So I'm half way through my PhD and had a brief talk initiated my me, with my supervisor about what I could do after. She told me that there are very few academic posts and that they are generally contracted so having some sort of career/career progression in academia is very difficult. While I know this to be true, I felt like she was implying that I wasn't "good enough" to get those positions. She listed number of positions that I can have in a public sector. Now as I already have a Masters degree (by coursework) in a related area, I felt like I could have gone for positions she mentioned without a PhD. I have always had my heart set on an academic post (despite the odds) and this talk was rather depressing - I didn't want to tell her that as I felt I would appear foolish. Now I am starting to question: what's the point of doing a PhD in my case? I mean so far, this sure takes a lot of effort and dedication, but I now feel it's all going to be for nothing.
Perhaps she feels duty bound to point out the difficulties in estabishing an academic career - she may even feel a bit jaded herself. Also she may have had or seen many other grad students take non-academic jobs on completing. I wouldn't worry about it too much - if you know you want to apply for an academic job then get finished and do that.
sorry to read you feel low as a result of the job prospects and that you now also doubt the value of doing a PhD.
Perhaps it would be good to look at "for whom" you are doing the PhD. Is that for yourself? Or is there another reason?
If you are doing it for yourself there is no real reason to look at things differently and it probably would be best to continue. Just one step at the time and with the aim to finish. Not to look now at what may come after that.
Obviously if you do the PhD for another reason, like getting a good job etc. then you may want to think again whether that is really worth the effort.
Have you got people around you with whom you can talk about these issues?
Thanks for your message. I'm definetly doing the PhD for myself. I really enjoy doing research and I know that getting a PhD will bring me a huge sense of personal achievement. I care about this more than I do about gatting a job that will make me lots of money. But what has really depressed me is my supervisor saying this, now she knows my work better than anyone (and has always been complimentary), I'm kind of worried that she is hinting that *I* won't be able to get an academic job (even though it sounded like she was just making a general statement). I'm having doubts about my abilities now and am thinking that I have been deluding myself all along about my cappability of getting an academic job after this.
Hi LostinOz, I can totally sympathise with your feelings, as I'm sure most PhD students could. I was having the same overwhelming fears, but then I decided to just live for now and see where it goes. I decided that my PhD is a personal venture more than anything, even though I would love to have an academic career. This is the crux of the PhD. It's not formulaic, as with some other more vocationally-orientated degrees where you pretty much know you will find work when you finish. My heart goes out to you--it's a daunting prospect, I know.
Thanks xeno. This forum really helps as none of my family or friends want to listen or even understand my PhD issues. I have now realized that I'm getting way ahead of myself. I still have a loooong way to go, I'm actually not even a half way through and I have only started working on my first ever paper. I need to focus on NOW and I'm sure that there will be some opportunities along the way that could potentially shape my career.
When I voiced my concerns to a fellow academic (about post PhD life), he made a very poignant point. He said "Hey, in saying that, you're already assuming that you're going to even get the PhD!". What he said was quite fitting, in that it made me see that we don't know what lies ahead, and need to focus on the task at hand. To even finish a PhD is a huge accomplishment in itself, as I've known of many people dropping off from the pressure. So just getting the PhD would be an awesome feat.
I had the exact same conversation with my supervisor... He said that academic positions are impossible to get and 'the system doesn't treat you well' and that postdoctoral research positions are extremely competitive and offer no job security so he wouldn't recommend either route.
I was just thinking why am I doing this then - the only reason I want to get a PhD is so that I will be qualified for either of those jobs!!!
I know what he said is true but he went out of his way to make it sound awful - it is very demoralising My only advice is ignore these people!!! You are already doing the PhD now so just keep going - and whatever happens afterwards will happen!
I just had lunch with an old friend who has been an academic for a long time and he is pretty jaded and fed up with the whole chasing money thing. I really think these negative comments stem from the negative feelings of many supervisors who perhaps have doubts about their chosen career and don't feel like recommending it to their students.
Having worked as a research associate, before applying for a PhD, it is possible but depends how high up the ladder you want to go in at. From experience it seems that once you are 'in' it is then easier to move around or up.
I too have had conversations with other academics, and they can be negative but I think this has a lot to do with the chasing of funding as has already been mentioned. Speak to someone who has just won some funding and you might hear a different story.
one other option might be to think about applying for funding whilst still at the end of your PhD, you might be able to ensure your position by holding the funds. The uni would then want to keep hold of you.
I think it is very wise to concentrate on the "now" as you say. From about the end of my second year onwards I spent so much time worrying about what i was going to do, where I could progress too, what additional things I needed to do that were quite separate from my PhD. It had quite a detrimental effect on my progress and I'm sure prolonged the time I took to complete. Seriously, concentrate on getting your PhD for now.
You didn't mention what area your PhD is in. I suspect that will make a difference.
I am half way through mine and I would like to go into academia. My department seems more positive. They suggest that finding academic work after can be hard if you are restricted to one place geographically. If you can move around you should be fine. Even if you can't I am a firm believer in ‘where there is a will there is a way’.
Also it is a little way off. Do as much as you can to help yourself, publish as much as you can, go to conferences, but most importantly be optimistic. There is not much point being anything else, asides your own mental and physical health, if you are optimistic you are more likely to be more productive and creative, hence improve your chances of getting the work you want. So don't be depressed, take control of your own future. Also remember, you have a masters and are doing a PhD so you must be good otherwise there would have given it to someone else.
I am not suggesting denial, I am suggesting that you make yourself objectively aware of the job situation, prospects etc, but do not succumb to the subjective taint that others may give it. Remain optimistic and try your best, I think that is the best we all can do.
Also remember, in many respects life is very good for us folks.
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