Should I stay or should I go? –part 2

Part 1 can be found hereand is about staying in Europe or going for a post-doc abroad. This one is about staying in academia or not. I’m clearly not the only one pondering this.
I know I’ve written about this before, but the question whether I am going to stay in academia or not came on the foreground a bit more after having received a faculty position rejection (from the homecountry) and a fellowship rejection. I guess it is safe to guestimate that given my CV and ideas I usually rank in the top 15-20% when applying for grants and fellowships (yup, the n is large enough to guestimate this from). Given the current funding situation, this might not be enough. And FYI, the homecountry (to which we are sure we will return now that husband has a position there) does not have the equivalent of SLACs, so the option to do research there does not exist. 
I gave myself another year(ish) to get a position and/or grants and if that doesn’t work, I’m going to look for something else. But is that a good strategy or should I start looking now and determine what skills I need and get those skills now? And won’t that take away from the energy that I need to spend on getting myself from the top 15-20% to the top 10 or whatever % that is necessary to succeed? How do other people do this? Can you do both at the same time? Please enlighten me, people who have successfully transitioned out of academia AND people who have looked outside academia but decided to stay (and anyone else with something useful to say)!


Filed under decisions, finding a job, grant writing, postdoc

14 responses to “Should I stay or should I go? –part 2

  1. I feel VERY strongly that the difference between the top 15-20% and the top 1-14% can be attributed to two things, entirely: (1) Reputation; (2) Luck.

    the difference in the quality of the science from 1% to 20% is absolutely nil.

  2. Anonymous

    I am trying to post-doc and pick up the “plan B” skills at the same time. I do question regularly whether the “Plan B” time is diminishing the chance of success in “Plan A” but I don't think I can realistically ignore the alternative options. In my experience, it is very tiring (I say that without too many external commitments) but I would also say that some of the “softer” skills that I am picking up are contributing to “Plan A” in ways I didn't fully expect. So, I would say, have a think about what aspects of your CV you would like to flesh out and spend some time pursuing that. Good luck!

  3. I am kind of trying to do both. I am applying for TT jobs one last time while also preparing for the real possibility that I will strike out again. I haven't done much other than brainstorm about non-academic jobs. I've talked with a few friends who made the transition. Basically I am going to finish up these job apps by November or so and then turn most of my energy to finding a job. ANY job.

  4. Same boat, same questions here. Good luck making a decision.

  5. Anonymous

    I agree with Dr24hours, plus additionally, you will need (1A) reputation in Europe. So perhaps while you're looking, consider joining some European research network? E.g. you could find out if there are any COST Actions on your research topic and if you find one, go to the meetings (if you apply to become representative on the Management Committee for NL and are accepted, you could even get travel reimbursed). See here:

  6. I ran into that problem/dilemma/choice during my post-doc looking over the research situation in home country (like yours, no SLACs). I think it's a LOT about contacts and “people talking about you and your research” when it comes to funding in the home country. Same with getting the interviews for TT positions.

    That's the “difference” between the 1 and 20% top… we can call it luck, but I think I might be more cynical and say I don't really write it up to luck but more to “contacts who talk to others = luck”. You have contacts at the places where you apply for the TT? An ally or future collaborator etc? That might be the difference? (although, back home it's a lot about the funding – get the funding get a position, get a position get funding. A little of that Catch 22).

    As for the transition, it would probably be good to take an assessment of what you want to do in the future and what skills you have for that, i.e. what you can show you have. Papers might matter for some jobs, lots of experience and measureables for others. Definetly do that thought process already, since you have a year to 'better' those stats/getting it on paper. Also, keep an eye out for options during this year, who knows – even if you aren't looking actively that passive glancing might get you lots of ideas and who knows, maybe an opportunity will show itself?

    Best of luck with the grants!

  7. Not entirely sure about that. I think the top 5% of my peers (senior post-doc) are people with C/N/S papers and/or their own grants. I have neither of those and it starts to get a downward spiral where reviewers that review my grants see it as negative that I don't have my own grants yet…

  8. Yes I think you're right that it's good to start looking into exactly what that plan B might be. Thanks!

  9. Good luck with finding a job!! And good advice about talking to people who have made the transition. I should do more of that.

  10. Thanks. Good luck to you too!

  11. Thanks for the advice. I try to keep the connections with the home country as tight as I can (visit people's labs each time I am home to visit family etc). There are people that WANT to hire me, but currently don't have money to do so…

  12. Thanks! You're right about the contacts back in the home country. I try to network as much as I can, but it's also what you say: even if people want to hire you, they often don't have money and you have to bring your own, at least for the first couple of years.
    And I think you're also right that I just have to make a list of possible jobs that I would like outside academia and learn more about what skills I need and how to acquire those.

  13. chall

    Oh, and have you looked into Marie Curie stipend/grant? (I'd think you have but you never know) They have ones specifically for a) people wanting to return to their home country after a post-doc abroud b)specific for women who want to continue research. It's a EU based grant…

    A friend of mine got it for his return (the a)option obvis) to home country for 2 years and that had a “reallocation funding part” in it that was awesome. Unfortenately it didn't help in the end after 2 yrs since there was no more money and the department didn't help out… He's now in industry, in another European country (another move). It'sa rough world.

    Best of luck and well wishes to you and family though! My home country is probalby a little more “excluding” – at least from my pov it seems like that ^^

  14. Yes I'm actually writing one of those now. But I really appreciate you stopping by and mentioning it! Thanks!

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