I continued with a postdoc with my PhD advisor on a tangential topic as my PhD work. I spent the first 6 months in getting my PhD papers out. I have 4 papers from my 5.5 years PhD and 1 first authored paper with a collaborator. In total, 3 of my papers came out last year. I have also written 1 more paper that I will be submitting this month.

I am writing another paper which I am hoping to submit by August end.

However, I have not worked hard or gained any significant knowledge from the postdoc. Not because I am working with my PhD advisor, but due to constant self-doubts and negative thoughts. I have just worked 30 or less hours a week for the past year.

My friends in academia are getting tenure track positions and jobs in industry, while I have got rejections. I have lost drive and ambition to succeed and survive. I have made a mistake getting a PhD.

I have wasted my precious 1.5 years. Is my career salvageable?

  • 5
    Covid has been hard on everyone. Take good care of yourself.
    – Jon Custer
    Jul 4, 2021 at 14:39
  • 1
    Personal counseling can help. And with that in hand, assess your situation honestly. Things—needs, interests, expectations, priorities, awareness—change. The You of a few years ago might be quite different from the You of today, not always easy to recognize or to reconcile. Jul 4, 2021 at 16:41
  • Such "paper production" is not bad. At all! The doubts about career: don't be oppressed. When you say "I worked 30 hours/week", I guess you mean productive for 30 hours/week. If not, I suggest you to formalize the working hours, with a 80% part-time contract, if possible: it will help you focus, while at the same time not feeling guilty because you are less than 100% productive.
    – EarlGrey
    Jul 5, 2021 at 9:38

2 Answers 2


Yes to salvageable (no to doomed), in fact, in many fields this would seem like a good record. It isn't unusual to follow dead ends as a researcher. If everything were assured then it wouldn't really be research.

But, you need to find a way to get your mental sense more positive. For many this means talking to a professional. For some, a break is all it takes - South of Spain or France, perhaps, or the Norway fjords. But you should deal with that explicitly as a high priority for a while.

I'll predict that your record looks better to others than it does to yourself.

Note that many universities have a counseling center that is adept at discussing such things as burnout, self doubt, imposter syndrome, self-defeating behavior, etc. See if yours does.


First, just because you haven't gotten any faculty offers yet doesn't mean you never will. I recently attended a panel with 6 new faculty hires for fall 2021, and of those 6, 4 of them were in their 3rd year of a Postdoc (I believe the other 2 had a 2 year postdoc). So it's definitely not unusual to be in your position; actually it seems more like average to me. So it's not realistic to say your career is a 'mistake' just because the job offer hasn't come yet.

Also, working 30 hours a week doesn't make you 'lazy', even if toxic culture suggests otherwise.

Take care of your health, mental and physical. Keep making progress on your research. Be ready for the fall 2022 hiring cycle. I might also offer the idea of joining a different lab, since based on your previous question you've been with the same lab for over 7 years at this point.

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