Are postdocs fun?!


Hey everyone,

I am half way through writing up my PhD and I have a really awesome postdoc lined up for when I am finished. So I should be happy shouldn't I? Sometimes I am but I am also apprehensive. I have had a very hard PhD and I guess I am worried that nothing will really change one I start my postdoc. Is it different? If so then how? I still really love most aspects of research but I don't love the pressure and stress I felt during my PhD.

I also suffer big time from impostor syndrome and I keep wondering if they made the right decision choosing me and I worry that I won't do well. I thought by now I would be over this. Any other post-docs struggle with this ever? Or just me?!

Thanks :)


I would say my postdoc is pretty much exactly the same in terms of doing the lab work and writing papers and presentations and training and conferences as a PhD.

But, I would say it's less fun than a PhD. I guess I found the first time I did any of these things was fun and took effort, but now it's easy. Picking up a new protocol is now easy, writing and submitting papers is easy, standing up and talking in front of 100s of people gets easier. Plus, with my PhD I loved where I lived, the uni, the city and my lab mates, plus my supervisors were great so... And there's no teaching with my postdoc, and I loved that aspect of my PhD.

I don't feel any pressure or stress at all to be honest... but I think that's more about me rather than a postdoc not being stressful. I didn't find my PhD particularly stressful either, but I had the same issues with deadlines, experiments not working and long hours as everyone else.

I feel like an imposter all the time too - I look at other postdocs and I think they are 'real' postdocs and I wish I could be like them... but again, I think it's more about the personality they project rather than any tangible difference.


I did find mine quite different to a PhD - for context I'm a social scientist and had a Marie Curie two year postdoc. The PhD, I'd agree with treeoflife was definitely much less stressful, but I think I actually enjoyed the postdoc more. What was different for me:
1) no supervisor - at first I found the independence quite hard to deal with. I had moved to a university system where pastoral care for students was non-existent and so there was no support for postdocs. You were just meant to know what to do - be an instant professional researcher. When I adapted, I liked this bit - I was fed up of being a student (my impression is that in a lab the transition is less sudden).
2) Always needing to think about the next job is stressful. In the social sciences you hopefully transition to a lectureship after a postdoc, but the statistical odds are heavily against you. That means being under real pressure to publish fast and well, and get as many things on your cv as you can. I wrote and published more in one year of my postdoc than I did in my entire PhD. Networking becomes crucial and learning to look confident even if you don't feel it...
3) I was interacting and teaching (not much, just an MA module) in a different language. Although I'd studied abroad before in the country and spoke it well, I found that quite tough at times.
4) I found it odd being sort of between the PhD students and the permanent academic staff. On the one hand, I found it uncomfortable to hear the PhD students bitching about their supervisors as they were now colleagues (and you start to realise quickly that a lot of it is very unfair), but on the other, I wasn't meant to attend staff meetings as they were for permanent staff. So I ended up stuck in the middle.