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Finding a good job after PhD seems to require devoting a few months to preparation and interviews. Are PhD advisors typically understanding of this? Or do they expect the PhD student to continue doing research as much as before? I’m specifically interested to know about the norm in engineering fields (CS, Mechanical Engineering, etc).

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  • This is a huge problem in CS right now, where students want to spend days on LeetCode. That's all fine and well, but I tell the faculty they can't be funded by grants then. This is where the problem is. The PI is often understanding until no work is done on their projects. Commented Aug 13, 2023 at 12:06
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    By "devoting a few months" do you literally mean doing nothing, or just making it a priority? Commented Aug 13, 2023 at 15:07

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This is one of the benefits you get as an academic, and which is not customary in any other type of employment scenario. I worked for 6 years outside of academia after my BS. At that other job, even thinking of applying to another job would have been grounds for firing. In academia, I've seen postdocs and graduate students who take 2-6 months (!) of time in which they do nothing but look for another job, in full view of their employers (=advisors). But academia is also special in that your own graduate students and postdocs later become collaborators, so as a PI, you are much better off if your students and postdocs land good positions and become co-PI, co-authors, and in general, collaborators with whom you keep the paper machine fed. Most PIs understand this, and help their students. My own PhD advisor read and edited some of my application materials, sat through practice sessions of my interview talks, and suggested places where to apply. And it was the norm (I am a biologist, but my second postdoc was at the CS dept at an R1 engineering school, and I also worked at MIT, and this also seemed to be the norm at those schools as well)

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Part of the PhD learning process is project and time management (at least in the UK where it's emphasised).

Are PhD advisors typically understanding of this?

In my experience, that depends on the supervisor. Some guide their students through the process. Some use their networks/circle of influence to assist/jumpstart their students.

Some bring their students on board collaboration engagements to boost their students research skills and outputs.

In brief, some supervisors support. Some in their supporting, does it in different ways.

All the best with the job hunting.

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Mostly, it depends on how your advisor views you. Does s/he have positive opinion about you? If so, s/he will be supportive of you taking a couple of weeks time away to prepare for job interview. S/he might even suggest you some good prospective employers, although, if you are looking for industry job and your advisor is in theoretical research, then s/he might not be resourceful in this regard.

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I think it depends partly on where you do your PhD. At least in my case (I am doing my PhD at a university in Germany), my supervisor is very supportive and has also offered to contact some of his co-authors and/or forward me emails about vacant PostDoc positions. As far as I am correctly informed, the employment contract I signed with the university also states that I should actively apply for open positions already during the PhD phase, so that I do not slip into social security once the employment contract expires.

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Mostly PIs want to use you till the last day of your work and want to get as much as possible from you before you leave. So I would suggest don't expect your boss to help. If he offers you it's good otherwise don't trust.

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