Unanticipated life after PhD: help needed


Hi All,
I finished my PhD in sociology/social anthropology back in May 2013 with a straight A pass. As an international student I was proud of this achievement and returned my country proudly. After eight months of wait I was appointed as an Assistant Professor in a Social Sciences University in Islamabad Pakistan. As a PhD student I worked hard in my student years and after good comments in the viva I was really motivated to write research papers and was very much sure that I can do that. However, I feel upset and depressed all the time now. First, because of the unrest situation in Pakistan, commuting eats all my time back and forth the work place. I plan that in the evening I will sit and read to reach the stage of writing but am very tired when I reach back home. The weekends are eaten up in the domestics (doing groceries and washing and ironing clothes) Second, the office space is shared. One person talks very loudly and even though I have tried to politely ask her to speak a little lower when talking on phone/ or with her students but to no avail. In fact, her department head comes all the time and talk to her. I as a junior faculty members (though in a different ) can’t report her anywhere. On top of that this room is used as a kitchen space (for heating food in the micro and making tea by other faculty members on the floor) so am unable to concentrate on my work and am frustrated most of the time. Third, my job is contractual. I am to apply for post docs after this year, which is only possible (I think!) if I have a few ublications to show on my cv. I don’t know from where to start as I am also to find time to start searching for and making applications for the post doc. The pressure of being unemployed in Jan and not being able to continue with repaying my PhD loan is upsetting me further. Can anyone kindly help me as to how to handle my situation?
I am really looking forward to talk to someone about my situation and am really worried thats why I have joined this blog. I never anticipated that I would have such experiences after the PhD. I ‘ll really appreciate if anyone can share their experiences / any advise as to how to handle this with me
Kind regards


Hi there

You describe your situation in great detail and although I realise that you are experiencing problems at the moment, I would like to remind you that in essence, we are all responsible for the way we lead our lives. There will always be problems, and I am afraid that you cannot change this, no matter how hard you try. You will never be 100% happy with a situation. All you can do is hope for a better future, work hard and attempt to control everything that is under your control. You may struggle with things that are beyond your control.

I would recommend some patience. We (PhD students) tend to idealise post PhD life. Little do we know that we may end up making sandwiches for a living after we hand in our PhD (personal experience).

Second, I would recommend you to remind yourself your aims and priorities. Sit down somewhere quiet, and write what you want to achieve, and how you can attempt to do so. Usually, priorities are not that straight forward and require loads of sacrifices. For instance, do you place your domestic services over your academic career? (there is no right or wrong answer, you choose).

Also, what I found really helpful is to try and make a plan of my week. Try to stick to the plan, but if it doesn't happen, please don't worry. Making a plan increases your productivity.

Lastly, you are not alone and certainly you are not the only PhD graduate who experience problems. The fact that you are in a troubling region and work environment is understood, but remember, even in the heart of England, some people struggle with communing etc (I live in London and I can assure you that communising is very expensive and also chaotic).

Try and stay positive if you can. Good things happen to those who wait. And take things, one thing at a time.


Nice response marasp.


I think your experiences match many of us. When I was a post doc I also had my fair share of annoying officemates, petty politics and the daily irritations of working as a junior academic. I was working in England though, so don't really have any idea of the civil unrest you face in Pakistan, but I can't imagine that being easy to live with.

The thing about the insecurity of post-doc life is universal, and I hated it while I was still in academia, and the best thing about life on the outside is that you don't have to put up with the crap of living your life in 2-3 year chunks. I handled the situation by leaving and not buying into the myth that an academic job was better than a non-academic one. Having more money, job security and a sense of being valued, I wouldn't go back to it for anything. If you are bright and capable, you will have a far better life on the outside than inside it.


Dear both,
Hi thanks very much for taking time out to share your experiences of post doc life. It’s consoling to hear that I am not alone in my struggles to make sense of my situation! Also thanks very much for the advice to dealing with it. I have reflected upon my priorities and have made a ‘to do list’ for the week. This has enabled me to take stock of how to limit myself for doing groceries all the time and wasting so much commuting time in it (since where I live all the shopping malls are in different sectors, the roads are broken as there is construction work going on in the major cities of Pakistan including mine due to which lots of traffic diversions are there which adds up to the driving time). Jotting down my coming week’s priorities and how to approach the second quarter of my current work contract gives me a sense of control and am now a bit relaxed and happy with the things that I can (hopefully!) achieve in the next four months with patience and staying positive.

Thanks again immensely
Kind regards and best wishes Iman