Should I even dare to aspire for an academic career?

15-Mar-20, 21:40
Avatar for SforSpec
posted about 3 months ago
Hi everyone, I am new to posting but have been lurking around this forum for some months now. I just wanted to put this question "out there" to anyone that has possibly wrestled with similar self doubt regarding their academic aspirations.

I am nearing the end of my PhD journey which hasn't always been easy. I took a somewhat interdisciplinary approach in my PhD research (my topic of study, methods and geographical area are not "mainstream" in my discipline), and thus feel like an outsider both in my discipline, and those I draw from. I have faced quite a few rejections from journals (though managed to publish one single-authored article in a decent journal), had a baby last year, and have been asked to revise my PhD manuscript because of a negative review sent by the internal examiner (external examiner and committee head were both very positive). On the bright side, I have secured a postdoc grant from a national funding agency and am due to start my postdoc at an "ivy league", once I get passed the hurdle of the viva (scheduled for May, if revised manuscript is accepted).

Of late I have been feeling utterly foolish to harbor the dream of an academic career. My struggles so far tell me I am clearly not the "best of the best" and given the current academic job market people such as myself that are not slotted easily, get weeded out. Moreover, I wonder whether years of precarity and uncertainty for myself and my family is truly worth it. I know I will face mounting rejections if I continue this academic journey and wonder if I should take those rejections at face value and just move on or whether to keep dreaming. Any advice for someone struggling to keep up?
17-Apr-20, 14:55
Avatar for DellaRose
posted about 2 months ago
Hi there, I'm new to posting too. Congratulations on reaching the end of your PhD and also on the postdoc grant! The fact that you have achieved this shows that you are more than capable to pursue an academic career, if it's what you really want to do. I am also just about to finish my PhD and am similarly wondering whether the academic career path is worth it...I can't offer much in the way of advice but just wanted to say that I relate to your post and have similarly felt these doubts and concerns. For me the thought of pursuing a career outside of academia is becoming increasingly appealing! Good luck for your viva in May.
19-Apr-20, 11:14
edited about 4 minutes later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 2 months ago
I think only you can know whether it is something you want to keep at. Getting your first postdoc at an Ivy League doesn't sound like a bad start - you obviously had what it takes to get that grant, which says a lot. Have you considered that you might be experiencing imposter syndrome?

If this is largely a self-doubt issue, then maybe you need to persist and in the meantime find ways to build confidence - it'll come through small (and big) successes - such as passing your viva, getting a paper published here or there... (at least that is how it works for me). You can also look up strategies and ways to help build your self confidence.

If however you are deeply concerned about the precariousness of a potential academic career / trying to become established as an academic, you might need to weigh things up. If job security for family reasons etc is high on your list of priorities, then you might decide that you don't want to continue on an uncertain path (let's face it, it is for most of us) any longer and you'd rather try and get a permanent job... or perhaps you could set a certain time-frame - say 5 years - and then reassess / call it quits if you haven't met certain goals. You never know - a permanent teaching role could come up during that time, presenting another option.


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