I am a 5th year Mechanical engineering PhD.

I just have 1 published paper and 3 others are pending with my advisor

I was wondering if I can get some advice on what should my approach towards postdoc applications without publications be like? Almost all of the positions requires sending a reference work to prove for competence.

  • Yes, I am mostly interested in how to get a postdoc with my current published record. Industry is definitely a fallback, but highlighting productivity is a crucial aspect of securing a industry position too. Lack of work experience adds to my predicament. I have edited the topic and content to be less dramatic.
    – user106449
    Apr 6 '19 at 11:06
  • @Nat I realize that my future is not as gloomy as I am making it sound, but I am really worried and disappointed with my PhD outcome. I will have to struggle quite a bit longer than initially planned to some stable future.
    – user106449
    Apr 6 '19 at 11:37
  • You may want to specify the country and field to the extent you feel comfortable, as the length of and assumptions about productivity during PhD studies vary a lot.
    – Tommi
    Apr 6 '19 at 14:33

I think that any position as a post doc won't be awarded based simply on who has the highest publication count. There is more to it than that. Most positions expect you to fit into a given department or lab in some way and there can be a lot of expectations on that beyond research record. While publications may be important, and more so in some situations, it is unlikely to be the entire story very often.

Read whatever the offering institution says about the kind of skills and person who is desired and match your own skill set to that as best you can. It may be something as simple as expertise in a field, but there may be an expectation of participation in the educational process, especially of grad students. How well do you fit the expectations, however they are. Some special experience may be needed that you may have or not.

Of course, you should list your work in progress as such without overstating it. If the papers are written, then you have titles for the work and abstracts. Try to get something submitted so that the process toward publication is started, at least. Get good letters of recommendation, preferably tailored to your suitability for the specific positions you seek.


[Misunderstood the question in the first version, edited]

I just have 1 published paper and 3 others are pending with my advisor

I agree with Buffy's answer, but it would be useful to clear the backlog of publications with your advisor anyway. With 3 publications waiting, I assume that this has been going on for months, so talk to them to identify the issue:

  • if they think the papers are not good enough for submission, ask them for general guidelines about how to improve them.
  • if they simply don't have time, ask them for a quick proofreading and if they are satisfied enough the paper can be submitted as is. In the worst case it gets rejected and you can improve based on the reviews, this is still better than leaving papers waiting in a drawer.

When you apply for positions you should mention your pending publications, either as "submitted" (under review) or "accepted, to be published in...". The community is well aware that the publication process can take time and that PhD students tend to produce more publications towards the end of the PhD. If possible, you can also give a link to a preprint version of your paper.

  • @Anyon right, I can see that now. I'll update my answer
    – Erwan
    Apr 6 '19 at 15:55

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