Taking time off after PhD


Hello all! Finding myself at a bit of a crossroads and would really appreciate any and all advice.

The situation:

Recently completed a geochemistry PhD after a BSc in chemistry (focused on analytical instrumentation and organic synthesis). The former was a 50:50 mix of all-day lab work extracting and analysing samples (as well as maintenance of instrumentation), and writing (papers, thesis etc.).

Result: 3 first author publications, 1 other, and 3 more in the pipeline (under review/submitted). Have a chance to work on at least one more with a supervisor. Developed statistical programming skills throughout the project - am convinced there isn't a data processing/visualisation workflow I could not automate.

Am 24, approaching 25.

Require a visa to work in Europe (despite having two passports... heh), and thus realistically have 8 months left to find a job in the country where the PhD was done.

Having been a "student" for 20 straight years, do not want to stay in academia and want a lab-based industry job instead (e.g. working as part of a R&D team).

Have a crippling stutter - might take me 15 seconds of huffing and puffing to greet someone when nervous/stressed.
Plus, zero industry experience.

The question:

Would I be shooting myself in the foot by taking ca. a year off before looking for jobs? The dilemma is: Nearly everyone I know (including family) tells me I have got a "golden ticket" and would be an idiot to return to my home country (suffering from economic unrest - even MDs can't always find jobs). Plus, I already feel the post-PhD uselessness and the clock is ticking.

However, I have been away from family for 7 years and it's eating me alive. My father is in his 70s - would like to spend some time with him. I can afford a year off financially, and who knows - finding a job in my home country may be possible, albeit with an abysmal salary by EU standards.

What would you do? Thank you and apologies for the long post.


I am an international as well and I know how you feel. Pragmatically, I wouldn't take a year off. I would take a job immediately with a decent salary in Europe. I would try to visit my family at my home country whenever I get the chance (Christmas, annual leave, Easter etc). I would even try to bring my father to spend a few days/weeks/months with me in Europe because hey I can afford it with the decent job I have. But if I went home and stayed jobless I would feel depressed very soon even if I had the money and I would be an extra burden on my family. and who knows what my chances would be like after a year off. After all, that is my opinion and you have to know what is best for you depending on so many other factors. You always gain something by sacrificing another and it is up to you to decide how to balance your gain/loss.


Congrats on getting your PhD. On your situation, I think it would be best to immediately look for a job and then when you get it, negotiate a start one month later so you can visit your family. Sometimes job search can take 6 months to one year, and you only have 8 months of visa left.

I would also like to point out at possible issues with your job search so you are prepared for them. 1) Visa - Companies may not be interested in sponsoring work visa. Do you have any way of applying for this or work permit on your own? 2) No work experience- companies value work experience above research publications or Phd qualification. Would it hurt your pride if you start at the bottom with other staff who are less academically qualified? Another option is to apply for Grad industrial postdoc position but there is an extremely small window of about one year after PhD for you to apply. These positions usually only open once a year with big companies so if you miss the intake, you have missed the boat. 3) Transition from academia to industry- This is usually not easy, but not impossible. Unfortunately, certain PhD holders have given us a bad name as being difficult, arrogant and not a team player, so companies can be a bit wary of hiring PhD grads. Just so you know.


I agree with the above comments as very good options, but to offer my perspective (which is a bit different!) I would say that it’s important to spend time with your family when you can. You miss your family , so if you can afford it , I would try to be with them. Like you say you could look for a job at home, if that’s what you think you want. The way I see it is we only have so much time in this life (sorry - getting morbid) so we should try to enjoy it and do what feels right when we can.

Congrats on finishing :) !


Thank you for the replies, some very useful feedback here. I know it is better for my career to look for a job immediately (well, 6 months ago, really), and it seems my family also wants me to do the same...

I would also like to point out at possible issues with your job search so you are prepared for them.

Thank you for those points! I was aware of all of these, but confirmation that my concerns are not misplaced is reassuring.

1) First of all, I have absolutely no way to apply for a work permit here (UK) unless I get a firm job offer AND the company agrees to sponsor me. Over half the workforce in a chemical processing plant nearby are in the same situation so it is not necessarily a death sentence if that is any indication of the wider distribution.

2) I would be happy to take on any role e.g. an assistant chemist or technician. I am aware that I do not know anything about the industry and am eager to learn. I am in a fortunate position where money is not an object pretty much whatsoever... the problem is wasting time - I dislike feeling useless more than anything.

3) I also felt like the "overqualified" label certainly will hinder my chances - to counter this, I might change the "PhD in so-and-so" in my CV to simply "postgraduate degree, environmental chemistry" or something to that effect... might this be advisable for some of the entry-level positions?

I am also realising that I will probably need speech therapy. My stutter is not always unbearable, but I need to control it more if I have any hope of a decent job. It's one of those fiddly conditions that's not considered a disability and is misunderstood by many. The number of times I've heard people talk slowly to me on purpose because they thought something was wrong with my mental facilities is staggering.


I am a lot older so my perspective is different. I would go back. Parents aren't around forever. Yes, your career is important but so is this. However, is a year really necessary? How about a few months?