When you hand in your PhD, what comes next? Here Georgina Collins provides advice for the researchers who have just completed a PhD and would like to continue in academia but are unsure which path to take.

Prerow, Urlauber mit Ferngläsern am Strand

Post-PhD blues

Most people leave the viva and are unsure what they are going to do next. Very few individuals have full-time permanent jobs lined up, especially in the current financial climate. Many people expect to feel elated when they find out they have passed their viva (most likely with some form of corrections), but the reality is that it is usually an anticlimax. Having to make corrections, reproof and reprint can bring on a sense of failure. And the thought of having to rewrite or remodel the thesis for publication only heightens that feeling, especially when you have put your heart and soul into the project for at least three years. You may also feel a void when you no longer have to spend hours each day researching and writing towards an important end goal.

Unfortunately, that is the nature of the game. It is normal to feel a sense of loss, to get corrections, and to get advice on rewriting your thesis for publication. This doesn’t mean you’re a failure, but that you have passed your apprenticeship and are now ready to move on to the next stage of your academic career. Whether you are leaving academia or pursuing an academic career, you may find that the Student Careers and Skills service can advise you on career options and CVs. Moreover, if you want to continue in academia and you are lucky, you will have continued contact with your department who can offer you support and advise you on the next steps to take. The information below will also be of use.

What Next in Academia?

There are many different options for newly qualified PhDs who wish to continue in academia. These are:

Early Career Fellowship

Postdoctoral Fellowship

Teaching Fellowship

Permanent Lectureship or Associate Professorship

Juggling part-time short-term roles with a view to gaining a permanent position

In the current financial climate, newly qualified PhDs (especially in the Humanities) may find it extremely difficult to get a full time permanent role immediately. Many postdocs spend at least the first few months following the viva doing several part-time roles such as teaching or assisting on others’ research projects whilst they expand their CV and apply for more long-term full-time posts. This can take a long time, and unless you are really fortunate, you should expect to get plenty of rejections before you are successful. This can mean applying for forty or fifty jobs before you get one. But you only need one, so don’t be discouraged, the best thing is to toughen up and be prepared for a rocky ride.

Staying in Contact with Warwick

During the transition time between finishing your PhD and beginning an academic post, it is really useful to retain contact with the university. Some departments may be willing to offer you visiting scholar status if you are willing to do some teaching for them or run a couple of guest seminars. In return, you will keep your email and intranet access, be able to access the library and apply for any funding that may be available at the University. You will also be able to continue updating your eportfolio, which can be a really useful tool for promoting yourself on the job market.

Continue to attend seminars and conferences at the University, which are important for your career development, and visit your department and supervisors from time to time. If you are going to ask them to provide you with references, keep them up-to-date with the projects you are working on and jobs you are doing. They will also be able to offer you advice on such things as publishing, job applications and conference papers. They may also know of any jobs coming up or have contacts that can help you at other universities.

Take a look:

  • An Article on the lack of job security in academia
  • Advice on academic career paths/
  • A useful blog on moving into an academic post

Image German Federal Archives, Wikipedia