I'm just posting here to vent. I'm feeling pretty miserable and I don't really have any friends in academia to talk to.
I just received yet another postdoc rejection and am starting to think I'll never get anything and that all my hard work has been pointless. Everyone keeps saying just keep going, there's light at the end of the tunnel etc. but I also know the job market is insanely tough and there are hundreds of candidates for every position.
I feel like a naive idiot for actually thinking I'd get a job. I have articles, prizes, grants and a PhD from the one of the best universities in the world. I felt really hopeful after graduating and now I feel like it was for nothing. I feel like a failure.
The fellowship I just got rejected from was one of my best chances. I worked so hard on my application and had great references. When I look at who has won it before, I really felt like I had a great chance. I guess not.
I'll keep going because what else am I going to do. I'm just really upset and needed to get this off my chest. If anyone has any good advice for continuing through this soul-destroying process, I'm all ears.
How long have you been looking for a postdoc?
Remember only about 10% of fellowship applications are successful. I think that percentage is right.
I was warned by several academics when I came to the end of my PhD that who you knew was significantly more important than what you knew.
Since summer 2018 (after graduating and then maternity leave). I know there are others that have been looking for longer. I guess it just feels like it's been ages even if it hasn't.
My subject is really niche and there aren't many opportunities (though I know that's pretty much the case for everyone). Again, I know how slim the chances are but I honestly thought I was in with a good chance but maybe my CV isn't as strong as I thought. I have built up (what I think is) a good and fairly prestigious network of supporters. My supervisor especially thinks I'm a superstar and has been an amazing advocate. I'm not sure what else I can do (except keep going I suppose).
Nesrine I'm in another very overcrowded field where very few PhD graduates get a first step on the ladder. it worked out for me but it was an unpleasant time and I know it was luck as much as anything else. What helped me psychologically (it might not for you but it might) was feeling like I was a bit in control. I set parameters for the academic job search - how long I was willing to give it, what sorts of jobs I was prepared to apply for and where I was willing to move to rather than applying for everything advertised, when I knew deep down that some jobs/locations would make me miserable. The conversation with my then partner added further constraints. I then developed plan B and C for non-academic job searches and started to implement them. Oddly although I didn't get it an interview for a really good non-academic job did wonders for my self-confidence in general and I got the next academic job I applied for possibly because I was feeling less desperate.
Hi pm133, thanks a lot for this advice. It makes me feel better but it's also a good reminder to keep some perspective.
I've mainly been applying for very general 'humanities' postdocs so I suppose I worry that my subject is a turn-off for people who will naturally gravitate towards more familiar areas. But of course I have to try and communicate the value of my research as best I can.
Your second point is really interesting. I have quite low self-esteem so I think I vacillate between thinking I'm doing really well (due to this sort of praise) and thinking I'm totally uncompetitive and will never get anywhere. I haven't quite found the balance and it does take a mental toll. I am working on not getting validation from external sources but it seems hard in a field like academia. In any case, I would certainly want to avoid falling into the trap of having a superiority complex and thinking I'm above it all. That sounds like a miserable way to live your life.
I'm glad that you think it's early for worrying. It's nice to have that outside perspective. When you keep receiving rejection after rejection, it can feel like you've been at it for a lot longer than you have. I will re-consider some options this weekend.
Nesrine I decided to give it a full year to start with, and if by then I wasn't getting any interviews and there wasn't something amazing about to go on my cv, I'd give up. If I was getting interviews then I was going to give it a second year but apply seriously for non-academic jobs too. I had p/t teaching to keep my head above water but I was determined that I wasn't going to do that for more than a year, as it seemed like a low income trap that never got you further. About 6 months after finishing I got a one year teaching fellowship, worked all the hours possible to still publish and then got a lectureship. I had been a civil servant before the PhD so was open to those sorts of jobs again, which I think helped.
Hi Nesrine, it is so difficult to be in times like this. I call them transition times. They're painful because you've got these hopes, aims, and aspirations - but there's no fruit in sight. I haven't been in your specific situ yet, but I do remember when I had finished my UG and was trying to get PhD funding. At times, it felt like, "how long do I keep on trying for then?". And it's true - some people try for years and years and still no joy. But I think that with your profile, it really is just a matter of time (and thus perseverance and resilience) and, depending on what's available in your field, really looking to broaden your scope (and thus your options) as suggested by pm133. Also apologies if you've already said this elsewhere, but are you also applying for RA jobs? They are another way in to a postdoc.
It may sound a naive or silly suggestion, but it might be good to watch some inspiring films/read inspiring books. I really like Pursuit of Happyness to help get me through such times. It sort of reminds you that others have been in what feels like dead-end situations, and there is success at the end of it (whatever form that success ends up taking - perhaps slightly different to what was first anticipated, or maybe not - maybe exactly what you had in mind!).
Hi Tudor, thanks for this lovely message. I have had a short RA job already (6 months, part-time) but have not applied for any others. There have only been a few advertised and they were unsuitable for various reasons.
It's nice to have encouragement from people who understand what it's like to go through this. When I wrote my first post, I was feeling so hopeless but the initial shock has worn off a bit now. I'm still really sad and disappointed but I have to keep plodding along. As pm133 suggested, it is also good to adjust my perspective for the sake of my mental health.
Nesrine87, I completely recognise the swings in mood and the external validation thing. For me, I overcame both when I stopped valuing the opinions of others over my own. At the time I was receiving praise for academic prizes I was winning when I knew myself that those achievements were based on weak background knowledge. I realised that I am best qualified to judge how good I am.
Having secured your PhD, I reckon you are now in the same position to judge yourself better than anyone else. You shouldn't think that this is somehow conceited or arrogant though. It's just a fact that you are now best placed to know yourself. If you can begin to believe this about yourself, you might find your self esteem is bolstered, you become more emotionally grounded, you seek less validation from people who really are no better qualified to judge you than you are yourself and you might find yourself calmer and more focussed as a result.
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