I just came across this post I wrote some time ago and it seems worthy of re-publishing today. It’s a topic that’s well and truly on my mind again this week as I’ve been applying for a few new contracts and talking to some new clients for my copywriting business. If your career is a little flexible, changeable or ill-defined – does it impact how do you define yourself?
Doctor, doctor, I feel like a pair of curtains.
For goodness sake, pull yourself together.
Doctor, doctor, doctor…the word’s been on my mind this week. I’m having a bit of an identity crisis and I’d love your opinion!
So, I’m a doctor, in case you hadn’t heard. At least, I used to be.
Not the medical kind – the other kind. A ‘doctor’ is someone who’s been to university for a stupidly long time. You can be a doctor of science, or education, or philosophy, or medicine. It is only a social accident that causes us to associate the term most strongly with the medical profession – because most people are more likely to have regular contact with a GP than their local philosophy researcher.
Back in the days when I worked as an academic in universities and museums, calling myself Dr was entirely legitimate. Many of my colleagues were doctors in their chosen fields. Nowadays, I’m on a different professional journey as a freelance writer/editor (and Mum). I no longer have the comfort zone of an institution to hang out in. This leaves my status as a Doctor hanging in limbo. Is it still OK for me to tick ‘Dr’ rather than ‘Mrs’ on forms? It’s legally ok – but is it socially ok?
A wise colleague once told me the title Dr should always be used when booking airfares (upgrades!) but never when booking a plumber (due to the misguided perception that one earns proper money). Adding ‘PhD’ to my business card might be informative, even impressive, to some, but simply pretentious to others. It’s on the About Me page for this blog, but I’m not sure it adds anything. Introducing myself as Dr attracts snorts of derision when people discover that I’m not a ‘real’ doctor. Some people think my largely literary PhD research topic was fascinating – others think it was a heinous waste of taxpayers’ money.
In the end, rather than being proud of my achievements, I tend to be rather cagey and self deprecating about it all for fear of ruffling feathers. If and when I do bring it up, I blurt it out defensively at inappropriate moments.
I got a mailing list email today from a yoga instructor who signs off with BSc Hons. So, she has a Science degree, but does it impact on her ability to teach yoga? Is it important enough to warrant a mention in the context of an email signature? If it’s a health science degree, then maybe it is, but that information wasn’t available. My PhD gave me many of the skills I now use as a writer, even if only indirectly – and yet I rarely talk about it to people I know well, let alone stick it in my email signature!
If I had been a GP and I was taking a career break/career change for the sake of family friendliness, I’m pretty sure I’d still refer to myself as Doctor.
So, tell me…
Should I be loud and proud about my degrees, or do I have about as much right to call myself Doctor as Karl Kennedy?
If you’ve had a career change or career break after parenthood, how do you reconcile your old life with your new one?
NOW hit me with your best Doctor, Doctor joke!
Doctor, Doctor, I keep thinking I’m a vampire.
Doctor, Doctor, I’ve got wind! Can you give me something?
Yes, here’s a kite.