I'm looking for some honesty and perspective if you can help me out :)

I completed my PhD in humanities in 2020 (after small corrections it was awarded in 2021). It was a hot mess, I had a scholarship but i had a totally absent supervisor which went on sabbatical for my first year and then came back only to complete their paperwork for retirement. We basically had less than 10 talks overall during two years.

When they left they did zero to support my search for a new supervisor, so I found someone from my department to take over provided i found a co-supervisor as my topic was not their specialty. I did, but the arrangement was highly unusual and as you can imagine not very effective (zero funds for the co-supervisor which did all in their free time).

New supervisors were nice, but fundamentally i worked the PhD in survival mode ( including having to take a break myself for health reasons).

In the end i had only 2 publications in minor journals and a couple of presentations at conferences.

After that i wanted to distance myself to all of it so i got a job in the "creative industry sector." This was a purely administrative job - full time.

During this time i realised that while my phd was a bit nightmarish, i still wanted to work in research. In these years i managed to present to some conferences as independent, and begun an MA in social sciences thinking that SS research methods might be more usable in a non-academic research position. Also got a paper accepted in the programme's working paper series which should come out this year.

So in short my question is: how realistical is a re-entry in academia, and if so, how to do it? If academia is not viable, what can be a career path where one can do something else than look at excel sheets 8 hours per day?

I recently (few months ago) got in touch with my phd co-supervisor and he said i should look to get my dissertation published. This sounds a bit overwhelming as a "free time" project. Any thoughts if that would be a reasonable project to undertake?

Best, and thanks for the inputs!

2 Answers 2


First: you do not have anything in hand, so start looking for any part-time job.

Second: re-entry in academia is a state of mind, almost all of the PhD are out of academia as soon as their PhD is awarded. You are in good (and large) company. You are for sure showing some motivation, since you published a working paper during your last MA, you also showed some capabilities, since you completed your PhD (under hard or easy conditions is not relevant for the first approximation).

Second second: do PostDoc positions exist in your field/speciality? probably you should try to apply for a research grant. Do you have a list of 5-10 grants/research funds you can apply to? Check univeristies and your country public research bodies for that informations. To succesfully apply you need the support of some tenure academics. Do you have a list of 5-10 names? they should be experts in your field that you can contact with a concrete proposal ("I would like to apply for this grant xyz ...").

Writing a proposal is almost a full-time job, that's why I recommend looking for a part-time job (if you can pay your expenses out of it).

Good luck!

  • 1
    "To succesfully apply you need the support of some tenure academics. Do you have a list of 5-10 names": please note that you do not need to already have contact with them, but for sure it is best to start with the few ones you know, before cold-emailing the others ...
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Apr 19 at 13:42

Your PhD is research training, not the be-all-and-end-all of your research career

There is no great necessity to have had a highly successful PhD experience (beyond having graduated) to get into academia and become successful. The program is primarily for research training and it is a bonus if you get good publications out of it. For most (but not all) academics, the publications that come out of their PhD will usually be minor and will ultimately be dwarfed by later research.

You have two minor papers from your PhD program, which is something (and more than some people who have become successful academics). Your first goal should be to get into any job that allows you the time to work on more papers/research, ideally a fledgling academic position where you can take the time to publish more papers from your dissertation or pursue other research avenues. Failing this, try to find some of your own time to finish these off to make yourself more competitive for entry-level positions. Academia is intensely competitive, with many many more PhD graduates than positions, so the position you are in is a difficult one. Nevertheless, there are many people who become successful academics who had mediocre outcomes in their PhD program (e.g., graduated, but with no or few publications) but go on to do later research of great value.

In summary: Entry into an academic career is highly competitive to begin with, but it is still viable if you have a poor/mediocre PhD experience.

  • 1
    The importance of publications from the PhD is very subject area and also culture dependent. Commented Apr 19 at 13:20

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