Ph.D. is a serious thing. It can make or break your life. It takes a lot of devotion, courage, motivation, sleepless nights
and...it's up to you. Are you ready to dive into the deep? The view from the other side might be worth it.
Dr. Tita Alissa Listyowardojo has been there, done that - she holds a doctorate degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences
from the University of Groningen, The Netherlands, and works as a senior researcher in a global organization based in
She shares with us, mortals, what Ph.D. takes and gives.
What are the common misconceptions about a Ph.D. degree?
I think many would think that a Ph.D. degree would make someone overqualified for a job market. This can be true,
depending on the job being applied for, of course. However, more often than not, overqualification can happen
because the potential employers are not sure how to use the competence for their benefit. In addition, there is
a concern from the potential employers that a Ph.D. graduate would expect to have a higher salary than what is
common. It is thus the job of the Ph.D. graduate applying for the job to state how the potential employers can
use and benefit from their competence, and, later on, the salary can be adjusted accordingly.
Another common misconception is that a Ph.D. graduate would be too theoretical and less experienced with
business development or running a business. Many Ph.D. programs are completed together with the industries.
For example, my Ph.D. program was completed in close collaboration with a hospital. This allows gaining experience
to work in the industry.
Who is and who is not a Ph.D. degree for?
Ph.D. degree is for those who have big passions to deepen and grow their competence and knowledge in
certain fields, using research. The degree is also for those who want to have sufficient time, opportunities,
environments and support to do so. And, obviously, it is for those who want to work in research.
Ph.D. is not for those who are more interested in gaining practical experience in things other than research.
In what ways does a Ph.D. degree influence one's personal growth?
To finish writing a Ph.D. thesis or dissertation, it takes patience, detail-oriented, diligence, being
organized and structured, and strong psychological stamina. It takes one to not give up until the
goal is achieved regardless how many times one fails and how many barriers one faces. I think this
condition will help one to have personal growth to be more resilient, strategic, creative, and structured
to be able to achieve the goal, which is to finish.
How does Ph.D. differentiate an applicant in today's competitive job market?
The deepened knowledge in a certain field, the ability, and experience to do research and report
findings, academic writing skills, stamina to revise things over and over again, perfectionism, and
the ability to generalize competence into other areas. The ability to investigate things systematically
and to do research can be applied in many different settings to achieve various objectives.
In your opinion, are there any industries where having a Ph.D. degree makes a big difference?
Yes. For example, pharmaceutical, life sciences, genomics, medicine.
In what circumstances would you advise to not pursue an academic career?
When one has tried to pursue an academic career and one does not like it.
Do you have any advice on how to stay motivated when taking a doctorate degree?
Create a support system. This means having best friends around or those who care for you and vice versa
when you just need to have a nice, quiet dinner or to have fun - anything other than work. Discuss and hang
out a lot with other Ph.D. students to know that what you feel and experience are not unique to you, this should
create belongingness. Talk to people, in general, to avoid being isolated in your daily work. Go to lectures or
events or conferences in your field to be inspired and stay motivated. Email other scientists to ask for advice
when getting stuck. Talk to other scientists in other fields when you find the relevance. Think outside the box
in carrying daily tasks. Use your professors and supervisors to direct your research. Write everything that you
read - reading alone without noting anything is a waste.
What is the most valuable thing one can take away from Ph.D.?
Life experiences of ever doing a Ph.D. No other experiences are like this one.
At the end of the day, is an academic title a reward or a burden?
Anything can be either a reward or burden because it is just the matter of perceptions in the eye of the beholder.
So perceive the title as a reward and use it accordingly for your benefits.
What would you say to those who are hesitant to apply for Ph.D.?
If you are 51% sure you would like to try to do a Ph.D., just apply for positions. Let the world show you that what
is possible to happen and decide from there. I believe the process of applying itself will allow you to be more
realistic in considering all factors that matter to you. Thinking and considering without any actions usually get no one
Interview conducted by Vyara Løvig, Marketing Coordinator