I am a sixth year PhD student in a STEM field at a US university. I want to do a postdoc after graduation and remain in academia. I am unsure how to discuss/arrange/settle on (couldn't find an accurate verb to describe, as you'll see) a graduation plan with my advisor?
Context to consider:
- As an international student, I need to maintain a legal status, which means there is limited time between PhD graduation and starting a postdoc job. I have mentioned this to my advisor, who has mentored international students before. There are past instances where international students remained in the group after graduation as a postdoc for some time. Still, I am worried that my advisor is not fully aware of this, and may suddenly ask me to defend, graduate, and leave when I have not secured a postdoc position;
- I get along with my advisor, and my publications have fulfilled the graduation requirements/expectations.
- As you may wonder, I don't have postdoc job lined up yet. It is not because I cannot find one, but because I have not started job searching. Why? When I raised the idea of looking for postdoc positions a year ago, my advisor thought the current project I was (and am still) doing had potentially high impact, and did not want me to disclose it to other professors to avoid being scooped, since I would talk about my PhD research in postdoc interviews. In addition, my advisor also encouraged me to work with influential professors in the field (competitive to get in) for my postdoc and said it would be difficult to land as a postdoc in those research groups with my existing already published research profile. I kind of agreed with the assessment and kept working on my project without mentioning about postdoc with my advisor again ever since, thinking it would be mutually beneficial to both my advisor and myself to get a nice paper out. Over the past year, my advisor wants better and better results coming out of this project to publish a big paper, but I don't know if continuing this is good for me, when my advisor also remains silent about my graduation timeline.
My reservation about bringing up this matter again is that I might appear as unproductive and unwilling to work anymore. My advisor's recommendation letter would be crucial so I could not act on my own in postdoc job hunt. If I brought up this matter again, perhaps my advisor may not become unhappy, maybe just a little disappointed (or unemotional, if you think cynically that many advisors nowadays think students are "spendable"), but you never know what is on my advisor's mind.
Hope I have made my situation clear and would appreciate any suggestions.