I'm in a conundrum. Due to a change in areas half way through my PhD, I find myself at the end of my training with no significant publications. I have one in press, and several in prep so in the next year I should have 3-4 if all goes well. I'm also at a top ten university in the US and have good recommendation letters etc...

My issue is: I need to get a job as soon as possible in Europe to be with my partner. I have applied to both post-docs and to some assistant professorships at smaller schools in his city thinking I should at least try but I'm feeling seriously under-competitive where the norm in my field is at least three papers by graduation.

I have an option to stay on as a grad student for a 6th year at my institution, but it would have to be remotely (as I will move to Europe anyway) and frankly, I don't want to have to do that (both because it's too hard to do research and I make little money). But it is a safe option, and might give me time to write up all the backlogged data I've recently acquired.

So my options are to take an extra year with very little pay and apply later, or apply extensively and effortfully to jobs that will probably reject me, though there is a small chance I'll get one.

In your experience, will people even consider PhD's with very few pubs, or impending pubs, and if so, are there things I can do to make my application look more competitive, e.g. should I explain myself (I don't want to make excuses though) or highlight grants and presentations?

Or should I just cut my losses and suffer through living abroad with no money and taking the extra time I would have spent applying to a million places to write up a bunch of papers and then try again next year with more confidence and competence, and maybe landing a better job?


UPDATE: I ended up getting short-listed for five institutions, two of which are top-tier, and ultimately was offered two assistant professorships and one post-doc. I am sure I would have been better off with more pubs but I'm glad I ended up applying for reach jobs as ultimately I think I ended up with some great choices, met a lot of people in the field, and most importantly, got a job!

Thanks for all your input.

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    FYI I started an answer to your question but gave it up because I knew so little about your specific situation that I felt I was only talking about myself rather than saying anything I had a reasonable expectation might be helpful to you. (It would be nice to know: what is your field, where in Europe you will be going, what kinds of academic jobs you might be looking for...) Feb 24, 2014 at 18:48
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    I am on a search committee right now (at a small, teaching-focused, state school). People without publications made it through to the phone interview stage, and a couple were judged "good enough to bring out if we don't have anyone better" and the reasons they weren't judged better than that had nothing to do with research. However, we had there were people who came across better. Moral of the story: the job market is tough and you'd better shine in as many aspects as possible. Apr 11, 2014 at 23:41

2 Answers 2


Disclaimer: this question is seriously underspecified. For a reasonable answer we would probably need at least the city you are looking for, your field, your qualifications beside publications, etc.

That being said, I feel that the Assistant Professor market in Europe is insanely dry in most fields, and, honestly, getting an Assistant Professor position directly after your PhD graduation is very unlikely even with an extremely good CV. If your CV is not absolutely top-notch for your field, I am afraid applying is largely a waste of your time. On the other hand, at least in my field, getting a PostDoc is often comparatively easy and uncomplicated, and reasonably payed in many places. A PostDoc is also a really good time to write up a backlog of publications and improve one's CV, so maybe this is what you should be shooting for.

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    Sorry about the lack of specification. My field is Psychology but I am applying to business schools as well. And I'm applying in the UK (London, to be specific). And yes INSANELY dry market. I do feel like it's a bit of a waste of time, but I've had at least one advisor encourage me to apply widely just in case. I would actually be super happy with a post-doc because it would give me time to work on pubs, but those seem even harder to come by than lectureships. I've only found two funded ones that have been advertised over the past month.
    – Skunkness
    Feb 24, 2014 at 19:25
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    Don't know anything about Psychology, but in Computer Science PostDocs are mostly not advertised at all in Europe. You just talk to professors with funding directly (or, even better, let your contacts talk to them).
    – xLeitix
    Feb 24, 2014 at 19:28
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    In my subdiscipline of computer science, postdocs are everywhere. If you're not seeing enough postdoc opportunities pop up, spread out the network a bit more - sub to more mailing lists, tell professors that you're looking for a job and for them to keep you in mind if they see a position, etc. Good luck!
    – Irwin
    Feb 24, 2014 at 21:06
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    You can also get a postdoc by applying for grants. For example, there is something called Newton International Fellowships, for people who did their PhD outside the UK.
    – Ana
    Feb 25, 2014 at 5:22

Just to clarify, OP, you are listing the papers in press and under review under your publications too, right? You don't have to wait till the thing is actually printed to put it on your cv, so long as it is absolutely unambiguous what status each paper has, whether it is under review, been sent back for revision, accepted for publication but forthcoming, etc.

You should also list current working drafts if but only if those drafts are good enough that you would not be embarrassed to email them to a search committee member instantly upon request.

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    Yes, I've basically listed all the working drafts as "in prep" and ones that are "in press" as such. Will search committees want to see "in prep" papers? Because some of those are still in very rough stage while others are close to submission stage.
    – Skunkness
    Feb 25, 2014 at 12:29
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    Basically anything you list on your CV is fair game for them to ask to see/grill you about. You're taking credit for it by putting it on the CV, and so they could conceivably want to make sure you've done the work. I've been asked at interviews about papers I had listed as in progress.
    – user10636
    Feb 25, 2014 at 12:36
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    Thanks again for this tip. I got an interview at one of my top choices and they do indeed want to see some of my working papers.
    – Skunkness
    Feb 26, 2014 at 9:57

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