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I am about to defend my thesis and I have not yet secured a postdoc position elsewhere. I want to ask my PhD advisor if she can support me as a postdoc till I secure a position elsewhere. Usually in other groups, it is the advisor who offers a position to their performing students. In my group, graduates have always secured position and have moved away so no one had to have this conversation with the advisor. She has not offered me any position till date.

I have a good rapport with my advisor, but I don't know how to phrase the request so that it doesn't sound awkward and desperate? I am feeling very hesitant in approaching her with this request but I don't see any other options.

I constantly fear that, probably she didn't like me as a student and wants to get rid of me asap. So, that's the reason she has not offered me a position yet.

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  • Can you defer your defense and graduation until the spring, and apply for postdocs this year? At least in my field (math) and country (US), that would be much more usual. – academic Oct 29 '19 at 12:55
  • @academic I have already spent 5 years on my PhD and want to change my position to postdoc. I don't want to extend my PhD anymore as I am looking forward for an academic career and I have been told that a longer than usual PhD duration looks bad on the applications. I just can't justify staying as a student any longer. I have couple of manuscripts ready for submission and might get them out by next spring. But publishing duration cannot be said with certainty and that's another reason why I don't want to extend my PhD. – slimshady Oct 29 '19 at 12:59
  • Have you talked about your career aspirations with your advisor? You want an academic career and don't have a job yet. Ask her what she recommends doing in this situation. – academic Oct 29 '19 at 13:08
  • @academic she has said that I can always stay as a PhD student and graduate next spring till I find some position. She constantly says that, the duration of PhD or extension of PhD by 5yrs+7-8 months doesn't matter in the long run. She says that she can support me as a PhD student till April next year. But I don't see the point of it. She says that the moment I defend, the clock starts ticking for securing the tenure track position. And I should only defend my PhD when I have secured a Postdoc position elsewhere as she considers doing postdoc in same lab detrimental to an academic career. – slimshady Oct 29 '19 at 13:14
  • "I have been told that a longer than usual PhD duration looks bad on the application" That could be bad advice. For example, the most upvoted answer to this question suggests something very different. – lighthouse keeper Oct 29 '19 at 13:16
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Regarding the main question, I refer to xLeitix' excellent answer to a similar question.

Addressing the specific parts of your situation, I see two likely reasons why your advisor hasn't offered you anything yet:

  1. publication record - in most fields, securing a post-doc position requires a reasonably good track record in publications. If your publication output during your PhD was not on par, she may be worried if an academic career is for you.

  2. lack of funding - to offer you a position, your advisor would need to have funding for you readily available. This would be most likely if she recently won a grant. You should ask her about that. If she has no funding for you now, you can ask if she knows any other PIs who are looking for post-docs, which might be more likely.

You can also consider writing your own grant proposal for a post-doc position; some countries have dedicated funding options for that. (However, the decision process may take half a year or more.)

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  • If it's just about a few months funding, it might be that the adviser is not aware that the student might need the opportunity, but could find a few months of funding if asked. I was in this situation - and I plainly asked my advisor if he could do anything to help out as I have not secured a follow-up position. He offered me a 4-months postdoc to get my bearings, as described in my answer to the same question you already linked: academia.stackexchange.com/a/138860/4249 – penelope Oct 29 '19 at 12:32
  • @penelope Thanks! Do you know where the funding in your case came from? – lighthouse keeper Oct 29 '19 at 13:13
  • Yes, it was the "discretionary team budget". I was a bit reluctant to turn this into an answer as I just talked about it the other day in the question we both linked, but give me a minute and I'll make my own answer too. – penelope Oct 29 '19 at 14:00
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If you are interested in the possible implications of making such a request to your advisor or accepting such a position, please check the linked question and all the related answers. I also gave an account me asking my advisor about it in an answer to that question, but the focus was a bit different so I'll summarise the relevant parts here.

Staying at the same lab following PhD graduation for a short position (~6months) can be beneficial to the student to ease the transition period. Longer positions are mostly beneficial to the lab only, but not to the academic career of the (now former) students.

Therefore, I think one of the possible reasons you have not received an offer from your current adviser could be that they are not aware you might need one (it could be, in a very minor way, a compliment).

I was in exactly your situation a month before my viva: looking through some job adds, not really finding any good fits, and spending 10+ hours a day on my viva preparation. So I had decided to ask my adviser for a short postdoc position to help me out of the situation. I was very direct. I'd invited him to go for our lunch break together (basically, just sit together during the lunch hour in the University canteen, where we would both typically take our lunch anyway). Some small-talk appropriate for the culture, and then I flat-out asked: "I know I should've, but due to my intensive viva preparations, I did not yet sort out a (postdoc) position for after my graduation. Could you help me out somehow?"

As a result, he'd offered me a 4-month postdoc, on the (legally mandated) minimal postdoc salary. The funding for it came from the discretionary lab budget, not connected to any project. I have seen a lot of (established) labs in Europe will have that type of budget.

While I can not help you cope with your feelings of awkwardness, I strongly believe nobody should feel ashamed to ask for help when they need it. The worst that can happen is being told no, and even then you are likely to end with more information or at least advice then if not asking at all. Especially in this situation, as your are asking for advice on your academic career from the person who is supposed to provide such advice in the first place.

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