Now That You Have a Doctoral Degree, What's Next?: Finishing Strong With Professional Development and Mentoring

Now That You Have a Doctoral Degree, What's Next?: Finishing Strong With Professional Development and Mentoring

C. E. Davis (North Carolina Central University, USA) and Nancy F. Reese-Durham (North Carolina Central University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9707-0.ch011


Your doctoral degree started as a thought and now you are finished. Just like running a marathon race, you are now ready to finish strong and move to the next level. How do you move on? What are the next steps? You certainly have the necessary knowledge based on the literature review included in your dissertation. Additionally, you honed your research skills during the dissertation writing process, and it is now time to branch out and broaden your scope and to make connections with others in academia. Making connections and developing new research ventures with others is one of the “next steps” that new doctoral completers find rewarding. This chapter provides some recommendations for professional development and your need for mentoring as you move forward.
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The Running Metaphor

Completing the doctoral degree can be compared to finishing a marathon. We can think about the act of running in that both, degree completion and marathon racing, have cumulative characteristics. For example, what you do this week wil help you next month… and your training next month helps you next year! Like compound interest, training benefits increase with time. If running is important to you, you’ll want to run healthy for the rest of your life. This is also true about the new doctoral graduate. All of the research training that you endured has prepared you for the next stage of your life. As mentioned before, you may have finished a marathon but you don’t want to stop what you are doing. Slow down, maybe, but do not stop! You have ran the distance, proven yourself, and you are now a researcher.

As if at the end of a marathon, recovery is also needed when completing your doctoral degree. One may agree that there are similar steps for a successful recovery from running a marathon that are comparable to recovering from completing a doctoral degree. One of the first steps a runner should do is to continue to move. Stopping immediately is not good for your muscles. Transitioning from running to walking is advised. Likewise, after finishing your doctorate, your interest in completing research should not stop. You should not only see yourself as a person who just finished a marathon but also as someone who slowed down a bit to catch your breath. The researcher may choose to write an article from part of the dissertation. This potential article requires no new research on your part, however, it requires you to find a publisher to accept your article to print. Germano (2005) states, “ the nice thing about a doctoral dissertation – and there is at least one --- is that it is, in effect, a full-dress rehearsal of a book-length manuscript. By the time your dissertation is completed, it’s been studied by specialists.” Additionally, Perlmutter (2010) states that “the dissertation is a tool for networking. You should also write the dissertation to build relationships for your future – including the relationships that will help you get a job.” Remember, do not stop and keep moving forward.

Bodily nourishment could be the next step in the recovery process. After completing a marathon, the runner should consume more protein. This allows for the runner to maintain and grow his/her performance for future marathons. For the new doctor this nourishing may be to begin or continue having conversations with others in and outside of your field about research topics. Nourish your research agenda. Envision how your research can take a new direction by working with someone else, especially someone from another discipline. With proper nourishment after running you are still able to continue in other races and as a PhD professional you are ready to maintain and grow your research agenda by looking at your research through potentially new lenses.

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