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Im a 6th year PhD student in the United States. Im not totally excited about my current CV/publications, but I have a few final projects I'm excited to finish up before I end my program this summer.

Everyone I know who is interested in doing a postdoc is applying now (or last month), but I just don't feel that I would be satisfied applying with my current CV.

Does it make sense to instead devote all my efforts to finishing up research, and apply to postdocs in Fall of 2022?

Nobody I know is doing this, and I don't know why.

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    How will you be able to pay rent and buy food in the Fall of 2022? Nov 3 '21 at 0:36
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    Also, what's lost by applying this cycle? If you lose a month or two of research while writing applications, will that significantly impact your ability to finish this summer? Nov 3 '21 at 2:28
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    Following up on @AlexanderWoo's comment, most postdocs you can apply to in Fall 2022 will start in Fall 2023. Some will start earlier, and for some the start date can be negotiated, but this isn't guaranteed for all positions, since the positions are based on when funding starts.
    – Andrew
    Nov 3 '21 at 2:59
  • @AlexanderWoo I've had a couple of lucrative internships over some summers (possibly related to why I dont have many good papers out), and so I have more than enough in svaings to live for a year. I would also like to get out of my grad program sooner rather than later, due to some personal reasons. (I'd rather not spend the summer on my PhD) But would taking a gap year hurt my chances?
    – Steve
    Nov 4 '21 at 21:54
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Nobody I know is doing this, and I don't know why.

Some people do it, but it's called differently than what you said: it's "taking a gap year." During a gap year, you are not affiliated with academia, and (depending on your field), you could consider either working in industry, or working on some side projects. This can be the right decision for some people, particularly if you are burned out from your PhD and need a break. In terms of your career, it has some possible downsides, though, most importantly that (i) you may be unpaid and (ii) your research will likely lose momentum. If you are potentially interested in an academic career, the lost momentum can be damaging. At the postdoc stage in many disciplines the goal is to keep papers always "in the pipeline" while new projects are being started, and a gap year can unfortunately disrupt this flow.

It may be possible to join a postdoc mid-year, in which case the gap year would become a gap-half-year, but as the normal cycle is to join in the fall I would not count on this necessarily working out.

If the above description of a gap year doesn't fit you, there are some possible alternatives:

  • Stay an extra year for your PhD. If you are very happy in your PhD research and feel it is going well and you just want to continue it for another year to improve your CV before applying for postdocs, this can be a good option. However, it is not a good option if you want to graduate soon and move on do a different position.

  • Apply to postdocs this year, and only next year as a backup. This is another strategy I have seen which definitely fits your situation: the thought is, why not give it a shot? If you don't get in where you like, you can then reevaluate. The only potential downside is if you make a bad impression on any labs you want to join, but assuming your CV is fine and just not quite as stellar enough as you hope, I wouldn't be overly concerned about that.

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    This is a great response, thanks! A year off ~sounds~ nice when im constantly working, but I suspect that it could lead to me going a little crazy. That said, I do have a backlog of side projects I've always wanted to pursue, but haven't had the time. Thanks for laying out your perspective here!
    – Steve
    Nov 4 '21 at 21:58

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