I did in a PhD in mechanical engineering from a Canadian university on simulation of shot peening process. I collaborated with experimental groups from my department.

After graduating in January 2020, I joined my PhD lab as a postdoc for few months while I applied for positions. I published 4 papers (first authored), 2 co-authored.

It has been 12+ months and I am still working with my PhD advisor and on a related topic. I have submitted 2 papers (2 first authored).

Now, after renewing my contract for another year, I am about to work on a different topic and in collaboration with experimental groups from other university and industry but same advisor.

As I am open for a life in both academia and industry, I have been applying for other postdoc positions and industrial positions. I apply to positions like 3D printing and simulations of selective laser melting process which is different than my research experience so far but I work with same numerical method (Finite element method).

Also, I apply for industry jobs as finite element researcher, engineer.

Till now, I have contacted 30 professors and 20 industrial positions. I received just 1 response from professor saying he will contact me if gets a grant approved. And I got 2 response from industry, one rejected after first interview and second position with an invitation for C++ coding assessment test. I am not proficient with C++ as I work with Matlab and a bit with python. I would fail the test.

Apart from these, I don't have any other leads. I have to continuie with my current postdoc, but am afraid that I won't get any other positions in the future due to lack of openings.

Where do I go from here? I like my research field, but I don't think I am cut out for it as proved by the lack of job offers. Is this the end of the road?

Please advise.

  • 2
    One possibility (amongst many others) is that your background and skills are fine, but your application materials are not up to scratch. Can you get some informed feedback on your CV, cover letters, etc? Note that these should probably look different between industry and academia - so you may need multiple sources of feedback. If you don't have appropriate contacts, there may be a university careers counselling service. Failing that, there are plenty of commercial careers coaching services (with doubtless a wide spectrum of quality). – avid Apr 23 at 9:56
  • 1
    It's hard to imagine an actual end of "all" roads for a mechanical engineer with a PhD. This may or may not be the end of some specific roads (I really don't know enough about your field to be able to tell), but I cannot possibly imagine that all reasonable career paths are closed for you. Maybe what this mostly means is that you need to look more broadly (topic-wise or geography-wise)? – xLeitix Apr 23 at 10:43
  • With regard to the nonacademic position a different angle is that your skills are top notch but not in demand. Companies making use of of finite element computations typically rely on off the shelf software these days. Not all, government labs would be exceptions, but I imagine there are not nearly as many opportunities as when your advisor was in grad school. So maybe look there or at the large and small software vendors? Inexperience in coding is a gap for you at the moment. Best of luck! – A rural reader Apr 23 at 13:10
  • Are you mainly sending applications into the void of automated systems? Or are you contacting people and asking advocates to contact them on your behalf? – Dawn Apr 23 at 14:43
  • What does your advisor think about your prospects of finding a job elsewhere? Did they suggest a particular course of action as suitable for you? – paperskilltrees Apr 24 at 1:28

In short: not knowing you or your life's goals, it is hard to make an assessment, and it is surely impossible to give an objective assessment. So the answers will be opinion-based, even from people claiming to be absoulutely objective.

It looks you are still comfortable with your time in the academia, you are open to both worlds ("life in both academia and industry"), which is not a good thing, in terms of employment in the private world, it is often perceived from the other side as "the candidate does not know what he/she wants, he is just waiting for an opening in the academia" and therefore your application ends quickly in the "let's get back to this later, i.e. never" folder.

This even if you do not express it explicitly, the fact that you are still employed by the uni usually raises red flag for many recruiting.

Formally, it looks like you have a strong academic CV, but it is time to be independent, which means to gather your own funds (for example this Canadian fellowship https://banting.fellowships-bourses.gc.ca/ ) and to perform some research without the influence/guidance/support/involvement of your advisor.

Please note that the +-4 years contract (and associated safety of your position) you had during your PhD is the most stable position you could have had in Academia, apart from being a full professor, which may happen at the earliest some 15 years from now. So the insecure feeling you have about academic positions, fundings etcetc in the Academia is quite common (not that I approve, but it is beyond the individual possibilities to change this). Either you:

  • embrace it, looking for academic/research opportunities all over the world, both in terms of open positions and grants applications;
  • you escape it by working independently as a consultant, or finding an industry position you like.

Final note regarding academic applications: professors are not answering to you. Why? you are very expensive, with the funding of a postdoc they can have 2 PhDs, so PostDocs positions are rare, and if they are available there is not much time to be spent thinking on it, there will be an (official) opening and it will be filled as fast as possible and with as less efforts as possible. But professor will welcome the opportunity to have more fundings, so if you ask support in writing applications for grants and external fundings you will see a better response ratio.


This is a long comment rather than an answer. TL DR: you should not be pessimistic about your ability. Probably your job-search strategy need some improvements.

I am not so familiar with your field but your publication record sounds promising. So it is definitely not an end of road for you. People don't hire you for many reasons unrelated with your ability, for example, the funding are cut during COVID.

Many students and posdoc find a good job because of the connection of their advisor or their department. So if I am you, I will ask my advisor or current supervisor to introduce me to other groups.

In many cases, joining a group is not a jump, but a smooth transition. First you might want to discuss some general research ideas with the PIs or senior posdocs in another group. Then, if mutual interests are there, you could start some mild, informal collaboration, and then do a presentation in their group. If the is interested in your idea, you might be joining their regular group meeting, and a job offer might soon follow.

Same ideas hold for an industrial job. You advisor introduces you to a company for an internship. And if the company likes you, you will have a job offer later.

  • Frankly, but with due respect, it seems to me your impression of the prescience and influence of an advisor outside of academia is ... a bit of wishful thinking. – A rural reader Apr 24 at 4:33
  • @Aruralreader Of course, I have no complete information on this. I can only interpolate form the limited data points I have. Most if not all of my close friends find industrial jobs thanks to their advisors or department. Furthermore, many professors have industrial funding so it is easy for them to prove that you are useful for a specific company. If you have a larger sample size, you are more than welcome to share it. – High GPA Apr 24 at 4:55
  • Ah @HighGPA, very sporting of you. – A rural reader Apr 24 at 5:05

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