Post doc uncertainty


So here I am, I've just accepted my 3rd Post-Doc job. Still waiting for the examiners decision after submitting my thesis corrections 10weeks ago and Im feeling completely deflated.
In my last 2 posts I'd moved up the payscale as per the annual pay progression. Now they are putting me back those 4 points as a higher rate hasn't been costed in the project grant. Same level job, same title, same department, less pay. I've felt pressured to accept and I've turned down other interviews because I was offered this post which was advertised at a grade rather than a spinal point, I assumed I would be payed at my current point within the grade to reflect my skills/progression.
I've also enquired about a permanent contract as I've now been on fixed term contracts for 5 years. Apparently I'm not eligible as the posts are from external funding (even though I've gone straight from 1 post to another in my university so the work and funding is clearly there).
As a single mum of 3, money is tight and I'm starting to worry if ill always be on fixed term contracts, job insecurity, and if my pay is going to go back down every time I start a new post, even if its a like for like job.
Due to family, full time work and finishing a thesis I havent been able to knock out publications, and I'm not very competitive by nature. I'm social sciences, so I can't even think how I could use my skills in a similar paid role outside of academia.
I think I've been unrealistic in thinking my PhD was the biggest hurdle to jump.
Im also expecting to hear from the examiners om the 18th December, and its feeling like the longest 10 days of my life. Sorry for the negativity but I'm feeling a bit sorry for myself and needed to whinge!


Hi, hate myphd84,

I am sorry you are facing so many challenges.

Regarding your phd, you will have to be a bit more proactive. Instead of just waiting, can you ring up the admin person to chase up? You would be surprised that sometimes thesis or their corrections sit on the desk for up to months because the admin forgot to send them out. Plus it is a bit ridiculous that you are on your third post doc and still have not been conferred your doctorate yet. Push your supervisor and admin. I am assuming your supervisor hasn’t been very supportive for you to be in this predicament.

Regarding jobs and salary, while we think that social sciences are important for our society, the job market sometimes doesn’t think that way. If you are on your third postdoc, no publications and no own grant funding, this will be brutal but you are totally not competitive at all in academia. Before you totally get pushed out of lab PI roles and end up stuck as lab technician despite a PhD, pls get out.

Have you thought of getting a job as data analyst or project manager in a start up or company instead? You will have to start from the bottom but it will pay better with improved job security in the long run.


Hi there - yes, really sorry to hear that you are struggling.

As a social scientist I am going to slightly push back against the last post - no, all is not lost. You say you're on your 3rd postdoctoral job but what do you mean by this - your third postdoc grant? Your third RA job? Or your third teaching job after the PhD? Your PhD is not awarded yet, so it seems like you are early on in the process. What's the situation?

As tru says you may not be competitive yet but I don't think it is too late for you. After my PhD I took a rubbish teaching job, but then managed to get a 3 year lectureship on the strength of my postdoctoral research agenda and a credible plan to publish - I had not published yet! That position gave me the space to push out publications and I've started to rapidly get acceptances with more in the pipeline, and also a grant project that's been fettled, submitted, rejected, fettled again, and is once again ready to go. This is just to say that it is not too late for things to start kicking into gear. It took a long time for me, I had a fortunate turn with my job, but believed that I wasn't good enough for a very long time. Don't let that feeling become a self-fulfilling prophecy.


I think you are probably coming down to earth with a bump re: the PhD being the biggest hurdle - it's definitely not. It's a challenge unlike many others because it goes on for so long, but now you've done it, the rest of your career will follow similar patterns (research, publish, present, rinse and repeat) but with much tighter deadlines and piles of admin work and teaching to go along with it.

If you're three short-term jobs into academia and you don't feel able to handle this, or rather, you don't think this is a sensible or worthwhile use of your life and valuable time (no judgment there at all!) then yes I'd consider whether this is the career path for you. It is also a sad reality that this is a hostile career path for carers and parents given the uncertainty, poor remuneration, and the need to move around a lot. Having no responsibilities of that kind gives me, and others, a big structural advantage. However, I also have colleagues who are single parents and harder workers/better academics than me, so it can be done.

In sum - don't give up just because you think it's too late, because from what you've said I am not sure that is the case. However, if this is grinding you down to the extent that you don't want to do it any more, then you will be following a well-trodden path by leaving the 'profession' (if one can call it that any more) - and you're likely to be financially and psychologically better off for it.

Hope that is some help. You can message me if you want to chew over anything else.