Life after the PhD...


Hello to you all,

I was awarded a PhD (subject to undertaking minor corrections) last week. Obviously I was elated. But now comes the hard bit - finding a job. My thesis was on the Irish Republican movement and I'm looking for something in Political Science, or possibly Modern History or International Relations. However, there doesn't seem to be a great deal out there and I'm conscious of my lack of publications possibly counting against me. I did give a paper at a fairly high-profile conference which seemed to go down well, but I haven't had anything in academic journals at all.

Is this something I should concetrate on rectifying? Or is it not so important for very early-stage rsearchers? If I do need to get a publication record going, does anyone have advice on how to go about it?

I did teach seminars two years running, which is obviously good for the CV. I'm just not sure it's enough.

Any other general advice on what to do now I've finished would be great :-)



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Based on the experience of my fellow PhD humanities graduates in my department who have gone onto full-time academic posts, I think a publication record is really important. You can start addressing this now, writing journal papers based on your PhD and submitting them to academic journals. But it will take some time before they are published, even assuming they are accepted. The process of publication in humanities journals is not a speedy one, so you should start tackling this ASAP.

I can't work due to my progressive neurological disease, but I am spending 12 months turning my thesis into more journal papers (I had 2 published during my part-time PhD). I generally work on papers in pairs, so submitted 2 some months ago, then wrote 2 more, while developing 2 more in the early stages. I currently have 2 papers recently accepted, but expect publication could be over a year from now. 2 more of my papers are currently submitted with editors/reviewers, and I am writing 2 more papers at the moment.


First of all, many congratulations on passing!

Yes, you really need to get some publications behind you, especially if you want an academic career. You might like to contact your supervisor for some guidance if you're not clear about how or what to publish.


Well done Alty for successfully passing your PhD.

I've no idea if you're Ireland-based but even if not, and given your topic, checking in with the political studies association of Ireland might be a good move. There is a link from that to political studies associations worldwide; might be a good place to start?



First, congratulations! Enjoy the moment of triumph and try and get a holiday - you deserve one!

The bad news is that the politics and even more so IR markets are flooded with un / underemployed PhDs. There's a poster called Wj_Gibson whose experiences trying to get a politics job are worth searching past posts for, even though it doesn't make fun reading. Realistically, you probably need to set yourself a limit of how long you're prepared to hang on and make sure you have a plan B.

Politics is my subject area too and I got a lectureship last year after doing a postdoc and frankly I don't think it was because I was so much better than other candidates, it was a combination of luck, playing the game well and getting a lot of good advice from savvy people who had got jobs in the past couple of years. I'll try and pass on some of that advice. This advice is for the UK although I think it probably holds fairly true elsewhere too. Unless you are REF-submittable, it's very unlikely you'll be shortlisted for a politics / IR job, so publications are compulsory and they need to be in decent journals. Avoid getting sucked into edited volumes at this stage - you need not to be reliant on co-authors / editors getting their acts in gear. You also need a good track record of conference presentations, teaching experience etc but the publications (preferably demonstrating non-academic impact too these days) are non-negotiable in reality. Try and think through how many ways you can spin your PhD research to make you eligible for different sub-discipline jobs - think through too what you can realistically teach. If you can get to sit in on any job talks being held in your dept then do so - that was a real eye-opener for me about how to do that bit right and wrong. Get multiple people to critique your cv and cover letters - especially if you had an older supervisor who strolled into an academic job decades ago and hasn't kept up to date with the realities of the current job market. Obviously sign up for vacancy alerts but it's also worth keeping an eye on these: ; (jobs link on front page); and (the jobs are normally under Exchange but it doesn't seem to be working today).
There's some good resources on Manchster University's website on academic careers that are well worth looking at, as are these websites:

Looking at the people who were shortlisted with me, pretty much everyone has had a postdoc / RA / temp lectureship before they started to have a shot at permanent lectureships so you might want to focus your efforts in those directions. Talk to whoever is clued up in your department about the ESRC, BA and Leverhulme schemes. Right now I assume your main concern is getting some money coming in, so make it clear to your department that you're looking for work, ditto any other departments you could teach in and departments at universities you could realitically commute too. This is the point of the year when worrying gaps in teaching cover start emerging so speculative cvs for hourly paid teaching are worth sending.

Sorry if this is discouraging but I hope it helps a bit as well.


Speaking of the devil, here I am!

The more you publish, the better.

But in this day and age, I would be sure to have a "back up" plan that involves working outside academia. I couldn't get anywhere near an interview despite two single authored publications in top journals, lots of UG and PG teaching experience, 2 postdocs (one Esrc funded). You can, as Bewildered correctly notes, find my story elsewhere on here so I'm not going to repeat it. But be prepared for a much tougher ride in the job market than you might dare to expect.

I bailed out of it in the end as I was horribly burned out and ill and utterly sick of applying for job after job and getting nowhere. I don't much like the market research job I'm now in, but I'm hoping the research experience in the "real" worked will prove very useful for my eventual shift into political think tank ot third sector research jobs in the hopefully near future.


Thanks to you all, some really useful stuff there.

I am UK-based and I've had the PSAI mentioned to me before, so that's something I'll definitely look into shortly.

Frankly, hearing some of thse stories is a little dispiriting. Still, I'd rather have it straight than sugar-coated useless 'advice' such as "keep plugging away". I've already been alerted to some more teaching opportunities after Christmas and I'll try to press on with getting some stuff published if at all possible.

To be honest, I'm not precious about the idea of being an academic. Working as a researcher for a think tank, or in intelligence, or any number of other fields would still be something in which I'd be interested. I think previous applications might have been hindered by the fact I hadn't finished the PhD, so I'm hoping I might have more luck on that front now...


It is very easy for people who won full time jobs 15 years ago, when getting an academic job was much easier than it is today (despite what they might say about it always having been hard etc.), to say "keep plugging away" when plugging away doesn't bring in any income...

It's exceptionally tough. You need to be an instinctive self marketer (something I've never been). But some people do make it through so it's certainly possible.

I don't think anyone really understands exactly what gets you through into academia, though. A significant proportion of it is random chance because for every young academic who gets a lectureship there will be many others with equally good CVs who never do. So a back up idea is an absolute must; if I had my way, I'd make PhD applicants explain their back up idea before they were even allowed on the PhD in the first place.


I think the skill is to know when to stop "plugging away". I personally have no desire to be plugging away in 3 years time. I have already been applying for academic posts since Sept 2009. I have publication and a temporary lectureship on my cv. Even then it is still hard. Fortunately I have another paper in the pipeline bringing the total to 6 which is fairly hefty in the humanities, one year after completion. This aside, I know that postdocs are scarce and whilst I am very happy for my fellow friends who get humanities postdocs - I know (as do they) that in many ways this is deferring the inevitable "what to do?" since lectureships are so scarce. In many ways postdocs count as plugging away but might very well just be deferral of choice-making.

I have no idea long term - i suspect that academia will not work out. But there will be other things. Happily I have recently found employment for a year as a English teacher overseas. With hope I will have time to think about the next move...


chrisrolinski, that's fantastic. I'm pleased for you as I know its been tough.


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Quote From delta:

chrisrolinski, that's fantastic. I'm pleased for you as I know its been tough.

Thanks Delta. I am both excited and terrified to be moving to the other side of the world in a matter of a 6 weeks!!!