Post-Phd... No post! Advice appreciated

posted
30-Jan-17, 18:05
edited about 1 minute later
by Jewel17
Avatar for Jewel17
posted about 2 years ago
Hi everyone,

Hope you are all doing well wherever you are in your postgrad journey.

I'm just posting here in the hopes that someone can share some insight/advice about my position.

I'm British and last year, completed a PhD in Arts in Australia. During the PhD candidature, I did everything recommended for finding a post (teaching, presenting at conferences, a publication). Now, over a year after submitting my PhD (and nearly 18 months of applications), I feel further than ever from finding a secure academic post. I've been doing short-contract University tutoring (which I love, though its financially difficult to be out of work for a large portion of the year) but have never even been asked to interview for the many many many diverse more longterm academic jobs I've applied for.

I never expected it to be easy, but I'm at the stage now when I'm thinking - how likely is it really to get a first academic post with a PhD in Arts? How long do you search/apply before you decide to look down a different path? Did anyone else try to get into academia, and end up transferring their skills elsewhere?

Thanks in advance for your insight

:)
posted
31-Jan-17, 12:02
Avatar for bewildered
posted about 2 years ago
Maybe it's my field, but it's become very unusual to go straight from PhD to a secure academic post - most now do a postdoc / teaching fellowship as they are not immediately competitive for lectureships. So I suppose question 1 is are you applying to that sort of job as well?
Second thought - can you do some detective work and see who was hired for some of the jobs you applied for - how does your cv stack up? If you only have one publication, my guess would be that's your weakness but it's hard to tell. I'd also get an academic who has been on the job market in the last few years to take a look at your application materials and see if you're making any easy to fix errors.
Third thought - yes I did set a deadline as I didn't want to waste my life on an industry (HE) that didn't want me. I got lucky, but I found looking through all the alt-ac resources on the internet really helped me to think through plans B, C and D. It's rather US-centric but I found the resources on Versatile PhD useful.
posted
31-Jan-17, 14:52
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 2 years ago
I would be absolutely astonished if anyone was able to secure a full time permanent academic position straight after a PhD without a postdoc track record.
You will be up against hundreds of candidates for each post and all of them will probably have a PhD, several years of postdoc and the successful ones probably have a track record of securing funding themselves.
posted
31-Jan-17, 15:25
edited about 23 seconds later
by Jewel17
Avatar for Jewel17
posted about 2 years ago
Hi to both, and thanks for taking the time to write a reply.

Something I should have qualified was by 'secure academic post', I mean a contract which lasts longer than a year. Which probably is not 'secure', but seems so from my current situation! At the moment I am on four-monthly contracts which only last as long as each semester, between which I have to fly nearly 10 000 miles across the world, find apartments, buy/sell furniture etc. I really appreciate having the opportunity to do these short contracts (as I said, I love my teaching), but this transitional lifestyle really gets exhausting and is quite isolating as you are never in the same place long enough to make lasting personal and professional relationships.

Bewildered: I've applied to all kinds of teaching fellowships/postdocs etc. but again - not even reached interview. When I did my detective work, I found out each time the person employed had 5+ years of experience post-PhD, or - more often than not - has close prior links with the University. Which makes sense - it's just I'm not sure how to get the first step on the ladder as it were. That age-old problem of how to get experience without getting the job, and how to get the job without the experience! It's good to know you set a deadline, and thanks for recommending the resources on Versatile PhD. It sounds like the thing to do is continue working on my publication record (which I am) but it feels like I'm against the clock on this one.

Thanks again for your replies and insight. Really appreciate it.
posted
31-Jan-17, 23:43
edited about 27 seconds later
by tru
Avatar for tru
posted about 2 years ago
Hi, Jewel17,

You did not mention anything about recommendation. If you had teaching experience at your former uni where you did your PhD, would it be possible to keep in touch with your fellow tutoring group leader or lecturer to ask if they know of a position coming up? How about your colleagues where you were doing short term teaching? Do they know anything? Can your former PhD supervisor recommend you to his/her network?

Most positions are not advertised. It is up to you to initiate in making that connection. Start where you are. Ask people who have been teaching for a while at your uni out for coffee. And learn what they did right during the early stages of their career. You need a career mentor.
posted
01-Feb-17, 09:47
edited about 28 seconds later
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 2 years ago
^ that's what got me my current job, back in my old department...
posted
01-Feb-17, 10:46
Avatar for TheEngineer
posted about 2 years ago
In my research group where I am pursuing a PhD, there's a postdoc colleague who got his current post under some interesting circumstances. He attended a conference and a professor in my research group liked his work. The prof approached the guy and asked him if he was willing to take up a postdoc post in his lab. Lucky guy!! The job was advertised formally but of course, the interview was just a formality for him. I am sure there are a number of people who applied for this position and possibly had higher credentials but ended up not getting the job for obvious reasons. Sometimes it's all about networking.
posted
01-Feb-17, 16:07
edited about 1 minute later
Avatar for newlease36
posted about 2 years ago
Thanks for you post. I'm finishing up a PhD and looking into the job market so your post and replies were very helpful. All great advice from previous posters. I do think it does seems to be a lot about networking and meeting the right person at the right time. Your supervisor or work colleague recommending your to a friend ect.

But I just had to wonder if you are not even getting an interview, seems like there could be something a miss with your materials. I would advise getting senior academic you trust to look at them and advise you and also maybe someone at the career services at your university.

Congratulations on the teaching post jobs!! For the immediate future I would be thrilled with that (despite obvious cons). Does seem like you really need a research post though moving forward.

I wish you best of luck, I wouldn't give up just yet, if its your dream, But I would give myself a timeline and look at alt careers. There is definitely life outside academia.
posted
02-Feb-17, 23:43
by Jewel17
Avatar for Jewel17
posted about 2 years ago
Thanks for these replies - great to have some insight

Tru: My colleagues and ex-PhD supervisor really are excellent and always let me know about any jobs they hear of.It just seems that the competition is so fierce, and there is nothing to differentiate a relatively new doctor from a very experienced applicant in the application process. The jobs I am applying for are jobs my former supervisor would be applying for... It's interesting you say that most jobs aren't advertised though - do you think this applies across the board for academic positions? So they are filled internally usually? The idea of the career mentor is really good, and I will work on making those connections.

TreeofLife and theEngineer - thanks for sharing your stories too. Looks like networking is everything (as in a lot of jobs I guess!)

newlease36: Thanks very much for your suggestions and your words of encouragement, really appreciated. Congratulations at being at the stage of finishing up your PhD, and I wish you all the best for completion and in your job search.

:)
posted
04-Feb-17, 01:04
edited about 7 seconds later
by tru
Avatar for tru
posted about 2 years ago
Hi, Jewel17,

You asked if I think job recommendation applies across the board for academic positions and if they are filled internally usually. Absolutely YES to both questions. Not only for academic position, but across all types of jobs, they will prefer someone who is recommended by someone familiar to the hiring manager, and better yet if they know the applicant personally. I think that networking and finding a good career mentor who can advise and perhaps recommend you for jobs (not just inform you of opportunities, but actually go - Hey, Prof XX, I know someone who is excellent for that role you are advertising!) are the answers to your problems. Good luck.
posted
04-Feb-17, 18:52
edited about 1 minute later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 2 years ago
I would agree with this. It is also true of industry. The key is not just networking although that is important. In my experience the most important thing you can do is to be known as someone who strives to achieve excellence in everything they do and someone who is seen to be wiling to step in and successfully do all the vital but crappy jobs nobody else wants to do. A "go to" person. You want to be the person who "wows" others. The important thing to remember is that most people simply dont aim for this and so dont stand out amongst their peers. If excellence is something you have a reputation for then you may well find your phone ringing without you having to do anything.
posted
08-Feb-17, 13:30
edited about 24 seconds later
by Jewel17
Avatar for Jewel17
posted about 2 years ago
Thanks very much - so useful to have this advice on board. I am re-inspired to keep searching, and keep connecting!

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