How hard is it to find a postdoc?


Hi. I passed my PhD upgrade. My primary supervisor is encouraging but doesn't suggest I go for postdoc. It is a dream of mine, though. If she doesn't seem to encourage me, what should I do? She is suggesting I go into industry. Is it possible to wait until the PhD is over and then look for postdoc opportunities? I just don't want to think all this is hopeless - I want something good to look forward to.



Why is she suggesting that? Would be useful to know her reasoning. In the end, you can go for what you want. You might find that you are funneled toward one thing simply because of circumstances (e.g., not many postdocs and more industry jobs at a given time), but that doesn't mean you can't have Plan A goals. Have you let her know that you actually want to do a postdoc?


To be honest, she implies I haven't provided her with enough writing. However, I provided enough work and physical work to pass the upgrade. I also ask her about jobs and she implies I just go to the University jobs center and ask for advice - which I feel is a bit rubbish, especially when I hinted I wanted to do postdoc. She mentions that a postdoc is a great privilege when other people tell me everyone gets a postdoc.
I don't know what to do and am seriously considering transferring university where someone will be able to give me ideas about what I can do.
I worry she is getting more from me than I from her in this transaction.


She tells me that doing a postdoc is 'a great privilege' when others have told me everyone does them.
I worry she is getting far more from this transaction than I from her and this will destroy my career. I worked hard this first year.


Try not to get disheartened. When I mention postdocs I don't get encouragement, industry jobs are instead mentioned and actively promoted to PhD students. Partly this is due to there being far more PhDs than postdocs. I haven't been supported as much as I would have liked, my references come from co-supervisors.

Getting your research published is important if you want to do a postdoc, so your supervisor may have a point about the writing.


My research has been published by the European Commission and I've presented at a few high profile conferences including the European and American Geosciences Conferences. I think this is good for the first year... and yet I don't understand why she isn't encouraging postdoc.


I still think you should politely ask!

But if you don't want to (and I don't blame you!) just keep on working toward your postdoc - presenting at conferences and publishing where possible. At the end of the day it will be you who is applying for postdocs and if your research profile is good (in line with career stage) then you'll be competitive.


It might be just a realistic assessment of what she thinks the academic job market in your field is going to look like for the next few years rather than anything personal. If what's already happening in the US and Australia is anything to go by, and it's certainly looking bad here in the UK too, it's going to be very hard indeed for people to get a foot on the academic ladder. It might not be the worse idea to see what info your careers people have on industry jobs so that you're well-informed on all possibilities.


I agree with bewildered that it is already hard to get a Postdoc. If she means it is particularly hard for "you" to get a Postdoc, just do your part and work hard and apply. If she does not want to (cannot) hire you as a Postdoc, who cares? There should be other PIs who are interested in your skills. Meanwhile looking in industry is not a bad idea.
My advice is not to open the subject with her again. It is what it is. She does not see chances in academia (either for you or in general). Let us move on and focus of what you can do rather than what she believes.


It sounds like you get a good dose of realism from that supervisor - and it's good to manage expectations (especially in the light of the current situation as bewildered highlights). I think it's important to try and keep your goals and aspirations alive too though. Gives you something to work toward. So maybe talk to other supervisors and potential mentors too, who might be more optimistic and encouraging.