I'm an 'old' post-doc, meaning that I completed my doctoral studies already in 2015. This career length presupposes eligibility to tenure track professorships in Germany but unfortunately, I do not qualify. I have experienced a bullying situation from a senior researcher that postponed the publication of my data and I experience additional challenges because I have two small children. Therefore, the list of my publications is small, I haven't been around on conferences in the last four years and my scientific network has shrunk seriously due to these obstacles. However, I was awarded my own research funding which nevertheless was completed in the beginning of this year. I am waiting for two papers being published this year. Is there an hope for a progress of a academic career or should I consider leaving the academia? I'm in my forties and it seems to be the latest time point for leaving academia. As more of a background, I'm striving for the positions in language sciences in Germany.

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    I make no claim that it's in any sense the "best" method, but having been in this situation two or three times, my approach was always to apply for lots of jobs, with a spread of applications across faculty, postdoc, and outside-academia roles (with the last category including both "new career" options and "temporary stopgap" options). Commented Apr 17 at 13:55
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    Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Apr 17 at 14:48
  • @DanielHatton: Thank you for the suggestion! I am absolutely willing to try any strategy;) And did your academic career recover?
    – Nele Ots
    Commented Apr 17 at 15:01
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    @NeleOts Yes, somewhat. I got a faculty job in the end, albeit not in the geographical location I would have liked and with a much higher teaching-to-research ratio than I would have liked. When I left that faculty job, it was at my own initiative, because someone in my family had become unwell and needed me as a full-time carer. Commented Apr 17 at 15:40
  • What kind of funding did you have? If you haven't done so, have you considered applying for Sachbeihilfe/Eigene Stelle with the DFG? You may even want to reach out to "your" Fachbeirat and ask them what they recommend you apply for. Commented Apr 28 at 20:54

3 Answers 3


Yes, there is still a chance. I have friends who were in your position and succeeded in getting an academic job. It is also true that your chances are diminishing, but you already know that. Having said that, you need a two-prong strategy:

  1. Continue to apply to as many academic jobs to which you are qualified and willing (e.g. within the geographical range you can commute/move/etc.) There's a lot of luck involved in getting an academic job, and the search can be very discouraging. Take the search as a job itself, for example, by committing 3 hours a day to writing/searching/replying/networking and sending, say, 2 applications a week (if the positions exist, of course.)
  2. Start steering your search away from academia. For example, start researching for academia-adjacent jobs like editor, school teacher (depends on locale requirements, of course), industry/commercial researcher, etc., then slowly move to jobs that are farther from academia but which you would still enjoy. There are lots of fulfilling non-academic jobs that academic types can do.

In general, I always suggest to start hanging out with people who left academia and are happy. Your attitude will change and paradoxically, your chances of getting an academic job will improve.

I wish you all the luck.

PD I recommend this very nice video from your fellow German, Sabine Hossenfelder: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKiBlGDfRU8 . I find her very inspiring.

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    Thanks, this response contains quite a few good ideas.
    – Nele Ots
    Commented Apr 17 at 14:57

There is always hope - and given the amount of time that has transpired since you earned your doctorate - I believe you already know that. Is 40s some sort of death sentence? Absolutely not. As long as you wish to remain in Academia, there is an earned place/spot for you and your expertise. No matter what, after all the time and energy you've already expended, please do not quit/give up! 👐🏾

  • Thank you so much for your encouragement!
    – Nele Ots
    Commented Apr 24 at 8:05
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    You are SO welcome, and please feel free to continue keeping us abreast! 🙌 Commented Apr 25 at 13:51

Since you are publishing again, you have a chance. I was working outside my field for three years but had a big review article published, which got me the position i then had for 30 years so keep applying.

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