Guardian - advice for unemployed new PhD


Inbetween the predictable 'PhD a waste of time' comments, there's actually some useful advice for people looking for academic jobs in the comments:


Agree, the comments are far better and more useful than the piece of tripe article.


Thanks Bewildered - I enjoyed reading the article and the comments.


Check out the link for general advice for graduates,

You might already know a lot of this but it always pays to refresh. There's also some great content tweeted daily.

Let me know what you think.


I read this article on the weekend with great interest. I wasn't at suprised to see the amount of stick the poor guy recieved and shows how mean, unsupportive and spiteful fellow academics can be towards those in trouble or struggling. All the victim blaming and sneering brings it all back and makes me so glad to be out of the university snakepit.

Avatar for Mackem_Beefy

I can relate to this article and the feelings of disillusionment felt by the writer. Even with a science PhD, I had great difficulty looking for employment upon leaving academia and it took me a year to get sorted out.

It's now almost 5 years into a job (and increasingly established career path) I did not plan for when I did my PhD. In fact, taking the PhD was a way out of ending up in a similar 'pen pushing' situation. However, I could be in the position of the article writer and be in that dark place full of disillusionment he is still in. We're in a world where simply to have a job is an achievement in itself.

I guess I could have approached things differently and made us of a publication record I did manage to build up during and after my PhD. Attempts I have made to get back on track always seemed to coincide with something going wrong personally (relative's health, fallout with a girl I knew etc.).

However, I've a job and established pension plan now and I guess many of you can relate to the point of view of protecting what you have got (financially as well as employment-wise) rather than endangering it by trying to find something new. I have the additional problem that I removed my PhD from my CV in order to ease my way back into employment. If I was to move back on track, I would have to officially tell my current employer about the PhD as any new employer would need my current employer to give a reference. Although I believe they unofficially know, it might still cause problems.

As an aside, I would NEVER recommend removing your PhD from your CV, given how easy it is to trace your PhD these days on the internet (if you know where to look - Ethos, Proquest, University repositories, even Google). Instead, prioritise relavent skills to the job on your CV and possibly deprioritise your education rather than hide it.

Ian (Mackem_Beefy)

Avatar for sneaks

I think most of the competition is coming from abroad and that finding a Post-doc role/lectureship is easier if you're willing to up sticks and move away. Problem is, language barriers mean that 'they' i.e. non-english people often have an advantage i.e. as if I'm going to be able to learn Spanish/Italian/Greek in time to be able to do a job there!

Also being married is a bit of an issue, I'd never be willing to leave the area I live cos hubbers earns a lot more than me in london, in a 'normal' job, so he is the 'bread winner' - we couldn't move just so I could get a job. Massively restricts the job market for me to about ten universities I could work for.


Moving is the biggest thing really. I went travelling with my other half after a few years working post first degree because, well, it's more fun. When we got back we just applied for jobs anywhere. This was the middle of the recession with loads of people going out of work, but because we were willing to move anywhere (and we had a bit of luck and are well qualified) we managed to get jobs within a month or two of returning to the UK (I had a job within 3 weeks).

If people can't move it massively restricts their options, which is a great shame. Also, remember in academia, many foreign universities teach in English.

Avatar for Eska

Thank you Bewildered, those are some great comments after the article, really useful and thought provoking. I found the tone of the article quite naive and a bit daft, why has this all come as such a shock? Perhaps his supervisor or department could have given better guidance. Or maybe he should have spent more time around here at the forum.


Quote From sneaks:

Problem is, language barriers mean that 'they' i.e. non-english people often have an advantage i.e. as if I'm going to be able to learn Spanish/Italian/Greek in time to be able to do a job there!

You mean Chinese, Portuguese, or German considering the current economy! ;-)

Avatar for sneaks

it prob depends on your discipline. At the moment I'm working with a lot of Greek, Swedish and Dutch people. I wouldn't have a hope of going to their universities and understanding a word!


Many Dutch universities teach in English and I have presented with people from Sweden before - they worked in English too.


I think the guy is asking for too much too soon but I do understand where he is coming from - it's very soul destroying.

I've been looking for jobs in research and industry for 18 months and very seriously for about a year. I've sent hundreds of spec emails, tweeted, contacted newspapers, submitted a couple of hundred applications at least and have applied close to home and across the UK and Ireland and even Australia. Jobs applications have ranged from minimum wage research assistant (didn't even get shortlisted) through to research fellow posts. I have previous experience of working as a research assistant and researcher but am just having no luck. To date, I've been shortlisted for about 5 or 6 interviews but I'm still unemployed. It's dire out there...

Not sure what the answer is.

Avatar for sneaks

Quote From screamingaddabs:

Many Dutch universities teach in English and I have presented with people from Sweden before - they worked in English too.

yeah, but they don't teach 'how to drag your husband from his english life to a swedish one without him getting in a mood" :p


Thank you for posting this article link - I read the article and comments with interest. I think the writer of it is a little naive about things at the moment, almost expecting that he would be inundated with job offers. He might be a young, bright and budding academic, but it does mean very little in the face of current competition.
Often said, it really is dire in the UK with the current contraction of academia. In short, I stood no chance of getting anything remotely teaching-related when I qualified and that is why I originally decided to work in industry. It was only through luck and being in the right place at the right time (and that's what it was) that I managed to actually get a job in academia - on the other side of the world! As already reasoned here, that is what we'll increasingly have to do to if we want any kind of academic career. It'll be really tough for people that have families, although if you're the person that they're after, the universities will often offer generous relocation packages - plane tickets, rent and subsidised food rates for a month.