This is a follow up question to How do I know if I'm good enough to be a math professor? where the poster is asking about whether graduate school is a good choice.

I am due to finish my PhD soon and have the same question - should I pursue a postdoc and aim for an academic career. How do I know if I am "good enough"? Presumably the same question would apply after the first postdoc.

A postdoc/PhD student has a few extra indicators that an undergraduate student doesn't have, namely some journal publications, citations & research experience.

What should they be looking for to honestly self-evaluate their chances? Is publication count/journal quality/citations a good metric? In which case how should they go about comparing with their peers within their sub-field? Or are there other metrics that are more important/indicative?

In my specific case I am in engineering (fluid mechanics) if this matters.

1 Answer 1


Actually, you aren't. But you could be. If Rafa Nadal had asked himself as a young boy "Am I good enough to be a world champion tennis player?" the answer would be no. It is something he had to work at, intensively, over a long time to become what he desired to be.

You can do that, I'm pretty sure, but it will take work. It will mean some disappointments along the way. It will require that you push past obstacles toward a goal.

All along the way you will ge feedback on your attempts. You can take those as discouraging if they are negative, but you can also us them to renew commitment to your goal.

Begin a professor isn't something you "are", but something you become. I know I was pretty bad at it, though not dangerously so, at the start. But, I wasn't complacent about things. My first academic positions and many along the way were disappointing. My last one (and longest) was glorious.

But it also isn't something you do alone. Work with collaborators. Learn from students. Improve where you can. You are currently a novice. If you are complacent about things it probably won't work. If you are dedicated (driven) then you can succeed. Just. Do. It.

I could make the same analogy with your namesake and "world class musician", I suppose.

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