The strange post-PhD year (or more) - what did/will you do?

posted
03-Jul-15, 16:38
edited about 18 seconds later
Avatar for MrDoctor
posted about 4 years ago
Just about to complete my PhD (viva within the next 2 months), and it strikes me that for the first time in my life, I won't be doing anything during the next academic year that is education related.

Academia is where I want to be, but I've missed the boat for 2015/16 positions, given that I was still PhD pending when I submitted job applications. I will keep looking for jobs throughout the 2015/16 academic year, and am hopeful that something will come up for 2016/17, but in the meantime, there is this strange year where I'm not quite sure what to do with myself.

The first thing I will definitely do is continue to build up my research profile. I already have a HE teaching qualification (and Fellow of HEA status), and one publication, along with a dozen or more international conference appearances and two significant fellowships, but this still wasn't enough to get me anything this time round due to the Mr before my name instead of Dr.

So - what would you suggest in terms of jobs? Would you be tempted to get ANYTHING, just to get earning some money?

I'm in the Humanities so post-docs are incredibly competitive and rare. Any Humanities folks, or anyone else for that matter, have any idea what their immediate post-doctoral plans are?

I was told all along that it might take 3-5 years to get my first post, but now that 3-5 years is arriving, it feels a bit weird. I want to make sure I'm still moving forward, and not going sideways or backwards.
posted
04-Jul-15, 07:10
edited about 15 seconds later
Avatar for charliebrown
posted about 4 years ago
Hi Mr Doctor

Here's my story :
I came back to my home country last year after spending quite some time in the UK.
I submitted my thesis ( Humanities-based) in April last year & had my viva in September. During the five month period, I earned some money doing proofreading and translations. In September, I got an R & R verdict for my work, and am still dragging my feet with the corrections.
I started to look for work aggressively in October last year. I sent about 14 applications and have had 10 interviews. I attended interviews at various unis, colleges and one publishing company.
I had a verbal offer to teach from a uni but as it was 300 kms away from my current home, I had to decline it.
I just recently managed to get a job teaching college students (18-19 year olds). I think the HR people were looking for someone with teaching experience ( I had 9 years' experience) rather than someone with a PhD.
It was a really depressing experience looking for jobs, and the fact that I had to explain my rather dismal PhD performance to all the HR people made it worse. I wouldn't want my kids to go through what I did.

I used to dream of becoming an academic but I guess I have to be content with what I have now :D

If I didn't manage to get any jobs after 2 years, I would probably do proofreading & translation on a more aggressive basis then. I would look into obtaining a certificate of translation from a translation institute or that sort of thing.

Hope this helps.
posted
04-Jul-15, 10:34
Avatar for littleowl
posted about 4 years ago
Hi MrDoctor - this is what I've been up to in my year (well, 18 months) since finishing.

I submitted my humanities PhD in January 2014. I had a straightforward minor corrections viva and graduated July 2014.

I started properly job-hunting just after submission - before then, I would only apply for something if it was really perfect. Academia was my ideal goal, but my field is even more tiny and competitive than other areas in the humanities (medieval literature!). So I applied for everything - postdocs where I could find them, teaching, and a lot of admin jobs, and signed up to a bunch of recruitment agencies.

Fast-forward 18 months from submission and still no job. I've sent off anywhere between 50 and 100 applications, including academic and non-academic jobs. I've had 4 or 5 academic interviews but even when the interview goes well, there always seems to be a more experienced candidate. The only job I've had has been a short-term entry-level admin contract, which is not really what I want to be doing but was the only thing I could get. Unfortunately, with full-time work and volunteering (I'm thinking of going into archiving as a career but need more experience and a qualification to be considered for jobs), I'm finding it very hard to keep up my publications and conference attendance.

My advice to you would be to apply for academic and non-academic jobs, because the truth is it might take you a while to find something. Building up your research profile (and passing the viva!) will both be very helpful. If you can find a part-time non-academic job, that pays enough to keep you going but leaves you enough time to keep working on your publications, that would probably be the ideal until you can get an academic job.

Hope this helps - keep trying! And definitely don't rule out non-academic jobs if you need money.
posted
04-Jul-15, 17:00
edited about 19 seconds later
by CR1980
Avatar for CR1980
posted about 4 years ago
I had my viva last summer and graduated in November. I started applying for academic jobs once I had submitted, and had a few interviews, but the feedback was always that someone else was more experience, more discipline specific, or had more publications than me.

So I took a maternity cover role in a public sector research department which has been really good for me. It's been good experience, and I'm building on my research skills. I've taken some evening teaching at a local Uni and I've published two journals since I graduated. I will be hunting again soon though, and I don't know how that will go.

So, like others, I'd suggest looking within and out with academia for now. There are research posts in so many places, and keeping your hand in with research is a good idea if you want to make the move to academia later on. You sound like you have a good CV, but it is terribly competitive out there, so it's a matter of right place right time sometimes.

Good luck with it!
posted
04-Jul-15, 19:55
edited about 28 seconds later
Avatar for Mackem_Beefy
posted about 4 years ago
The post-PhD year varies depending upon the person. With me, it was to try to have a quiet post-doc period whilst I got my head sorted out. The truth is I wasn't sure where to go to begin with, so I needed time to think. Unfortunately, changes in my friends' lives and other factors meant it didn;t quite work out that way.

I went from hyper to nothing in about 10 days. Minor corrections, sorted within a week, then I suddenly realised I had my life back when out for a walk one lunchtime.

After a few big holidays (I'd not had a decent holiday for a few years due to the PhD and family problems) I decided in a change in direction and applied for post-doc at another University. For reasons I'll not go into (already discussed on here a number of times), it didn't work out as the decision was rushed at the behest of some well meaning relatives and it was not a position that was right for me - I wish I'd looked around a little longer. But that's a long time ago.

I feel you need healing time once a PhD is over as you go from a bruising, high stress situation to virtually nothing at all. It's just a case of using that time to decide on direction and purpose once you have the chance, as during the latter stages of PhD there is nothing but the PhD. It dominates your every waking and sometimes sleeping moment.

One further thing I've picked up on is that women seem to recover more quickly than men. Men seem to need that quiet two years after, whilst women seem to be up and running far more quickly (they might talk of a quiet six month to a year if at all).

Ian
posted
05-Jul-15, 11:36
edited about 16 seconds later
Avatar for MrDoctor
posted about 4 years ago
Thanks for all of your helpful replies!

Ian (Mackem_Beefy), I find your post really intriguing because it resonates strongly with me.

The PhD has nearly broken me. I posted on here a while back that I was in a constant state of worry, anxiety and am generally burnt out. Yes my CV looks great, but it's come at a cost.

The notion of a quiet two years or so is very interesting. I *do* feel like I need to find myself again. I'm still me, but with some scratches and bruises which weren't there 3 years ago.

It's a constant battle in my mind. On side 1 is the voice saying "you've got a PhD and a teaching qualification, so you should be working in academia now. If you aren't, you've failed". On side 2, and we'll call this guy Mr. Rational(!), the voice is saying "take some time out! You're not even 30 yet, and you've been in education for over a decade on and off. Get a job you enjoy which pays enough to keep you happy, keep researching in the background and building your profile up, and each time a job comes up, go for it. One day, you'll get one".

The key question is - how do you make Side 2 triumph over Side 1?!
posted
05-Jul-15, 12:26
edited about 18 seconds later
Avatar for DocInsanity
posted about 4 years ago
It amazes me how unjoined up academia is with PhD graduands. It is so difficult for someone to have a job straight after graduation, the system is designed to deter all but the most dedicated. Certainly requires tolerance of unemployment, which then excludes people that require a steady income.
posted
05-Jul-15, 13:43
Avatar for MrDoctor
posted about 4 years ago
I'm in an incredibly lucky situation whereby my partner's income is enough to run our bought house, so while employment is still highly sought, it would not be financially disastrous if it didn't happen immediately.

Doesn't stop the guilt though of not earning!
posted
05-Jul-15, 20:57
edited about 15 seconds later
Avatar for Mackem_Beefy
posted about 4 years ago
Quote From MrDoctor:
Thanks for all of your helpful replies!

Ian (Mackem_Beefy), I find your post really intriguing because it resonates strongly with me.

The PhD has nearly broken me. I posted on here a while back that I was in a constant state of worry, anxiety and am generally burnt out. Yes my CV looks great, but it's come at a cost.

The notion of a quiet two years or so is very interesting. I *do* feel like I need to find myself again. I'm still me, but with some scratches and bruises which weren't there 3 years ago.

It's a constant battle in my mind. On side 1 is the voice saying "you've got a PhD and a teaching qualification, so you should be working in academia now. If you aren't, you've failed". On side 2, and we'll call this guy Mr. Rational(!), the voice is saying "take some time out! You're not even 30 yet, and you've been in education for over a decade on and off. Get a job you enjoy which pays enough to keep you happy, keep researching in the background and building your profile up, and each time a job comes up, go for it. One day, you'll get one".

The key question is - how do you make Side 2 triumph over Side 1?!


You need side 2 to make sense of side one is my take. You can't stay in hyper mode for ever or your health will suffer, physically or mentally. You've just got to browse this forum for half an hour or so to see where people have been at the end of their tether.

Ian

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