After my PhD and postdoc in computer science I got a permanent position in a company's research lab. This is my first time to work without a supervisor nor colleagues (other members have there own, not related projects), and it is very difficult: I realize my previous successful projects were due to my advisor and colleagues, not me.

It's not the imposter syndrome: I'm not a star; I'm very slow and stupid; I've contributed mostly to the implementation/experiments to my few papers; I've been told I should give up, I don't have any chance in the academic world, I miss important crucial points and I spend too much time in implementation details.

While sometimes I think I have interesting ideas to pursue, I do not have enough knowledge to put them in practice and other brilliant researchers are quicker to publish a better solution than what I would have done (this happened a few times). So I end up watching youtube videos or playing games because what's the point, everything I do will be bad. Unfortunately brilliant researchers don't have time nor incentive to help.

Are there other researchers in the same situation? How do you build up confidence and get back to work?

PS: I'm in Asia.

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    You may be comparing yourself against seasoned colleagues. I can solve a problem in 5 mins that takes a student 3 months. So start somewhere. As the saying goes: 'A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step'. Oct 9, 2021 at 10:36
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    Similar if not duplicate: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/87668/…
    – henning
    Oct 9, 2021 at 10:52
  • "I do not have enough knowledge to put my ideas in practice" Your PhD and post-doc are proof that you possess relevant skills for putting ideas into practice. So what's the actual problem here? Don't you have any ideas that are aligned with your skills? Then maybe focus more on idea-generation in that area. Oct 9, 2021 at 12:20
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    Relevant advice from Terry Tao
    – Dan Romik
    Oct 9, 2021 at 16:12

2 Answers 2


I guess your problem is not the absence of ability but an absence of self-confidence. Try to read some books on how to get that going, so you're not fixing the wrong problem. Read 'Self-Reliance' by Emerson.

I am assuming you joined this company for a reason and that you like your job. They hired you because they liked you and your profile. You just can't figure out 'how to do the job'. A good start is to discuss with your senior the short-term and long-term goals of your company. Clarify your tasks. "Do research" is not a clear task. You can even ask them if they are ok with you collaborating with others (e.g., your old team).

Other researchers will have the incentive to help if they feel they will get something out of it. Figure out your strengths: make a table of what you can do best and reach out to collaborators, telling them "how they will benefit" and not "how you will benefit". Also, read the book "How to Win Friends and Influence People" to get a general idea.

As for the 'others are too quick' thought, I think two research articles are hardly ever the same. Maybe the idea is the same, but you applied it to a different problem? Maybe the details of the problem were different? Perhaps you used a different algorithm? You have to look for these details that make your research stand out. This is a matter of presentation.

Not all shiny things are stars ;) Good luck and good going!

  • Thank you for your comment and the book references. Indeed the current job is something like my dream job and I want to stay there.
    – nisemono
    Oct 9, 2021 at 12:47

I have interesting ideas to pursue, I do not have enough knowledge to put them in practice and other brilliant researchers are quicker to publish a better solution than what I would have done

Look out for "elephants in the room": issues that are potentially of great consequence, but to which no-one else is paying attention. If you work on issues like that, you don't have to go fast to avoid getting scooped.

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    This is very good advice, and even better if those issues arise from a cross-disciplinary or uncommon skill set. The counter advice is also: when you see an elephant, ask yourself why isn't anyone else seeing it? Oct 9, 2021 at 23:16
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    This is great advice. Probably requires some experience, and also confidence in oneself to go after an 'elephant' and convince other researchers that there is indeed an 'elephant'. Oct 10, 2021 at 8:37

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