1 year after defense, still unemployed

posted
20-Oct-16, 23:09
edited about 15 seconds later
by Wallace
Avatar for Wallace
posted about 4 years ago
I defended my doctoral dissertation in biology in September of last year. I've been on the job hunt for a year now, and I'm still unemployed. I've tried picking up additional skills, going to networking events, having my resume tailored, but there just aren't any openings. The psychological toll is devastating. I'm back seeing a therapist again, and I'm going to have to start taking antidepressants.I am nearly out of money and my credit rating is in free fall. At the age of 36, I'm living in my mother's basement with my PhD.

I feel like I've ruined my life in pursuit of a PhD. I even tried applying to jobs while hiding the degree, and I still get nothing. I sometimes think things will never get better, and every day that passes, I become less employable. HELP!
posted
21-Oct-16, 10:24
by AOE26
Avatar for AOE26
posted about 4 years ago
Hi Wallace.. sorry to hear this - I know how soul destroying job seeking can be. I cannot comment on applying for academic roles specifically but getting a job is a numbers game. Sometimes you are simply up against 300 candidates and the likelihood your cv will get even seen is slim.

When I went through a particularly tough period searching for a role (while out of work) my job was looking for a job. 8 hours a day I spent searching and applying. I got up at a usual time I would for work and I kept every application I made (and every job I read). So these numbers are fully accurate - I read over 50,000 jobs adverts, I got a reply from agents 10% of jobs I applied for and I got interviews for 10% of those... so 1 in a 100 jobs I applied for I got an interview. 99 slaps in the face per 100!!!

You might be sitting there thinking "clearly you were cr**" but a mere 3 years later I was looking again, the market had changed, I applied 6 roles, 5 interviews, accepted 1 (got turned down for 1) and withdrew from further interviews for the others. Was I 98% better than 3 years previous? My wife doesn't think so....

TL;DR - there's a lot to be said for sheer determination.
posted
21-Oct-16, 10:31
edited about 25 seconds later
Avatar for PracticalMouse
posted about 4 years ago
Don't give up just yet, job hunting can so hard and sometimes can take a long time! But also, could it be that you are too focused on a career in your research area? It might be worth widening your search to include other areas where you could use the transferable skills from your PhD. It sounds like you are reaching breaking point, and frankly, any job at this juncture would be better than none!
posted
21-Oct-16, 10:37
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 4 years ago
What type of jobs are you applying for Wallace? How many have you applied for? Like AOE26 said, it's a numbers game - you just have to keep on applying.

I spent 6 months of this year looking for a job after my PhD - I applied for around 20, got about 5-6 interviews, and got two job offers. That sounds good when I write it like that, but it took me about 3 months to get my first interview, probably because I was getting better at writing the applications as I went along. Getting rejected all the time is really, really hard - but you will get something eventually. Just keep applying. I wish you all the best.
posted
21-Oct-16, 12:50
edited about 17 seconds later
by Ephiny
Avatar for Ephiny
posted about 4 years ago
As well as what type of job you're looking for, I wonder where you're looking -- I mean, geographically -- and if you could broaden your search? I've never had any difficulty getting a suitable job in a London or the Midlands, for example, but in my home town in the North East it's all but impossible to get any job at all, as there are almost no opportunities and on the rare occasion an opening is advertised it gets hundreds of applications because so many people in the region are unemployed.
posted
21-Oct-16, 13:55
by Wallace
Avatar for Wallace
posted about 4 years ago
I'm switching careers from science to patent law, even passed the patent bar on my own. As far as location, I'm kind of locked into my home town of Boston. There's lots of biotech opportunities here (in theory anyway), and I don't have the money to be able to move anyways. I'd consider moving if I could afford it, but I'm pretty much broke.
posted
21-Oct-16, 14:07
edited about 9 seconds later
Avatar for chickpea
posted about 4 years ago
Hi Wallace, if you haven't already, it might be worth looking back at jobs you've had in the past and either trying to get back in with those employers or trying to get something similar - maybe not what you want to do in the long term, but I think it is true what people say about it being easier to get a job once you're in a job. In my experience, the whole business of going out working day to day, and being able to pay the bills, makes it much easier to be in the right frame of mind when the right opportunity does come along. I hope you find something soon.
posted
21-Oct-16, 16:48
by Wallace
Avatar for Wallace
posted about 4 years ago
I have done that, neither of my bosses replied to my e-mails or returned my calls. I know how busy they are, but it still stings.
posted
21-Oct-16, 17:41
edited about 34 seconds later
Avatar for Mattfabb
posted about 4 years ago
I am in a similar position, finished my PhD last year, applied for lecturing jobs but nothing so far. There's however a reason for that I think: not enough publications, not enough teaching experience, no proven ability to attract external fundings. I am working on all 3; so things are getting better. But really, Wallace, 'ruined your life'? I may be technically unemployed, but I am so happy to have my PhD. I can give lectures and travel to conferences. I love speaking to people interested in my field. Try to be more positive! Besides, once you will get a job, you will still have to put up with stress and maybe lack of satisfaction, not to mention pressure to produce research and attract funding.
posted
22-Oct-16, 11:51
edited about 1 minute later
by Dunham
Avatar for Dunham
posted about 4 years ago
Quote From Mattfabb:
But really, Wallace, 'ruined your life'? I may be technically unemployed, but I am so happy to have my PhD..


Why? I can totally relate to that thought. Maybe it makes it easier for you to accept that things didn't turn out as you planned if you keep telling yourself how great that PhD degree is but you must really be incredibly idealistic to not come to the conclusion that this was maybe not the best decision. Can still turn out alright, but the thought itself is pretty normal. Some people want things like a family, a house or vacation and none of them you get with a PhD. You get it with a paying job.

@Wallace
There are tons of PhDs that search over a year for a job and Biology became especially difficult due to the myriad of PhD students in Life Sciences but that also means that you are not alone. I think it is crucial to increase the application radius. In case you find a job somewhere else, you can still figure out the moving part later but in my opinion, moving is not especially expensive. Students move all the time across the country without organising a big moving. I moved to the country I live in now with 1 bag. That's it. Everything else you can get later when you've earned some money in the new job. Even if you have to live with roommates for a while, who cares? All the post docs in my group did it that way. Of course always under the premise that you can leave your current stuff at your parents (but it sounds as if that would be a possibility). I also agree that writing applications has to be your fulltime job at the moment. If there aren't any new openings just write unsolicited applications. In the worst case you practice your application skills. If would also search for all kinds of free help you can get. Boston is not a small town, there is probably help you can get for applications or new ideas. Keep the spirits up! Good luck
posted
22-Oct-16, 19:02
edited about 1 minute later
Avatar for Mattfabb
posted about 4 years ago
Quote From Dunham:
Quote From Mattfabb:
But really, Wallace, 'ruined your life'? I may be technically unemployed, but I am so happy to have my PhD..


Why? I can totally relate to that thought. Maybe it makes it easier for you to accept that things didn't turn out as you planned if you keep telling yourself how great that PhD degree is but you must really be incredibly idealistic to not come to the conclusion that this was maybe not the best decision. Can still turn out alright, but the thought itself is pretty normal. Some people want things like a family, a house or vacation and none of them you get with a PhD. You get it with a paying job.


The point I was trying to make is that before the PhD, the best I could hope for was some rather badly paid job in my field. Now that I am looking for a lecturing position, the starting salaries are something else altogether. Of course I am still freelancing as I need to, but I know its only a matter of time before I get the position I want. In the meantime, I keep publishing and giving guest lectures. It's not idealistic, I feel, to be proud of your achievements.
posted
23-Oct-16, 10:05
by emaa
Avatar for emaa
posted about 4 years ago
I am in the same situation. I defended my PhD in May 2015 and still unemployed. I havn't applied to any job because I have 3 years old twins. I live in Switzerland and the system of kindergarten here is awful. My kids have been accepted only for three days a week and 4 hours a day. I don't have any relatives here and cannot cover the day-care cost.
posted
25-Oct-16, 00:11
Avatar for TheEngineer
posted about 4 years ago
At times I feel applying for some postdoc positions is a sheer waste of time because quite often the PI already has someone in mind. Owing to the short duration of most postdoc posts, PIs wouldn't want to take a gamble, they're more comfortable going for someone they know, usually their own PhD students who're in the latter stages of their research. Just this month, I applied for a Postdoc post at some next door university. The topic is very similar to my PhD research and I have even published 4 papers in the same field. Surprisingly, I was not even shortlisted. It turned out that the post was actually reserved for the PI's PhD student, whom I know very well. We do interact occasionally because our PhD topics are in the same engineering theme and we're both at the same stage. But despite having zero publications under his belt, the PI settled for him although I considered myself a stronger candidate.
posted
25-Oct-16, 11:57
by Dunham
Avatar for Dunham
posted about 4 years ago
Quote From Mattfabb:
Quote From Dunham:
Quote From Mattfabb:
But really, Wallace, 'ruined your life'? I may be technically unemployed, but I am so happy to have my PhD..


Why? I can totally relate to that thought. Maybe it makes it easier for you to accept that things didn't turn out as you planned if you keep telling yourself how great that PhD degree is but you must really be incredibly idealistic to not come to the conclusion that this was maybe not the best decision. Can still turn out alright, but the thought itself is pretty normal. Some people want things like a family, a house or vacation and none of them you get with a PhD. You get it with a paying job.


The point I was trying to make is that before the PhD, the best I could hope for was some rather badly paid job in my field. Now that I am looking for a lecturing position, the starting salaries are something else altogether. Of course I am still freelancing as I need to, but I know its only a matter of time before I get the position I want. In the meantime, I keep publishing and giving guest lectures. It's not idealistic, I feel, to be proud of your achievements.


Might be the case in your specific field. In Biology however, you have often way more chances to get into a company and then be promoted to well-payed jobs than trying to get one of the few positions that actually demand a PhD.

Maybe you'll never get a lecturer position and be a freelancer the rest of your life. Who knows? What makes you so sure that this is just a matter of time? Tenure track? Tons of people never get the position even though they are trying. Publishing is btw nearly impossible as an unemployed biologist. You need a lab to create data. Even the bioinformaticians need at least funds and the kind of data access only a University or company can provide. You can maybe get some unpublished results out, but that's it.
posted
25-Oct-16, 18:23
edited about 19 seconds later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 4 years ago
Quote From Wallace:
As far as location, I'm kind of locked into my home town of Boston.


Social immobility is a very large part of your problem.
You should be claiming benefits.
Under that scheme the government should pay for your travel expenses until your first pay check comes in to allow you to significantly widen your area for job hunting.

My son has just gone through that process at the age of 22. He has spent 2 months leaving the house from 5.30am and coming home at 10.30pm five days a week for a job in a call centre.
The dole office paid his first month's travel expenses and he has today had a phone call telling him he can pick up the keys to his new rented flat tomorrow morning.

That is very a tough thing for him to have gone through but as he said himself a couple of hours ago, "what was the alternative? Two months of hell but now I have a flat, a job, a 20 minute commute as of tomorrow and enough money to get my life on track PLUS I have work experience now."

Good luck with your job hunting.

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