Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Q & A: Exploring the job market after the PhD

Time for another long overdue reply to your questions!

I received the following question:

Your advice on reversing delayed gratification mode after the Phd is very pertinent. I am waiting to hear from my examiners to see if I passed after major revisions. Since I self-funded my research and studies I really need a job. I am more than willing to work in industry, government or a non-profit. (I am older and have already gone down the adjunct path of no return before the Phd.) Is there age discrimination here? It is hard to find openings where my skills fit so I have only applied for a few jobs, but I get no interviews. There is always one box that I have not ticked that would require another degree or certification. I am beginning to wonder why I started this--I wanted to teach literature instead of driving an hour and a half one-way late at night to adjunct-teach grammar. Maybe a job at Walmart is in my future! I am fortunate to have a hard-working spouse to support me and our 5 kids, but with a son with a chronic illness, bills are piling up! My question is, how do I fashion myself into those other jobs without more so-called necessary training?


As always, let me break down your question:

I am waiting to hear from my examiners to see if I passed after major revisions. Since I self-funded my research and studies I really need a job.

First of all, I hope your corrections went well, and your job search made a turn for the better since the time you wrote me.

Is there age discrimination here?

Ageism is a thing everywhere in this world. I graduated from my PhD very young and am female, so I get the friendly remarks that the only reason that I got hired at university is because my husband is working there too. Never mind my 20 publications in Scopus. On the other hand, there is discrimination against older people as well. Perhaps the fact that you recently graduated is going to help - your knowledge is still considered fresh. But ageism is one of these persistent problems.

It is hard to find openings where my skills fit so I have only applied for a few jobs, but I get no interviews. There is always one box that I have not ticked that would require another degree or certification. I am beginning to wonder why I started this--I wanted to teach literature instead of driving an hour and a half one-way late at night to adjunct-teach grammar.

Confidence! The ideal applicant does not exist. It still is a difficult job market, more so this year with the dropping oil prices, and for us Europeans, because of the never-ending Eurocrisis. Just keep trying, and don't be afraid to look out of the box. Learn how to reframe your specific academic skills for the requirements of the industry. I wrote a lengthy article about the topic in the past. And please, don't lose hope - eventually you will find something.

Maybe a job at Walmart is in my future!


Think positive. Zen and stuff as well, to shield off the despair.

I am fortunate to have a hard-working spouse to support me and our 5 kids, but with a son with a chronic illness, bills are piling up!


I'm sorry to read this, and I hope you found a job that makes your life easier.

My question is, how do I fashion myself into those other jobs without more so-called necessary training?

After my PhD, and while I was preparing my job search, I wrote quite a number of posts about this topic. My recommended reading for you:
Preparing for life after the PhD: re-train your brain
Life After Graduate School: What happens next?
Getting a job, after the PhD
What should you do after your PhD?
Q & A: The PhD and The Job Market
An Expat Scholar’s View from the Gulf
Finding employment outside of academia
How you should prepare for a career outside of academia: 7 lucky tips for a smoother transition
PhD Talk Interview: Creating your Career, post-PhD
I am Nathan Ryder and This is How I Work

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