Advice: postdoc stories of trying for a career in academia

Over at Grad Life, nice interviews with five McGill University biology postdocs (the majority of them in ecology and evolutionary biology) on trying for a career in academia. Lots of good advice, both on how to get an academic job and on being clear-eyed about your chances. Also personal stories to let you know that, whatever your experience has been, you’re far from alone.

I sympathize especially with Suzanne Gray, who’s been told repeatedly by senior faculty that “The only people who don’t get a job in academia are those who stop trying.” Protip to those senior faculty: you’re confusing cause and effect. Don’t. And stop giving postdocs advice based on how the job market worked back when you were starting out.

My own story, which I think resonates with these interviews, is here.

6 thoughts on “Advice: postdoc stories of trying for a career in academia

  1. Never, never, ever give up if it’s really what you want, as Jeremy’s story shows. My story (very briefly). I got a second class honours on account of some bad luck with field work, family health issues, a thesis marker who didn’t like one of my supervisors etc. (tough year all round) and thought that was it, I wouldn’t be able to undertake a PhD. I went overseas, worked with some friends on amphibian malformations for a while and hey presto Science and Ecol. Monographs papers. Still took a few tries to land a PhD scholarship after that. Got this and did well and landed two postdocs. Then I tried for academic jobs, first couple I didn’t even get an interview, but on the third I did and got the gig at Deakin University (Australia), where I am now. I feel lucky and honoured and still pinch myself I’ve finally got there. Never give up.

    One thing to consider however is do you want to be part of academia in its current state. That of course is a topic for another discussion https://theconversation.edu.au/cracks-in-the-ivory-tower-is-academias-culture-sustainable-8294

    • “Never, never, ever give up if it’s really what you want, as Jeremy’s story shows”

      Well, that’s what my story shows as long as the phrase “if it’s really what you want” is properly interpreted. 😉 I *did* give up, even though I really wanted a faculty position–because there were also other things I wanted.

  2. Oofta, as a current post-doc in the second year of a 3 year position, those were depressing to read. Here’s to hoping to be in the top 14%, cheers!

  3. People who say things like what you quoted there are the ones least likely to have a clue about the reality of the situation and you called it perfectly there IMO.

    To antilopine’s ending comment above, I can only say that I’ve been associated with many different types of people in my life and academics are easily the most petty, immature, and arrogant of the lot, including at the very highest levels (maybe *especially* at the highest levels, even if yes, there are some very good people as well–and it is absolutely imperative to seek them out). I put up with much BS from such people for a long time without saying much, but those days are over. Academia has become largely a self-serving industry, not particularly concerned in any tangible way with real-world problems, and not even particularly concerned with correcting the mistakes it makes even with those ivory tower confines. Unfortunately, a lot of this is driven ultimately by the low priority and status given to science in our (American) society, which limits the available funds and creates much of the problem.

  4. Pingback: Advice: a compilation of all our advice posts, and a call for new advice topics | Dynamic Ecology

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