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I have a PhD in organic chemistry from a top-tier university and published 5 papers in good journals. My PhD advisor was very helpful and helped me a lot but she is not in any of my papers as she believed her contribution is not enough for co-authorship. I thought it is a privilege that I can get all the credit.

Now that I apply for postdoc positions, it is a downside to my applications. In two phone interviews, I was specifically asked why my advisor is not in my papers. One told me "she probably did not like/approve your work" and the other said, "I am not satisfied that you can collaborate with your future supervisor".

Although she had complimented my publications in her letter of recommendation, nobody likes my sole authorship.

How can I apply for a postdoc as I feel I am stuck in my career because of a mistake.

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    That seems a little weird. However, the thing to do is use your advisor's connections - they know your advisor and trust her judgement. – Jon Custer Dec 6 '17 at 15:53
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    You need to apply for better postdocs. Do you really want to work with people who rate the quality of your work by looking at the author list instead of reading the papers themselves? – JeffE Dec 6 '17 at 16:03
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    I always thought, at least in my field (TCS), that having single author papers this early in your career is a badge you proudly wear. – PsySp Dec 6 '17 at 17:31
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    When this comes up, ask "Can I have my mentor send you a letter of recommendation on my behalf?" – Scott Seidman Dec 6 '17 at 21:10
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    @JeffE I said a bit concerning, not grounds to reject someone's application. But definitely grounds to ask "So how'd that happen?" – Fomite Dec 6 '17 at 23:33
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I would recommend considering these options:

  • Try to write or formulate your own project. Some funding agencies, e.g. ERC Starting Grant requires you to have at least one important publication as main author or without the participation of your PhD supervisor. You already achieved it, so it might be benefited.

  • Don't take it personally. They may have better applicant (=somebody matching their needs better) and they tried to find some reason to reject you. Very probably all other points were excelent and the authorship was only one suspicious think. If they didn't read recommendation of your supervisor then they didn't made their homework; not you.

  • Endure this period between PhD and postdoc and continue to apply for other opportunities and improve in soft skills too. Positions for highly qualified people are opened not so often. It took me almost one year to find appropriate postdoc position after my PhD. I invest my time and some spare money to local or near international conferences to do social networking, getting career advice and some feedback. I tried to apply for jobs in industry, in small companies, other universities, academic institutions, etc. I got also small grant for short internship.

Chance favors the prepared mind. Good luck.

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