“Once you have your PhD, what next?” I almost always get the same reply to this question “Well, you use your Post-Doc experience to get a job”. But this misses the huge space between post-PhD and securing a Post-Doc. This post highlights the struggles I have experienced in the few months following my PhD and the upcoming struggles I am bracing for. I do not have the answers, but want to highlight that these are issues.
Once your PhD is accepted, not all universities will allow you to continue teaching due to increased pay rates – “why hire a PhD when there are plenty of cheaper students available” was the rationale I was told. But Post-Doc positions go to people with “more experience”. So be prepared to be overqualified for the work you are doing and underqualified for the work you should be doing.
Lacking Experience Despite Being Experienced
In my few months in post-PhD land I have made serious attempts at applying for six jobs. Of them, I scored three interviews. In these two of these three interviews I was a desirable candidate but “lacked experience” (I am still waiting to hear back from the third). It would seem that there is this expectation that you can continue building your CV in the space between your PhD and a Post-Doc. So ‘lacking experience’ seems to be specific to this grey period between post-PhD and pre-Post-Doc.
Post-PhD is the perfect time to be working on writing up as many publications out of your PhD as possible. It is also the time to be applying for ECR grants and developing your collaboration network. This will also feed into your experience. Word of mouth and networking are powerful in academia. But, personally, I have been so busy applying for jobs and trying to figure out how to gain this sorely needed experience that I have barely had time to sit and write.
So, of the six positions I have applied for so far, four required interstate relocation. I have also started to consider international positions, sometimes in countries where I do not currently speak the native language. Securing Post-PhD work may mean relocating. This is hard if you have a partner who works.
Being the Family Stressor
My last point for this post. Family are a blessing in your post-PhD period because they can offer you emotional and financial support while you are making the move. But this places pressure on them as well, so how do you manage this dynamic? On top of this, how do you manage the need to move if your partner is well established in their workplace or runs a business? Should they up and leave as well, or should you live separately for a while? Can your relationship last long-distance?
These are not the only issues post-PhD and everyone will have a unique experience. But these are challenges I am facing. In this blog I will aim to document how I am managing (or not managing) these issues and would love to hear about issues you guys are facing. Let’s create a supportive community where we can normalise, destigmatise, and openly talk about what the post-PhD world looks like (the good and the bad) and how to navigate it.
~ Chris Kilby