Monday, 1 August 2016

The job search

For people who don't know, the early part of an academic career (after the PhD at least), is usually at least one postdoctoral position. These are short term contracts, usually 1-5 years but commonly 1-3, that run for the length of the funding (either a specific project or a specially funded postdoc). Originally, the postdoctoral position was supposed to be a one off position intended to be the stepping stone where young researchers go out and develop important new skills before getting a permanent position such as a lectureship. However, with the rise of increasingly large numbers of PhDs being completed, and increasingly few permanent positions opening (due to declines in funding, and something many scientists in the UK fear with Brexit), many scientists go through multiple postdoctoral positions before finding some level of permanency and I work with several people on their 3rd and 4th postdoctorates.

I, like most PhDs, suffered from imposter syndrome where I didn't feel like I belonged in the programme and didn't know as much as others. It was particularly tough for me as I was self-funded (thanks to my parents), and believe that far better people who wanted to do PhDs never managed to because they couldn't afford it/get funding. Nowadays, it feels much the same as I apply for jobs that I think there are better applicants for. I was spoilt by applying for only 2 jobs last time, getting 1 interview, and that one leading to my current job which is rapidly coming to an end.

I cannot really complain as I am a young person (both age and career wise) on the scene, but at the same time I am finding the whole process disheartening. The worst moment (so far) was when the grant I helped write was rejected, as it is the area I want to work on when I get a permanent job/my own lab. Otherwise it's much the same as other careers, lots of applications (and lots of rejections), maybe a few interviews, and hopefully a job at the end. The big difference is the few jobs are scattered around the world, on a range of subjects, so trying to find one that is a good fit is exceedingly difficult. It would also be nice though to have a permanent job and consider settling down as well, but all things take time, and I can't be so fussy. I saw this cartoon today, and it made me chuckle:
Credit to an unknown Facebook user for this
The question is what happens if I don't get a job? I am busy planning the next grants that need writing that hopefully will be more successful, and there will always be more job advertisements. If it all goes horribly wrong and cannot find a job, I will probably return home for a few months to save money, but for me that will be the ultimate feeling of failure. I can still work and have a bucket load of papers to read and write, and I am planning fun projects I might be able to do whilst back home (with a lot of speaking nicely to a lot of people to gain access to facilities that I won't have not being attached to a university), but it will put a sobering moment for me. I had a month off after my PhD, but that was arranged so I could come back fresh into a new job, but this may be the first real time since I was about 4 (when I had just started school) that I won't know what is next.

I appreciate this has been an unusual post compared to most of my blog, and thanks anyone who has read these musings and worries. I guess I should stop writing the blog with my fears and worries, and get back to work and job applications!

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