I am post-PhD and I am really struggling with the job search phase of my career. My PhD took me almost a decade to finish, with time off, because after successfully completing all of the requirements up to the dissertation in the span of 4 years (note: my discipline is generally known to have longer completion times), my writing period was fraught with dealing with mental health issues (that are likely to some extent environmental... a direct result of things that happened in both my masters and PhD, sexual assault in the field and many personal losses). While the university and the department did everything they could to accommodate me so I could finish, my masters supervisor, the PI I had on a project I worked on before my PhD, and my PhD supervisor saw me through their respective duties, but now ignore any attempt at communication and requests for references (note: I was close with my PhD supervisor at the beginning of my PhD, but I am now seeing indications that they have distanced themself as well after a couple of years of me trying to figure out the post-doc world). I have one other reference from one of my committee members in my department, but nothing more. Most TT jobs I’ve seen require 3 references, and teaching positions require 2 refs. I want to continue on in academia and am currently working on publications (while getting support for my mental health). With Covid, the precarity situation and without the references, I’m afraid it may be difficult to even get a teaching position now, even as an adjunct. I have taught at the university level (both in my undergrad and masters) but not in my doctoral discipline. However, I don’t know what to do in terms of references if it truly is the case now where the three core people I could normally get a reference (that would attest to my ability to do a job) from won’t even acknowledge me. I didn’t have this problem with my undergrad professors and am still in touch with them (who are at a different university than my masters and PhD). I am basically trying to move on successfully after a horribly fraught 12 years of work but keep coming up against obstacles. Any suggestions to start to rebuild my references? Even if I can’t stay in academia, I will need more than what I have.

Also, if anyone has suggestions about the standard practices of academia for addressing long PhD completion times due to mental health issues in applications, please feel free to include. I applied for a post-doc grant and felt required to explain my long completion time but (stigma!) I feel it works against me.

Thanks you your thoughts.

  • 4
    The problem of your extremely long completion time seems to be exacerbated by your lack of networking. After working in a field for almost a decade, I'd expect you to know a couple of experts in the field. If you did, I'd say you had a chance of getting some kind of a position. But it seems, you are competing for advertised positions and I'm not optimistic that you have a good chance. Especially with your issues, people will contact your advisor if you are considered at all for a position (regardless of if you give them as a reference). My advice would be to implement your plan B.
    – Roland
    Aug 10 '20 at 14:32

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