FullSizeRenderYour PhD Coach. How to get the PhD experience you want.

Jeff Gill & Will Medd

Open University Press. 2013.

A glance online will highlight to anyone thinking of doing or already part-way through a PhD the range of books available to support you through this process. Many written from the perspective of ‘How to do a PhD’.  Add to that the wealth of resources available online and via social media and you may be wondering why I am reviewing ‘another’ book aimed at PhD students.

Well, primarily because this book takes a different perspective on the PhD journey, one which will move you beyond thinking about the different phases of the PhD process, what is required for each phase and tips and resource, into a space which challenges you to think more about what kind of PhD experience you want to create for yourself. In my experience not a question which is asked or explored very often. How do you want to show up during the 3-5 years you will studying and what strategies do you need to develop to support you?

Having trained as a personal coach this book, of course, resonates with me as it adopts a coaching perspective but having also supervised and worked with many PhD students over quite a few years I am familiar with the places where people tend to ‘get stuck’, the challenges that arise and the lack of resources available to help people navigate they way through their studies.

This is a book to support you in developing skills which will not only support your studies but also be transferable to other aspects of your life. The emphasis of Your PhD Coach is not on how survive but more importantly on how to thrive during the PhD experience. Which is a refreshing emphasis.

Central to the book is the development of self-coaching strategies and it is divided into 3 parts:

  • Setting firm foundations: say ‘yes!’ to the perfect PhD
  • Core themes in the PhD experience
  • Leadership in your PhD and beyond.

The individual chapters demonstrate a real understanding of the challenges faced by PhD students for example: learning to manage your inner critic; tapping into your bigger picture; in pursuit of better balance; how to find the superhero within; building better relationship; finding the authenticity to write your own story.

Each chapter contains challenges which are practical exercises designed to help you develop self-coaching skills. There are short vignettes in every chapter drawn from the experiences of PhD students to illustrate how the challenges can be applied and inspirational quotes to pin near your computer or desk to keep you going. The style of writing is incredibly accessible and the book is written in a way which will resonate with supervisors as well as those studying for a PhD.

I think this is one book which will engage you, challenge you and inspire you to move beyond the accepted wisdom that the PhD experience is meant to be tough and must be endured into a far more creative space of working with and through the challenges to create a far more positive experience.