Signup date: 14 Oct 2006 at 11:20pm
Last login: 29 Oct 2012 at 8:50am
Post count: 116
I posted almost a year ago about being unemployed after my PhD. Nearly a year later, the situation hasn't changed and I'm becoming increasingly despondent. It's now two years since I submitted and I still can't find a job.
I keep being turned down for jobs because I don't have enough publications. Unfortunately, without access to research facilities I can't do new research and produce publications, and without financial support from an employer I can't publish/present my work. I've offered to work for free at local universities, just to get the required research experience to get a job, but they aren't interested.
I'm geographically restricted by family responsibilities and I've already been turned down 3-4 times by all of the local universities. I feel like there's no point applying when they advertise another job, because they've already told me NO several times. They probably recognise my name by now and just toss my application out without even reading it. Commercial jobs keep turning me down because they want more practical skills and commercial experience, and apparently I'm too academic so I don't deserve an opportunity to work. I even get turned down for menial jobs because I'm over-qualified.
I just feel trapped. I've pretty much exhausted all of my options now and I've already been turned down by everyone I could possibly apply to. There's no way for me to improve my research profile so it's good enough to get a research job, nobody even wants me to work for free. There's no way to get commercial experience because nobody will employ me unless I already have experience. So what do I do with the rest of my life? By this point I don't care any more whether I have a fulfilling job which is related to my qualifications - my expectations have hit the floor and I just want a decent job which pays enough money to live a normal life. But I'm not qualified for any other decent career - I'm only qualified to work in research/education and nobody in that field wants to employ me.
I currently have a miserable part-time job which pays the rent, and I'm grateful not to have to claim benefits. But I can't go on holiday, enjoy a night out or even buy new clothes. I can't have a family, a home or a car. There's no opportunity for forward progression in my life - I'm just treading water, trying to survive from one month to the next. I have no future and there's absolutely no point in being alive :-(
My skills aren't of much value outside academia. Employers outside academia typically say I'm overqualified and lack commercial experience. Also there are virtually no non-academic jobs in my field where I live, and I can't move due to having a family and a mortgage (both of which rely on my partner's salary).
I've been applying for absolutely any academic job within an hour's drive of my home, without success. I haven't even had an interview, and have been rejected outright for every single one due to having insufficient publications. I can't magic up 4-6 publications as an unemployed PhD graduate... two perhaps, but not 4-6 :(
In order to get my call centre job I had to pretend I don't have qualifications; the job is soul destroying, and what's even more soul destroying is the knowledge that all of my hard work is so detrimental that I have to pretend I didn't do it. My life feels like an utter waste; I'm reduced to the level of those who didn't even get a GCSE :(
Last year I did a couple of hours teaching per week. This did not provide me with an office or a desk, nor any research funds or equipment, nor access to a lab. I had access to a classroom for the duration of the class and that was all. This year they don't need any external lecturers, and they said they're trying to allocate teaching hours to full-time staff where possible as they don't have the money to spare for external lecturers such as myself.
I have spoken to the careers service, and it's plain to everyone concerned that my failure to even get an interview is solely due to the fact that universities immediately put my application form in the bin due to a lack of recent publications. One feedback message from a university stated "We only consider applicants with 4-6 recent publications. Please feel free to re-apply if/when you meet this criteria".
I am unsure how I can possibly address this issue as an unemployed PhD graduate with no funds or facilities, especially when I'm working another job to pay the rent. My ex-supervisor is kindly helping me to draft two papers related to my thesis, but he is not obliged to do so, and without his help I would be up s*** creek in terms of being able to publish anything at all. However I'm not sure where I can produce a total of 4-6 publications from, without having the funds and facilities to do more research studies. I doubt that many PhDs graduate with four recent publications... some graduate with NO publications... so how are PhD graduates supposed to get entry level academic jobs?!
I think I can get 2-3 papers out of my thesis, and I'm currently trying to write these with my ex-supervisor, in my spare time when I'm not at my call centre job. However he has said it could take 12 months or more to actually get these accepted for publication.
The issue is that this still does not constitute being "research active" - I still won't be an established researcher with half a dozen publications and research grants issuing copiously from my rear end. I contacted the most recent university who rejected me and asked if 2-3 PhD-related publications would be enough for my application to be considered seriously, and was advised that it would not. So I'm not even sure why I'm wasting my time writing them, and I don't see what else I can do :(
It's almost a year since I passed my viva and I still don't have a job. I'm currently working a part-time call centre job to pay my rent which is utterly soul destroying. The problem is that I appear to have fallen into this black hole which has opened up between PhD and employment.
I've tried applying for positions advertised as suitable for "early career researchers", but feedback has indicated that universities want applicants to be "research active", which basically means they want you to have half a dozen publications and well defined research interests. As a recent PhD graduate I only have a couple of papers I wrote with my supervisor a couple of years ago, plus my thesis.
So I can't get a job unless I'm "research active"... but I can't become "research active" because nobody will give me a job! How am I supposed to define my research interests and produce half a dozen publications when I don't have a university job or access to time and facilities and funds which will allow me to do research?
A professor at one university said that several years ago it was expected that a recent PhD graduate wouldn't have an established research career, and the whole point of an entry level position was for such candidates to have an opportunity to become established. However nowadays they want applicants to already be established before they even get a job! He acknowledged that this results in recent PhD graduates being unable to bridge the gap between PhD and employment, but said that isn't his problem... unemployment is so high that he can recruit established researchers into entry level positions, so there's no incentive for him to give an opportunity to a true entry level researcher.
So now I am utterly disheartened because there seems to be absolutely no way for me to bridge this gap, and no way for me to get a job. Why did I waste my time doing the PhD? Someone should have told me that universities won't employ recent PhD graduates nowadays :(
Thanks for your helpful reply Huggyjumper, it means a lot that you took the time to respond to me at such length.
I can't move back in with my parents - they're pensioners living in a rented 1-bed cottage, so they don't have a bedroom for me, and moving back in would affect all sorts of things like their access to community care services (I supplement this by regularly doing chores that are beyond the scope of what the carers are prepared to do, but I really couldn't handle everything if the carers just stopped coming altogether).
I know I'm punishing myself by worrying about how well my peers are doing - I just feel like I've suddenly been excluded from my social group because I no longer have equivalent money and career to everyone else. Plus as time ticks by and the response to my job applications is constantly negative, I'm losing hope for ever getting a decent job in the future, especially considering how few suitable jobs are even advertised. Also I'm getting into my thirties and I want to get on with my personal life, but I'm not even in a position to date at present, and who knows when I will be :(
Thanks for the advice about volunteering though; I'll look into it and see if there's anything available that would pay my travel costs and fill in a few hours.
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Thanks for sharing your experiences Keenbean. It helps a lot to know that someone else also struggled and eventually won through. I hope things continue going well for you.
I moved to my current location because the rent was £75 cheaper than living in the city, and (now that I can no longer afford to have a car) being within walking distance of my parents' house saves me £15 per week in bus fares. So I reckon I'm approx. £150 per month better off by living in my current location instead of living in the city and taking the bus to my parents' house. If I didn't live within walking distance of my parents, there's no way I could afford to travel to their house regularly to help them out. Moving is therefore out of the question unless I get a job and can afford a car to drive to my parents' house regularly. Unfortunately that means I have to pay bus fares in the opposite direction if I need to go into town. I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place :(
======= Date Modified 30 Aug 2011 18:55:56 =======
======= Date Modified 30 Aug 2011 18:53:26 =======
The job centre said they wouldn't pay travel costs for any kind of job, voluntary or otherwise. They also said I'd be in trouble if they found out I was accepting any cash in hand, as it could be seen as illegal payment for work. I can do voluntary work for a few hours a week, but only if the place is within walking distance (because I can't afford bus fares), and there aren't really any voluntary opportunities in my little village.
There aren't really many jobs to apply for within travelling distance, but I do apply for as many as I can find. The professional jobs which I'm qualified for keep turning me down because of a lack of commercial experience - apparently working on commercial projects while employed by the university for six years doesn't count, and how am I supposed to get more experience if nobody will employ me? Academic jobs keep turning me down because another candidate has more publications, more experience, their PhD research and/or teaching experience is more relevant to the post, etc. When it comes to academic jobs, local jobs are advertised in the international market and this greatly reduces my chances of being selected, especially because we're in a recession and there's a shortage of jobs. I think it also has something to do with the fact that someone from my old university who disliked me has moved into a high level post in my field at another local university, and she probably just bins any applications I send to that department.
When I apply for jobs which are somewhat related to my field but aren't in my specialist area, they say (quite rightly) that I don't have the relevant skills. When I apply for jobs outside my field, they say I should stick to my specialism - you know, the one that nobody wants to employ me in! When I apply for jobs that I'm overqualified for, they simply won't consider me as they think (again, quite rightly) that they'd be wasting their time and money on me because I'm not interested in it as a career and I'd leave as soon as I got a better opportunity.
I just seem to be getting nowhere, and quite frankly it's depressing when I'm even turned down for crappy jobs that I don't actually want. Plus it's depressing that I'm a highly qualified expert in a certain field and I'm essentially throwing that away to flip burgers or whatever the crappy job is. It cost me a fortune, a load of effort, and several years of my life to become an expert, and now my expertise seems utterly worthless - while my friends have less academic expertise but are raking in the dough in other fields like law and accountancy. It's only natural to compare ourselves to our peers - I'm the only one of our group who is unemployed, who doesn't have a professional job, and it seems unfair because I probably worked the hardest. If I'm no longer on a par with my peers, where does that leave me?
Perhaps you're right though. If I can't find a decent job which utilises my hard earned skills and expert knowledge, I should probably just get the doctor to drug me until I forget what a waste my life is.
Thanks for all the supportive replies.
I try to get out when I can; friends drop in and we go for a walk on the moor, and they invite me round if they have a dinner party, etc. But I'm fully aware that the majority of the time they go out together and exclude me - not intentionally, but they know I don't have money for trips, meals, drinks, nights out, etc. When we are together, I'm painfully aware of how different we are - they're young professionals who are buying their own apartments and spending money on whatever they want, and I can barely afford to eat. It seems unfair - I worked just as hard (if not more so), and only last year I was their equal, with an income from the university and hopes for the future. Now suddenly I don't fit in any more, and as time passes I get further and further away from who I used to be, and I become more and more isolated.
I moved out of the city to save money, so any voluntary work would incur travel expenses that I can't afford. I can barely survive as it is - spending a tenner a week on bus fares to get to a voluntary job would absolutely destroy me. I'm trying to fill time by writing publications, but it's hard now that I no longer have access to supervisory advice. Little jobs would bring in a bit of money, which (I've been told) would promptly be deducted from my benefits and I'd only be allowed to keep £5 of my earnings, so once you factor in travel costs I'd actually be worse off.
There seems to be little that the doctor can do to help with my depression, other than prescribe drugs. But (as he pointed out) drugs would only treat the symptoms, not the cause (unemployment). There's no type of therapy that could make me feel better about being broke and hungry, and no type of counselling that could make me feel good about my hard earned education apparently being worthless. The only thing that could make me feel better is getting a decent job and earning some money so I can resume my normal life - anything else is just drugging me so I can forget about my miserable situation. I keep applying for jobs, but actually getting one is out of my hands - I feel utterly powerless :(
My teaching job at the university ended last Christmas, as did my grant money, and I submitted my PhD thesis in January and started applying for full time jobs. By February I was forced to cancel my car insurance, park the car off-road and declare a SORN, because I couldn't afford to pay the insurance and road tax or buy petrol. I passed the PhD viva a few weeks later, and sold my car so I could afford to pay for my thesis to be printed and the graduation ceremony etc - it didn't matter because I couldn't afford to drive the car anyway.
It's now August and I'm still applying for jobs. There are few jobs even worth applying for, and I mostly get turned down for them without even an interview. I'm not restricting myself to academic jobs (which are few and far between), but other employers look at my CV and respond with something like "You have no commercial experience, we think you'd be more suited to working in academia". College teaching jobs turn me down because my teaching experience is in higher education, and there are other candidates with specific college teaching experience. Employers also turn me down for jobs requiring less qualifications, because I'm over-qualified (i.e. they want someone who's less educated than the manager, satisfied with a low level job and unlikely to leave for a better offer).
I'm increasingly depressed and isolated. I turn down friends when they invite me to go out - I can barely afford to eat, never mind pay the bus fare into town and meet friends for coffee. They're all going abroad on a hen night, and I'm the only one who's left out because I can't afford it - I know it's not their fault, but it hurts. Also (and I know this is bad) it hurts me to see all the shiny new things they buy with the salaries from their professional jobs. I worked just as hard, my professional qualifications and experience are at least equivalent to theirs, yet they have cars, iPhones, new laptops, new clothes, holidays abroad, apartments and new furniture, etc. If I could get a lecturing job I'd immediately be on a par salary-wise - the problem is not that I'm below these people in any way, but merely that there are jobs available in their fields and not in mine.
I can't relocate because I have elderly parents who need support (I do their shopping, housework, etc). They spent all their savings on helping me through university, on the mistaken assumption I'd get a great job and be able to pay them back. I've totally let them down. For my birthday they gave me a gift card for the pet store, so I don't have to give my dog up because I can't afford to buy dog food. I was so touched by their thoughtfulness, but at the same time so hurt because I've ended up in a position where I'm receiving dog food for my birthday. I can barely face my parents because I feel like such a failure :'(
I don't disrespect cleaners - my mother was a cleaner. She made sacrifices her whole life so I could do better than she did. I'm such a failure :'(
I remember the misery of long term unemployment and under-employment after my BSc and MSc, crying because I was depressed about being undervalued, and going slowly stir-crazy as my intellectual skills atrophied. That's what drove me back to university each time, except this time there's nowhere left to run to.
There are no opportunities for me in academia - I'm not geographically mobile because I have elderly parents to care for, and the local universities aren't hiring academics because of cuts. There aren't even many jobs advertised in industry though, and those there are won't consider me because I lack commercial experience, which ironically I can't get unless someone will give me a job!
I know the PhD differentiates me from other graduates - I'm older, have more debt and less commercial experience than others my age, and I'm overqualified for entry level positions. I'm basically in the same position I was when I finished my MSc, but older and poorer - I just realised I utterly wasted six years of my life, no wonder I'm depressed. I could have done legal or accountancy training after my MSc and I'd have been in a decent job by now. The real kick in the teeth is that my less intellectual friends did just that, and now they have decent jobs, while I can't even get a job at McDonalds :(
Yes, I know there are few jobs for which I'm qualified. That just makes me feel like an idiot for not having chosen something marketable like law, accountancy, or medicine... when I chose my subject of study I was a stupid teenager who had no idea about the job market. I've spent as many years studying and training as professionals in any of those fields, I'm equally intelligent, have worked the same 70 hour weeks... except now they have professional jobs and I'm being told that I'm worthless and should get a job as a cleaner.
I submitted my thesis in December and started jobhunting immediately. I had a three month gap between submission and viva, and was unable to find a job. I have now passed the viva with minor corrections, and after four months of jobhunting I'm still unemployed. I'm finding it difficult to complete my corrections, because while I'm doing them at least I have a purpose in life, and I don't want to let go of that. When the corrections are finished I'll have to join the unemployed masses and consider any work that will pay the rent, even stuff like working as a supermarket cashier or in a call centre. It's humiliating to be told that I need to hide my PhD in order to get a job, and it's embarrassing to be applying for unskilled jobs when all my friends who left university with a BSc have been in professional jobs for the last five years.
The jobs I'm applying for now are low paid entry level positions which I could have got with a bachelors degree, and they're still turning me down for being over-qualified and older than other applicants, so I'm actually worse off than I would have been if I'd left after my bachelors. The job centre are now trying to push me into cleaning jobs and shop assistant jobs. I feel like the years and the hard work and the huge amounts of money I invested into my PhD were a complete waste, and I'm extremely depressed. I seriously feel suicidal, I'm a bright, intelligent doctor who's worked extremely hard, and I'm now reduced to the status of being a cleaner or a phone monkey :-(
No, they can't be mad at me for being ill. The thing is, I've already been absent with clinical depression for 12 months, so now that I'm back at university they expect me to be on top form... and I'm not.
I had counselling, but the counsellor said that talking about my depression was counter-productive, and I need to forget about it and focus on my work. So I felt bad because I couldn't just forget about it; I really needed to talk and she didn't care to listen. She nagged me to do my work, and wanted me to show her what I'd done... counselling sessions became worse than seeing my supervisor, so I quit going.
Forbidding me to write anything but the lit review is the same as facing me against a brick wall... I'm struggling to make progress on that task, so being forced to focus on it exclusively means I'm not making any progress at all. Regardless of what my supervisor says, I think I need to do a different task in order to get things moving, and making some sort of progress would motivate me more to tackle the lit review. I think I'll find it easier to do something else and sneakily attack the lit review from the side rather than going head-to-head with it.
Yes, I am painfully anxious about my PhD. I have been suffering from clinical depression and have already been absent from university for 12 months; I only just came back, and time is short, so I can't ask for any extra time off. I already saw a counsellor, but she said that talking about my depression was counter-productive, and I needed to just put it behind me and get on with my work. Then at every counselling session she nagged me about whether I'd done any work, and wanted me to show her what I'd done... it was worse than seeing my supervisor, so I quit going to counselling sessions because being pressured about my work was just making me worse.
As I am in "writing up" mode, I'm working from home - travelling to the office is just a waste of money and time because nobody will be there anyway, there are only a couple of other students and they tend to work from home. This means that I'm completely isolated, which doesn't help at all; the isolation partly caused my depression, so I've started doing some sports activities just to get me out of the house and see people.
I will look into using mytomatoes - it might help - and maybe I could arrange a short break over the summer so I have something to look forward to :-)
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