So What Next After Graduation?

Mark Smith, Director of the Doctoral School

Following graduation in March, this month Mark Smith reflects on the prospects for graduates leaving doctoral programmes. Last month we celebrated the success of our Grenoble PhD and DBA graduates, along with their research, in front of a large audience. As is often the case the doctoral students were the finale of the ceremony, marking their achievement at the pinnacle of academic qualifications. Across the world doctoral candidates are hard at work finalising their theses or responding to examiners’ questions and comments but they should not forget to look forward to what comes afterwards

A few months ago one of our incoming students asked what she could do with her Doctorate of Business Administration (DBA) once it was finished. My first thought was “well you perhaps should have thought about that before you applied, completed our selection process and paid your tuition fees”. My second thought was “well you have a good three to four years of study so plenty time to worry about that”. However, the answer I gave, after a quick reflection about where our recent graduates had gone, was “whatever you want!”

Follow Your Passion

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Graduands awaiting the Graduation Ceremony at Grenoble Ecole de Management (photo M.Smith).

Most students starting out on a doctoral program are following their passion. They are convinced that their subject and their approach to the subject is the one to take. Passion is the thing that drives you at the start, keeps you awake at night during the middle of your studies, will frustrate you at times and will for sure appear a lot less interesting (even boring) to your friends and family.

And let’s be honest, as researchers we cannot always understand why the rest of the world is not as passionate about our topic whether it is business models, financial markets, leadership or corporate governance. This same drive is what will determine your next steps.

A world of Options

DBA & PhD Graduates at the ceremony (photo A. Gelin)

Graduates leaving our doctoral programs this year are heading off in a wide variety of directions but following their passion in each case. There is one who has used his qualification to make that tricky step from an administrative to a faculty role in the world of academia. Another who is using her research to promote female entrepreneurships in Africa as a means to alleviate poverty. Another graduate who has found that tenure-track faculty position in the business school he was looking for.

Those graduating from the Doctorate of Business Administration (DBA) in Grenoble often have a profile that allows them to work across academic and commercial worlds and many DBA holders enjoy part-time teaching positions in business schools around the world. Others use the DBA to bring academic rigour to their consulting work including one of our graduates this year who is doing just that with top French Luxury brands.

Change is in the Air

Chamrong Cheam (DBA 2016) with Professors Yan & Polski (Photo N.Friess)

For most people the change resulting from doing a doctorate is not on the day of graduation but sometime earlier in the process. Perhaps on the day you open your mind to the possibilities of doing research and change your approach to the world – what the jargon likes to call becoming reflexive practitioner if you were a manager bef
ore. However, the change is also in how people see you – the day your colleagues find out that you are registered on a doctoral programme, the day you use some research results to clinch an argument at work or the day your colleagues realise you have a doctoral degree. These changes will open up more possibilities and more options to follow your own passion.

Just do It

So the quick answer “whatever you want” seems to capture all of these possibilities. The same passion that drove you to sign up for doctoral studies and that keeps you going on the long (sometimes) lonely journey will help shape your next steps.

So go on and do it, after all it was hard work and you earned it!


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