I have been a postdoctoral fellow for seven years, but I have no first-author publications. I am really struggling with my projects; none of them could be completed. I have several review articles, one book chapter and one publication as a co-author. I am too depressed and livid with myself. What are the prospects moving to company or other non-academic jobs? I had five publications as a first author during my PhD. Can I become a medical writer or science writer. My professor advises me to try and complete at least one project, because I have one last year of funding left.

  • Thinking out loud (not sure if this applies to your case/aspiration), what about joining government labs/agencies?
    – The Guy
    Aug 2, 2020 at 12:05
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    "I am too depressed and livid with myself." Discuss this with a mental health professional. Aug 2, 2020 at 13:43
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    How many post doc positions have you held? And if several, are they with different places?
    – Buffy
    Aug 2, 2020 at 14:20
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    What discipline is this?
    – henning
    Aug 2, 2020 at 14:27
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    In general companies don't care much about your publication record, they care more about your skills and any achievements that prove it. For example if you have done many projects with other people, you might want to emphasize that you're a good team player.
    – Erwan
    Aug 2, 2020 at 17:57

1 Answer 1


First, if you feel depressed you should seek professional help. Naturally because you should take care of your mental health in general, but also because you're less likely to achieve anything useful (let alone get a new job) with a negative state of mind.

Ok so publications as first author is not going to be your selling point. Now there are certainly a lot of other things that you have done: maybe grant proposals, supervising students, experiments which require particular skills, organizing scientific events... The publication record is an important indicator in academia, but it's not the only one. And outside academia, it's frequently useless.

Try to objectively identify your skills and motivations: what are you interested in? Which skills do you have that most other people don't? Clarify the direction you would like to take and study your options, usually there are quite a lot for somebody with a PhD anyway. Your PI's suggestion could be a good idea, depending what you are looking for. You could also use some of the year you have left to perfect your skills or expand your professional network, for instance.

A simple way to get an idea of your career prospects outside academia is to contact a recruiter, they are usually eager to find skilled people. Even if you don't apply for the jobs they propose to you, this might give you a nice little ego boost ;)

  • Good answer, but I would add that your publication record outside of academia isn't "frequently useless." Of course exactly what you published on or where is not as important in industry jobs, but it will be used as a stand-in for "I can finish a project." Therefore OP's advisor's advice to finish/publish at least ONE project in the next year is a good one. Having a good success story will help the OP when they are on the job interview circuit. Aug 3, 2020 at 8:02

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