Summer is over, the semester is in full swing, and PhD students have taken up our studies, research, or teaching, some for the first time. Same procedure as every year. Still, there is an indistinct feeling of missing something. The end of the year comes in sight, the semester lies before us, and everything seems clear. Often, this feeling keeps floating around for a while, but sooner or later it hits us: The next year is approaching, waiting for us with seemingly insurmountable amounts of additional work.
Because PhD students do not only have to report to their supervisors and committees, but also to the broader research community to proceed in their pursuit of an early academic career, they have to keep track of their PhD program’s deadlines and of academia’s calendar of events. While the program’s schedule is often laid out from the onset or at least communicates the general requirements for PhD students, academia’s annual rhythm has a tendency of sneaking up on them, only to catch them by surprise.
This realization hits them even harder the stronger the feeling of being ill-prepared for what is about to come because next year’s obligations, opportunities, and calculatable disturbances to plans have been overlooked. All of a sudden, the rest of the year is not only about bringing it to a satisfactory end, but adding “prepare extended abstract”, “revise manuscript”, or “check for fit” to our existing workloads. Deadlines for conferences are closer than we prefer, winter schools pop up, new research and dissemination opportunities appear in our mailbox, and deadlines other than December 31st are looming. Our year is not about to end. Instead, it begins to continue as messy as the last one has not even ended – same procedure as every year.
A lacking overview of reoccurring deadlines, or those that regularly disturb our plans, can cause stress due to additional work, confusion due to conflicting timelines, and frustration due to potentially missing out on valuable opportunities. While we, as PhD students, are continuously proving to ourselves and supervisors that we cope with the pressure and deliver submittable work, we also tell ourselves: “Next year will be different.” So, let’s make it happen, there is still time to adjust your plans and make room to prepare for the expectably unexpected. With the help of an idealized schedule for the year, I outline what the “seasons” during a year in a PhD student’s life in family research could look like.
Our starting point coincides with the beginning of the academic year. A writing retreat, development workshop (e.g., offered by IFERA Research Development Program), or a Winter School course in academic writing (e.g., VU Amsterdam) are amazing opportunities to polish already developed drafts you might want to submit to relevant conferences. With the deadline usually being in December or January we need to assign some hours for preparations in November. The next event we need to have a full draft ready is AOM which places its deadlines in the first half of January, which means that we should finalize a full manuscript no later than December. IFERA, usually puts its deadline for the conference, Summer School, and doctoral consortium at the beginning of February, so that we can prepare such submissions after we handed in an AOM paper. Also, the Strategic Management Society and EGOS have their deadlines at the very beginning of the year which makes late autumn and winter a season for drafting research proposals, extended abstracts, and manuscripts. Therefore, the webinar by IFERA prepares you specifically for a family business research event, while VU’s Winter School is a smart way to learn, collect ETCs, and improve earlier drafts.
It follows the season of paper development. In late winter and throughout spring, additional workshops on writing, idea development, and writing are nice ways to keep the momentum, get inspired, and improve your work. However, if you have not applied for other courses, conferences, or workshops, you could use this time to develop your papers. Review additional literature, collect more data, advance your analysis, and theorize your findings. Overall, the goal could be to refine the idea, strengthen the theoretical footing, and carve out strong contributions. This is a time for preparation for what is to come, a training season of some sort.
Time to shine! In sports, they say that there is no replacement for competition to reach high performances. So from June until October comes the season of presenting and revising since at the end of spring and the beginning of summer the supply of conferences, workshops, and seminars is so vast, you could fill your whole schedule with presentations, discussions, and lectures more than once a month. For instance, IFERA Summer School, Doctoral Consortium, and conference at the beginning of summer, or EIASM workshop in early autumn are attractive and valuable events for PhD students. Usually, conferences let you hand in a revised, updated, or finalized version of your initial submission sometime before the actual presentation which makes the work you have put in during spring so valuable. And after every presentation, you have collected feedback, new ideas, and inspiration to refine your manuscripts even more. Hence, next to fiddling around with your PowerPoint of your conference presentations, you also revise, revise, and revise once more, so that you, optimally, submit to journals and other outlets. Submitting full-paper manuscripts also allows you to free up capacities for the next circle of your family business research seasons because autumn is just around the corner. The picture below displays what a PhD student’s seasons could look like. The bottom line is: in late autumn and winter you write the manuscripts you develop further and improve until late spring and early summer, to present them during conferences, revise for journal submissions and start all over again.
Obviously, this outline cannot account for all research, study, and dissemination opportunities for early PhD students that are out there, rather, consider it an approach to addressing the reoccurring struggle of handling “unexpected” deadlines by getting ahead. Identify fitting events and their deadlines, make a plan, stick to it. Some unforeseen events might be tempting but ask yourself if they add more value to your dissertation if you deviate from your initially thought-through agenda. Most importantly, recognize as soon as possible the relevant deadlines for your PhD program, learning, and dissemination opportunities and use the time in between to address the respective requirements and you arrive at a new, working procedure for every year.