This search looks to be ending without any offer in hand and I've been a post doc for a while. How long is too long? I'm wondering about doing another year of my post doc (I find out next week and it looks like it will come through) or whether it is time to jump ship. My pub record is pretty good, and it should have additions by the next search, but are extra pubs just diminishing returns given x years as a post doc? When does it seem like someone has been at it too long without getting a job? Do search committees consider the economy?
Date: 06 Feb 2012 19:47
Number of posts: 7
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Don't give up hope…I've seen people who have done several postdocs (spanning around a decade) land good jobs…it depends on a lot of factors…if you are being productive and visible, then keep at it.
I'll second what assoc prof has to say.
But it depends on what "jumping ship" means, exactly, and whether you'd be happy with the alternative. It's true that postdocs don't make much, so if you have a family to support (or even partially support alongside a working spouse), at a certain point you might feel like it's necessary to make a change. But I have definitely seen some people have postdocs for about a decade and then end up with quite good R1 jobs after years of applying to jobs.
That is interesting (and reassuring) to know. I have been advised by a mentor - it is remotely possible that this is in fact the same mentor as that of the OP - that anything over 3-4 years of postdoc starts looking suspect, as though you've tried but failed to get a job and there must be something wrong with you. I think we're all hoping this is an outdated, unrealistic attitude given the current economic climate, but unfortunately a lot of people like our mentor might be on search committees and making such judgments.
Just before I started my first postdoc the general feeling was that 5 years as a postdoc was the upper limit…this was 3 years ago just as the economy was really starting to affect hiring. Now I find that this opinion has changed likely because of the economy. Younger (<10) year faculty have acknowledged that they would not get their jobs today based on the limited amount of positions being offered and the high expectations placed on candidates. 5 years often has implications for funding so it is likely not a good idea to postdoc for more than this, but the mentality has shifted. What will be interesting to watch (I've been told) is hiring practices in a year or so from now. Because the market is saturated with seriously good postdocs any institution that wants to grow a particular area and has the funds to do it with will want to hire ASAP while the good talent is there and in some cases desperate.
I think with the job market today you do have a bit more time than before but those who are getting jobs are being very productive at their postdocs. Apply for grants, run your own studies, and publish as many first-author pubs as you can. Then at least the search committees with be super impressed with your vita and (hopefully!) bring you out to interview and ask about why you have been at a postdoc for a few extra years.
I landed a job at an R1 this year. Mine is a special situation— but I was a postdoc for 9 years. The last postdoc in my lab had a similar amount of time out. We both had horrible first postdocs so we had to make up a bit for it in our second positions, but it's not the end of the world if you are out for a while. It is the end of the world if it looks like you weren't productive and on an upward trajectory (more pubs, grants, invited talks, etc.)