still haven't found a postdoc position, feeling disheartened

S

I haven't submitted my thesis yet, so I'm also feeling stressed about the thesis. Maybe this is not the best time to think about postdoc positions, but I can't help it.

I've been looking for a postdoc position for 6 months. I started to do it last June, and in July when I got two rejections, I thought I would try again and again and would give myself 6 months to find one. I planned to quit and do something else if I still hadn't found a position in 6 months. Now, however, 6 months passed, but I still don't want to quit. It's been a long time and been exhausting. It took lots of time to search for information, contact the PIs who posted the ads, make applications, and prepare for interviews. It took so much time that it has made my thesis writing much slower. But all the efforts are futile. All the time is forever lost, and I got nothing. No offers at all. And I have to catch up with my writing.
I don't know if I should continue to do so. I'm so drained.

They always tell me my expertise is not directly related to their projects. They always tell me someone else is more suitable for their position. I'm so tired of this. When I finally saw an ad for a position that was directly related to my PhD research, I thought I would no longer be told I was not suitable enough, and I thought I would be given an interview and would receive an offer soon afterwards. I applied. But then I received a rejection without an interview. I was so surprised that I contacted the PI and asked him why. He just said I wasn't experienced enough. So I thought the best candidate must be a postdoc who has more experience than me in this field. But it turned out the person who was offered the position was also a final year PhD student, who's even less experienced than me (her PhD research was not directly related to this project, but mine was). I was shocked. I again contacted the PI and asked why. He didn't reply. I'm so disappointed. I really don't know how PIs choose their best candidates and the real reason why each of them rejected my application.

S

By the way, let me say a bit more about myself. My PhD research is a cross between biology, chemistry, and physics. I collected lots of data during my PhD, but then I didn't have any first author papers. My supervisor used my data to complement other group members' data, and other group members are always the first author and I'm the second. I'm definitely unhappy and have protested, but that's no use. My supervisor just didn't listen. No matter how hard I tried, my supervisor just ignored what I said and chose to do whatever he wanted to do. So it ended up I'm always the second author. I don't know how much impact this had made on my postdoc applications, but I think those PIs wouldn't let me know this. Also, when I told my supervisor I started to apply for postdoc positions and asked him to prepare a reference letter for me in June, he didn't say anything. Rather, he looked unhappy. Later, those PIs who requested ref letters received the letter from my supervisor, so that means he wrote the letter. But I've no idea what he wrote about in the letter. Maybe he wrote something negative? Anyway, I don't know how I can lower the impact made by having no first author papers...And I don't know how I can see what my supervisor wrote in the ref letter. Maybe I can never see it.

T

Hi, sciencephd

This is going to be a hard pill to swallow.

For someone wanting to pursue a career in research, having no first author paper during your PhD is pretty much a death sentence. PIs will think that perhaps you were lazy or couldn't write or that you couldn't generate solid data in your work. I know that you feel that it is not your fault. But, it will take a miracle for some generous PI in academia to want to take a chance on you when they have so many other options.

One possible solution I can think of is to ask your PhD supervisor to either 1) take you as a postdoc to allow you the opportunity to publish as first author or 2) ask his friend to take you in as postdoc so you can at least have that chance.

I am sorry. This might not be what you want to hear. But truly a PhD graduate with no first author publication has an extremely challenging path ahead to continue the research career. You will be playing catch up all the time with all the other PhD graduates who are well-published. It is a very competitive world and unfortunately you are not in a position of advantage.

N

I have to agree with tru on the first author issue. It will be hard.
When I was applying to post doc before submitting my thesis- I got nowwhere. Funding is for specfic timeframe and PIs want someone who can start straight away. I started applying for research roles that didnt require a PhD, the first job I appplied and interview for I got. It was also nice to do reserch wihtout the pressure of a PhD or post-doc.
After I submitted, I began applying for post-docs, I was offer plently of interviews, and finally accept one post viva.
In my current role, you had to have graduated with a PhD to even be considered. I currently seeing that this is the case wiht alot of current post-doc, PIs want students that have their by signed off and completed fully.

My advice would be to start applying for other research roles (not post-docs), get some experince, and then when you submit start applying again.

Avatar for rewt

Hi sciencephd,

Have you had a serious conversation with your supervisor about your career or postdocs? I have a few friends who have gained postdocs with zero publications (including no co-author publications) based of their supervisor's recommendations. I know it sounds unfair but you can mitigate the publication issue with your supervisor's help. I don't know what your relationship with them is like, but simply asking your supervisor their advice/recommendations, so that they feel involved might be helpful. My second supervisor explained it to me once as; she didn't need someone who could publish as she could help with that, but rather needed someone to independently do the experiments, which you can't find out without a reference.

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