For me the PhD was all pre children, so I do think you'd have to think carefully about childcare options, money and practicalities, but maybe others would be more helpful here! Do you have any support in rl? How would that change if you moved towns? In practical terms I think childcare can be simpler when they are very little (compared to at school) so this isn't necessarily a problem, but the cost might be depending on what other support/costs you have. You are doing well to think about this 2 months in! Hope all is going well.

It can't hurt to apply can it? It sounds like it ticks a lot of boxes for you.

user7214743615 Sun 09-Apr-17 10:50:52

with the PhD I was thinking of doing flexible hours (evenings, weekends) to minimise the need the childcare.

It depends on the scientific field but in most fields it is unrealistic to do a PhD this way - to make progress at a good rate you often need to work more than 9-5 and evenings/weekends won't be enough.

If you want to take the other job, and don't see yourself wanting to be in academia, then give up the PhD. The only caveat is that in some scientific fields a lack of PhD might hamper you further on in your career but it doesn't sound as if this would be the case for the job you describe.

FlyAwayPeter Sun 09-Apr-17 12:52:24

It's not particularly unique? Lots of people leave PhDs when they realise that it just isn't for them. If you don't want to be a lab-based science researcher afterwards then I think you're wise to cut your losses.

There's a big difference between leaving a PhD programme for positive reasons - as you are contemplating - and just letting it wither away - dropping out.

And if you're not fully committed you may be in danger of just letting the PhD drift away ...

You are making a positive step in a different direction - go for it!

Foureyesarebetterthantwo Sun 09-Apr-17 14:08:49

I don't see the issue here, really, you are three months in which is nothing, and have something you want to do more. You don't appear to need the PhD professionally or want to be an academic, so it seems a no-brainer.

Foureyesarebetterthantwo Sun 09-Apr-17 14:10:03

It's also not that unique, I've known very good students drop out by end of first year when they realise it's not for them/have a better offer. Much better than ploughing on unenthusiastically for years and struggling to complete. It is a slight pain for the uni, depending on funding, I'd contact the student finance/HR office after Easter and talk through what will be required in terms of returning money etc.

Parietal Mon 10-Apr-17 21:32:48

if you are going to leave a PhD, much better to leave early (ie in the 1st year) than to keep trying and then quit 2.5 yrs in. So if you are not keen at this stage, better to quit now and find something that really suits you.

FlyAwayPeter Mon 10-Apr-17 22:12:04

Excellent points, Parietal. And speaking for supervisors and Directors of Postgraduate Research, if you leave pretty much as soon as you've started, you save your supervisor a lot of pointless pushing you through, and you free up a space and a studentship for someone who really wants to do a PhD more than anything else.

shovetheholly Wed 12-Apr-17 10:00:51

Definitely leave. You need a good store of love for your subject to get through a PhD - without this, it's pretty unendurable! It sounds like this is the kind of opportunity you will really regret passing up if you don't take it, too.

If you decide you do want to do a PhD at a later point, you can always return. smile

peukpokicuzo Wed 12-Apr-17 10:45:35

Only 3 months in is basically barely started. If you are sure a lab career isn't for you (which isn't the same as being sure academia isn't for you) then yes stop now. It takes extraordinary dedication to complete a PhD with a baby. People do manage it but usually that is when they love their studies so much that the sacrifices are worth it.

you mentioned repaying maternity pay? With the numbers you give you should surely not be getting anything over Maternity Allowance? You only have to repay if your employers are choosing to give you more than the legal minimum.

user7214743615 Wed 12-Apr-17 10:56:20

You only have to repay if your employers are choosing to give you more than the legal minimum.

A PhD is not a job so the legal minimum is zero.

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