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I defended my Ph.D. in December last year. I was supposed to start my Postdoc position (with my Ph.D. supervisor) from March but the immigration documents got delayed by over 3 months because of the lockdowns. Earlier my appointment was decided for a year from March 2020 to February 2021. But after receiving the immigration documents last month, my appointment officially starts on June 1st, 2020.

I have been working on my Ph.D. Manuscripts since February and also worked on some new collaborative projects since.

Should I put postdoctoral researcher as my designation in CV since February 2020 or is it illegal to put the designation before the official appointment begins? If not the former one, what can I put in my CV to show the time from February to May? Casual researcher? Research scholar?

I was not paid during the period (January to May). My now Postdoc advisor (earlier PhD advisor) has told me that she can write in my recommendation letters that I was a postdoc since February, if needed.

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I doubt that five months needs any explanation at all, especially at the present time. But, unless you are in an unusual legal system, "postdoctoral" is a descriptive not a legal term. "Independent researcher" also works.

But a line in the CV suggesting "Independent collaborative research" would seem to me to cover it well and also be positive.

In interviews and discussions you can go in to the visa and pandemic issues.

1

For a normal CV, I would do nothing at all. A five month gap is completely unremarkable. If I received such a CV (and I've done a fair amount of hiring...), if I noticed at all, in a normal year I would probably assume you took a few months off, and applaud you for it. Given this year's unusual circumstances, that would not be a realistic assumption, and I would just not bother assuming anything.

If you're concerned about the upcoming job hunt, a mild concern might be whether you have made sufficient research progress to show momentum and "compete" favorably with new Ph.D's. That is a separate issue; hopefully you have been able to make some progress as an "independent researcher" nevertheless. However, especially if your productivity has been suboptimal, I would be leery to effectively backdate your start date since that may increase others' expectations of your progress.

All of this of course doesn't apply if you need your CV for some formal requirements where you are obligated to have no gaps, e.g. for certain visa applications etc.

Finally, a broader thought. You are making a transition from student to research professional. Things are of course messier in real life, but part of that is a transition from having success measured as "ticking the boxes" and "performing well in your student cohort", to "having interesting research successes". A year or two down the road, no one will care what trajectory you took and what activities you did when, merely whether by then you have established a track record of research success.

Good luck in your new position.

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