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My PhD journey…and next steps.

by karlyn on November 16, 2012

Two and a half years ago, when I started this site, I thought I had it all figured out. I was in the very early stages of my PhD work and thought I was going to be focusing on how social media could improve job performance and satisfaction. Of course, I would document it all on here.

But here’s the thing: It turns out that doing a PhD is hard. Really hard. And amidst many sleepless nights of writing papers, examining primary research and reading more journal articles than I can fit on a very large bookcase, I had to let go of many things, and this site was one of the casualties. Sorry about that.

But maybe there’s a silver lining: As I near the end of my coursework (just 4 more weeks to go!!), I was able to launch a site that I’ve been thinking about for well over a year: Zen Workplace. Part of why I wanted to do a doctorate in industrial/organizational psychology was to help build better, less stressful workplaces. This site represents my first steps into that, with musings based on research, articles and books I’m reading. Yes, the updates are sporadic right now, but will be less so in the coming months. I hope you’ll subscribe.

Next up, I take my comprehensive exam in January, which is essentially a 50 page essay. But that’ll be a cakewalk compared to the dissertation I’m starting in the spring, which at the moment is going to be a phenomenological study of the lived experiences of targets of workplace bullying in the first 10 years of their professional career. Essentially, that means I’m going to interview a dozen or so people who fit into this demographic about what they’ve experienced, and synthesize the information to find the essence of the experience. Trust me, it’s more complicated than it sounds. But I can’t wait to get started. This is a topic that is very personal to me and very relevant this area of psychology – 37% of American workers (over 50 million people) are the target of workplace bullying and people in that age group are one and a half times more likely than the general population to be the target of workplace bullying, but are also likely to be much less equipped to handle it due to their own inexperience, or because they may not know the phenomenon even exists. The problem can’t be solved until it is documented.

Before I let you go, I want to say a few things about this journey. Over the past two years, I’ve grown more than I ever thought possible. This is not a journey of learning facts and theories – it’s about being able to synthesize information in a completely new way and look at things with a critical eye. The only experience that I can think of to compare to it would be having children – I’m told over and over again that you just can’t understand what it’s like until you do it. The same is true of a PhD. I never could have comprehended what it would be like to be on the (almost) other side of it without going through the experience first hand.

And yes, for all of my higher education  followers, I do look at faculty in a whole new way. You may see them as just having expertise in a very niche area (which is true!) but doing something like this involves more than just learning subject matter. It completely changes the way you think and process information. I look back at the person I was two and a half years ago and know that person would have annoyed the heck out of the person I am now. So, please cut them some slack. Do they know everything? Of course not. And the good ones will admit that. But don’t disregard what they are saying either. They may be able to help you look at information in a way that you never would have considered otherwise.

If you’re thinking about doing a PhD, do it. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I’ve hated parts of it, but looking back now it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I much prefer the person I am today over the person I was two and a half years ago, and that’s entirely because of this experience.

For now, I really don’t know what will become of this site. I LOVE the URL, and I love my logo…but want to focus in more on other things. While I figure it out, I hope that you will join me over at Zen Workplace.


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