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I made a huge mistake while doing my Ph.D. I did my Ph.D. on a topic that I was excited about but did not feel confident in. And lo behold, I got a Ph.D. in 5.5 years with skillset, which is not at par with the requirements of the openings in my area of research (computational modelling of the additive manufacturing process).

My research involved fairly simple methodology. I can publish many papers on my topic or research area in decent journals as there are several open ended questions, but that won't get me any tenure track position or industry job.

The majority of publications or grants in my research area is for experimental research. Computational research is not that hard to do and also does not get standalone grants. I should have carried out some experimental research during my Ph.D., but I was always hesitant to propose it to my bosses.

Now after graduating, I am realizing the slim prospects of landing a job with my skillset and CV. I want to do some experiments in my Postdoc position with my Ph.D. advisor. Also, I need some contacts for my next move. Will it be alright to ask my Ph.D. advisor (now postdoc advisor) for help with defining my career path?

Edit: The reason I am asking this because I am hesitant to blurt out my insecurities and my issues to my professor. I have good relationship with my advisor, I don't know if I should bother him with this.

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    Why wouldn't publishing many papers on your topic in decent journals get you a tenure track position? – Wetenschaap Oct 20 '20 at 12:11
  • @Wetenschaap my area of research is such that it is heavily dependent on experimentalists. So most of the experimentalists carry out their own modeling along with experiments. Their modeling methodology or rigor is not good, but still that suffices for the topic. I as a purely modeling person, am not essential. Noone needs a rigorous model if a simple model is enough to get one published. But, I cannot directly apply my experience to other topics as I am not technically sound for those domains. – rajmal Oct 20 '20 at 12:18
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    I am not sure I understood the question correctly. You are asking if it is okay to ask your advisor about your career? But why wouldn't it be okay to ask? Or what am I not understanding? – user111388 Oct 20 '20 at 13:03
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Most advisors don't know how to get jobs outside of academia, it's kind of humorous how delusional many of them are.

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Yes.

The slightly longer answer is your advisor is there to, well, advise you in any part of the academic process/life. Honestly they should be talking to you anyway above career paths, to decide things like which projects to do (to maximize academic prospects), whether additional skills/training is needed (to be competitive applying for industry positions), whether you should be thinking about fellowships/grants (which need a lot of time to write, especially the first time).

Regarding you comment about you expertise not being needed. You got a PhD in your field. First, your supervisor probably had to convince people it was worthwhile (to get funding) and you had to convince people it was worthwhile (to get the PhD). So at least some people thought it was worthwhile and the results needed. Think of it this way, you say everyone uses a simple model, well now you are the person who can provide the better model for them to use.

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Yes, and.

Yes, because one of the hats an advisor should wear is that of a mentor who focuses on your academic and professional development. I like Leonard Cassuto's take (in The Graduate School Mess) on how advisors should help students rather than trying to produce copies of themselves:

Advisers have to treat their students as their own people, not as family members, or worse, as potential mini-me's. Given today's job prospects, many promising scholars and teachers will choose not to pursue professorships. That decision may disappoint an adviser, but it's the adviser's job to fight such feelings. "Be suspicious," says English professor Leo Braudy, of advisers who "stop you from making your own mistakes and finding your own path." [...]

So there's an implicit assumption that advisors should help you with the next step after the dissertation. Yes, they write recommendations, but they should ideally be helping you figure out what that next step is. Hopefully they're also providing some kind of validation if you don't do what they expect.

So just ask. You might be surprised by the reply.

And? You can also look for mentors beyond your advisor. If your advisor is the kind that would treat you as a mini-me, having someone else helping you out would be huge. Even if your advisor is helping you, if they're a good mentor, they will acknowledge that you should be building connections with others. For instance, you can:

  • Identify people at your postdoc institution who you could talk to about their own career trajectory or the work they've done, to learn more about your options
  • Take advantage of digital conferences to meet people who do work you find interesting
  • Take a class or seminar with someone who could help you transition to experimental research

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