I wrote a few threads on not being able to find a job.
Well, on third interview I got it. I moved cities and have now worked there for a month. It is a consulting/research position at a research institute and they call it post doc but it's something in between. I am part of a large epidemiological study.
So after a month of working there and consulting others on their projects, I was told that it's about time I started my own "research program"? I guess I am supposed to lead a project that I think of. Except....I have zero ideas, the study is still largely unfamiliar (because of the short time of being there). They are putting more and more pressure on me to think of something and I feel completely blocked. I have many doubts, that I am not cut out for academia or being a post doc.
I share an office with someone that is a database manager for our study. He earns about the same as me and I find myself envying him. He has no pressure to invent anything, he writes some code, gets the data other people want and his job ends there. Doing something like that would be a breeze for me. Instead, I am stuck with this academic role where I feel that I am soon going to run out of time, unable to find an idea and get fired.
I am also left to my own devices, with no help or input from anyone but I guess that's what being independent researcher is all about. I am just failing miserably.
I just....need some advice. I would be happy to be a part of collaborative research team but I don't think I am cut out to lead any projects sadly :(
A PhD certainly trains people to become independent researchers, but not independent project (and people) leaders. It wasn't until I left academia (research fellow/associate roles) and worked in private industry that I attained some half decent skills and experience in project management. I suggest that you start off with a small project (or two), demonstrate to your employer that you can deliver quality work, and then take on bigger projects.
I think this is one of the main problems after a PhD - particularly the way they are running funded phd programs, I mean, how can you possibly become a completely independent researcher capable of leading entire projects on your own in the course of three years, much of which you will have spent worrying about collecting data quickly enough/writing up at the same time/keeping your funders happy/applying for jobs AND publishing papers...I don't think it's realistic to expect that you are a fully formed researcher capably of leading entire projects independently after that...
It sounds like exploitation to me. I'm getting so fed up with it - you are supposed to work yourself to a pulp and worry yourself silly, feeling inadequate in the process..
What kind of colleagues do you have? Are there many at your stage or more senior?
If I were you I would arrange informal meetings with as many as possible, with the following aims:
- find out what they do, as it might help you shape some ideas around what kind of research is possible there
- to see if any of them might be suitable collaborators or at least provide any guidance and support on your your project proposals
- to see if they have been through this process themselves and can offer you advice as to how to go about it.
If the above doesn't yield anything, I would start small, come up with simple hypotheses to test on the basis of your existing data, and then let things develop from there.
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