Job-hunting dilemma


Hi guys,

I've just finished my PhD (hooray! yippee!) etc. and am now a bit stuck. I'm desperate for an academic position, but I can't seem to get a postdoc or teaching fellowship. I've had a couple of interviews but no offers. I also applied for postdoctoral funding for a project idea that I have but haven't been able to persuade any institution to back me: although the academics I've approached have mostly been keen, their departments haven't. This is, I think, partly due to my field, which isn't awash with opportunities at the moment, but mostly because I have no publications as yet: something I've been working on in my spare time, but it's a slow process.

The other issue is I have no job. I'm lucky enough to be living with my partner, who has been supporting me financially, but this isn't sustainable long-term. So I need a job, even non-academic, but with very little professional experience, this has been tricky too. I've been applying for a lot of part-time university admin jobs but have got nowhere so far. The good news is that I've been offered an interview for a full-time, permanent, non-academic job next week. The rate of pay is great, and the commute is short, but I'm not really interested in the career path and still really don't want to give up on academia. The plan, if I were to be offered the position, would be to try to continue to publish/attend conferences in my spare time, but I'm worried about how realistic this is.

So I guess what I'm asking is: does anyone have any experience of juggling post-PhD academic research with full-time work, and if so, how feasible is it? I think I have the drive to do it, but no longer being close to the uni library will make it harder...


I should probably point out that I'm in the humanities, so access to labs won't be an issue, although I will still need library access and occasional research trips.

Avatar for Mackem_Beefy

After my second post-doc, I took a job in the real world with perhaps the intention of returning to a research-based job later. I looked to publish my remaining data and whilst there was still data to publish, I managed to squeeze out a few extra papers plus managed to finish collaboration on a book chapter.

However, I'm still in this real world job sometime later due to personal, family and health reasons. It becomes harder to continue putting out research work and your contacts will fade if you are no longer 'active'. I am now out of the loop so to speak and returning to a research or academic career path would be extremely difficult. Recent PhD graduates would have an advantage over me as their research and publication record is fresh compared to mine.

My take is that if you take time out, voluntarily or otherwise, that you only have a limited amount of time to place yourself back in the frame. If you are looking at generating journal publications out of your work, to do it sooner rather than later. Once you are in a full-time job, that and other everyday pressures will all but ensure that you won't have much spare time to devote to paper writing or related activities. You will find unless you are very highly motivated, all you'll want to do on getting home each night is crash in front of the telly. :-)



Your situation is kind of similar to mine. I first applied for postdocs with no luck but have been hired in a non-academic sector (although the line of work relates to my PhD field).
"does anyone have any experience of juggling post-PhD academic research with full-time work, and if so, how feasible is it?" I would strongly advise you against juggling- I had to stop working on a publication I was planning to submit to a journal because of the workload from my job.Good news is that I design policy and create publications (though non-academic) as part of my job, but post-PhD academic research and full-time work are like oil and water they don't mix IMHO. I also have a friend who's currently working on PhD corrections but had to quit his part-time (part-time mind you) job to complete his corrections. Time is too short and you also have a life.
If I were you do what I'm doing now: I'm hoping to get back into academia but I needed the money and a bit of a change from the academic environment after 3+ years. You can always apply for postdocs next year, and who knows your experience (I'm assuming it's still related to your field even if non-academic) might help.
Finally I agree with Mackem Beefy that " If you are looking at generating journal publications out of your work, to do it sooner rather than later". That's what I did: I got 2 publications out before starting my new job.


I agree with what everyone has said about the window of opportunity being short. I'd still take the non-academic job though and try to get something published in your spare time. During our PhDs I think we are subtlely conditioned to see a non-academic job as a less desirable outcome and to pretend that academic jobs are much better than they actually are. You might find that when you step into a non-academic job and move away from the 'brainwashing' that actually you love it. If not, a few months of well-paid work is better than being unemployed, and you'd just have to try and overcome the time/motivation problems others have described.


Thank you all for your (refreshingly honest) replies. My mum and boyfriend are both telling me to go for the full-time job if I'm offered it with what I think is a naïve assumption that I'll be able to just dip back into academia later on, even if I do nothing to improve my research profile - which I know isn't true. I am presenting at 2 big international conferences in the next two months, which is good, but on top of that need to plan a research trip for an article I'm working on soon, and need to at least start the process of adapting the thesis into a book this year if I'm to have any chance of making it in academia. Unfortunately my field (medieval literature) doesn't translate well to jobs outside of academia without additional qualifications, and there are fewer jobs for us in academia as language departments and funding bodies favour modern and contemporary studies.

But at the same time I am financially dependent on my family entirely, and I know they can't really afford to keep doing it: my mum is funding me out of her pension, and my boyfriend's on a limited contract which expires in a year's time and has no immediate prospects lined up. So really I have little choice but to take anything I'm offered, even if it means risking missing out on the dream career, and try my darndest to make it work with my research plans!