Post-PhD job search woes


Hi everybody,

I have completed a PhD in neurophysiology last December, which was lengthy and difficult journey. Unfortunately, I do not have published work (this is mostly my supervisor’s fault, he has not published in at least a decade, so there is no established basis for my work, and I have asked often to help him with his writing), but I was hopeful that I could get a job somewhere doing something in biology. I am now working part time in a supermarket, as I have since the lockdowns started.

However, I have found my credentials to be very underwhelming, despite the achievement this apparently is. How can I apply to postdoctorate study (anything in cell physiology will do me) without published work, especially coming from a lower ranked UK university? Therefore, I have been searching for industry jobs in science. They usually demand years of specific practical and career experience. Since I have worked with niche methods of chemical assays of synaptosomes (freshly prepared isolated nerve terminals), I do not have much experience in usual techniques of mass spec, ELISA, PCR, cell culture etc., making it difficult to qualify my application from a CV standpoint. This has made jobs difficult to search for. Even writing jobs state that they want certain business qualifications that I have never heard of. I have profiles with several science specific recruitment agencies, and not even one has contacted me about potential jobs.

I wish that I had taken a year in industry, but it is too late, I cannot do an internship as an alumnus. I do have a university careers advisor, but the general advice can only do so much. Does anybody have any interesting advice or insights they can give me about help with substantial training, networking opportunities and which jobs to apply for? I am really stuck here about what to focus on. Surely, somebody wants a PhD graduate?


Hello bluejizo,

Firstly, congratulations on your PhD success! It is an amazing achievement that will have required learning many skills and application of knowledge alongside personal fortitude and commitment.

I completely understand your frustrations. Job searching is hard! It takes considerable time and energy, and can be very dispiriting when you face rejection. You are not alone in facing these challenges. I have been through the same process over the last few months, while also trying to put the finishing touches to my thesis. It is exhausting and you need to stay kind to yourself :)

I think the key thing is to understand yourself and what type of work you find interesting, engaging, motivating rather than be too focussed on job titles or job roles. For example, maybe you enjoyed running experiments most, or perhaps you liked writing about science in a clear and understandable way. These can be good starting points for thinking about where your existing skills can be used in many different roles-not just the ones where you think your PhD might naturally fit, or where you might need to find courses to fill a specific skills gap.

I found this account by Jennifer Polk, that offers some great advice on moving towards jobs outside academia. Her website is here

Chris Cornthwaite over at roostervane also has some thoughtful content on PhDers who feel a little lost with their career.

I hope some of this helps! I wish you the best of luck in the journey ahead.



If you are exploring a role outside of academia, do reach out to people in the field you are interested in to talk and learn how they got into those roles. You will have to stay humble because a PhD means much less than job experience in industry and likely you will be reporting to someone who may not even have a MSc. You can still ask to be an unpaid volunteer if that helps get a foot in the door. Good luck