A PhD - Great, Now what...


Hello all,

First post and as like a many other, born out of absolute frustration.

Prior to Christmas, I had the wonderful experience of submitting my PhD after 3 and a half years of incredibly hard work, stress and overcoming degrees of adversity. Although not yet VIVA'd and done, I'm confident I'll walk away with my doctorate and 2 first authored papers (which form 2 of my chapters) when all is said and done.

My problem is finding something now to allow me to stay in academia, preferably within the UK but open to Europe. However, I have had a string of rejections for various posts and am struggling badly to find anyone willing to employ me, as I keep coming up against serial postdocs or find myself not qualified enough for the more advanced positions (understandably). The only one position I WAS offered was in the USA but I declined this on personal grounds of having gotten married this year and rather poor working conditions by comparison to Europe.

It's becoming a bit soul destroying and I'm really starting to curse the "serial postdocs" out there who are content in stagnating and not advancing!

In need of encouragement (or a job...) though I don't seek the latter here ;-)

Avatar for Mackem_Beefy

First of all and to be blunt, you've not had your viva yet so don't count your chickens before they've hatched. Too many people have gone into viva overconfident, just to find themselves with major corrections.

Secondly, the fact you've not yet received your PhD will count against you when competing against other candidates. You may find more success being interviewed once it is awarded.

Thirdly, I do know there are people who manage to chain together 'serial' post-docs at their PhD University. However, the reality is they need to stay in work as much as you need to be in work. Also, such serial positions are becoming rarer with an oversupply of PhDs in the market and funding reduced by central government and thus the funding bodies. You are in a very difficult marketplace where you need to learn how to sell your skills effectively to a potential employer. Look at your CV and see how you can express your previous activities as 'achievements' rather than a list of things you have done. Also, look at targetting the skills you have that are relevant to the post you are applying for. I learnt this for myself after becoming unemployed after my second post-doc (not a serial post at my PhD University).

There is a separate thread about the state of the post-grad jobs market and you may wish to look at that. You are not alone and if you hang around here, others may be able to offer you support or guidance.


You should seriously consider a plan B (i.e. post/career outside academia as I did), however, the PhD may itself portray you as 'overqualified' as discussed in the employment thread I mentioned. Once in a job, any job, it may make it easier to find a job you want to do, however, the reality is the jobs market for many out there is very difficult at the moment without the right contacts and experience.

All the best,

Ian (Mackem_Beefy)


I understand your frustration because I've been there, as well as nearly everyone else I know. Although the job situation seems dire, the best thing you can do at this point is to stay optimistic and keep taking steps in improve your C.V., which includes working on publications, presenting at conferences and planning a book. Regardless of how things turn out on the job market during the short term, continuing to take these steps will generate more hope for you, it will keep you working, and it will prevent your C.V. from developing unseemly gaps.

However, allowing yourself to grow increasingly frustrated and cynical about the lack of a decent job market may interfere with your motivation to stay productive on a scholarly level. Such cynicism can easily lead to a "What's the use?" attitude when it comes to pursuing further academic projects that reside outside the realm of coursework---and that will not help you in the long run.

Good luck to you. And I wouldn't knock the job offer in the U.S.A. That in itself is a promising development that attests to your potential.


I have a good story.

An "early career" position came up in my department recently. The criteria in the job description had the usual - PhD in relevant field, teaching experience, publications relevant to stage of career etc etc.

I found out that the 6 candidates all had a book published (basically their thesis) and at least 4 articles in top level journals (this is humanities). One candidate already had a proper position in a higher ranked uni (but obviously was after the permanent position). Two had post-docs.

The preferred candidate in the eyes of the member of staff I was speaking to (but who wasn't on the selection panel) was a candidate who was AHRC funded for MA and PhD, had TWO books published, 6 articles in top-level journals, co-edited special editions of books, and teaching experience in 3 institutions. By my calculations the person did this in about 5 years or so.

How can someone just walking out of a viva (like myself) expect to be taken seriously in any job application.

In my mind it is now about building my CV and getting the book published (luckily I've had interest from 3 reputable publishers) and working on NEW material outside of my thesis.

I have certain financial and personal responsibilities that perhaps other PhD students don't have (i.e. a family) and I'm projecting that I will be very lucky to be in academic employment (in the UK at least) by Sept 2014. It might even be the year after.

To be honest I don't mind working outside of the academic bubble at all in whatever job - as long as I can get a job that pays similar (if not a bit more) than my PhD funding.

That's the reality.

Avatar for Eska

I feel similarly at the moment: I just want to finish the PhD and move on to prperly paid employment... Or a PGCE that will lead to a reasonably paid job/temp work. I've been looking at the fast track scheme which only takes six months. I want to continue writing my stuff though, I will keep plugging my research and hope an academic post comes up for me, either here in the UK or abroad.


Larrydavid - I just wanted to pass on a resource that a friend in history rated as a good sounding board on non-academic job ideas http://versatilephd.com/ And look abroad - everything I'm hearing at the moment suggests that there will be a big round of UK university redundancies in the next 12 months if u/g recruitment continues to collapse. And that will put even more highly qualified people on the market. It's a real mess.


I have gave up being a post-doc, or taking other academic jobs. I have even gave up a chance with the humboldt fellowship in Germany. These days, it is too difficult for a PhD to find a academic position after one, or a few, post-docs. And a major problem is that, more PhD holder coming to Market after you. If you cannot quickly figure out a position and produce more publications, you are very likely having trouble in academia. I also believe, a strong research connection is a must-be for anyone want to stay in academia. These connections normally come from your supervisors or other close research collaborations.