A couple of months before I completed my PhD, I started sending out job applications. I filled out countless job application forms, each needing a cover letter and often had to change my CV around to suit each position. Before starting this process, I sought out a mentor in my department, a Professor whom I admired and asked her for advice about the job hunt. She told me three things:
- The academic job market is a jungle
- It is survival, not of the fittest, but the most persistent.
- Getting a job in academia depends on the relationships you have built over the years through networking.
She also said that I would need to send out a 100 applications in the hopes of getting one. I took her advice and started applying, but I was never prepared for the constant stream of rejection emails that ensued. I never thought an email could spoil my day and the first rejection email, I took it well because I had been told this would happen. However, after the twentieth or so email, you start to feel a little discouraged. But I carried on with the applications because
I found out that post-PhD depression is an actual thing. Some statistics in this blog state that 80 % of postdocs (someone who has completed a doctoral degree) hope to get a tenured academic position, only 10% get that offer. This leaves the other 70% feeling like they wasted years of their lives getting a degree that cannot land them a job. The writer of the article also said something about our expectations as doctoral graduates not matching the reality of what is out there in the job market. He also suggested taking a step back and rethinking your goals and values.
I came across this quote and I think it is so profound.
Instead of wallowing in my discouragement, I am going to use this opportunity to encourage others who may be going through the same thing and for current students to know what to expect post-phd. Every case is different of course, we don’t all go through the same trajectories. What I am doing now to deal with post-phd stress is to take it one day at a time. I was comforted the other day to realise that I am not the only one going through it and I have started engaging in conversations with others around this.
What this has done for me is to remove the mentality that I am the only one going through this and to just keep going. Understanding that this is a transition phase and with all transitions comes this period of discomfort as you try to find your feet again. I do hope the phase will end soon, but what I have also been trying to do is to enjoy the moment. I have nothing going on right now, I should be enjoying this free time before actually settling into a new job. This is the time to find a new hobby, start an online course that might be useful in the future or catch up with old friends. I recently attended a Christian youth camp for a week, and that was a nice new experience for me. I made some new friends and spent time in a new location. I also stepped away from my current circumstance which gave me a new perspective.
By refusing to view this stage of my life as negative, I am slowly changing the narrative.