I'm a physicist and I might have figured out too late that I really like research, even if it hurts. I had a tough PhD, during which I worked in isolation on a new technique. I didn't publish along the way (my supervisor didn't believe in conference papers, I got scooped and in general nobody cared, even if I repeatedly stressed the issue). After my defense I was unemployed and I finished the paper on my thesis work, which has a couple dozen authors (I'm first) and was published on Scientific Reports. I had a 2 years postdoc offer in the department I did my PhD in, but I felt I needed a change so I said no. I opted for a five months postdoc on a topic slightly related to the one I worked on during my PhD, and I loved it. The advisor was great and I really enjoyed being treated as a human and having the opportunity to work on a hard problem. Unfortunately the data I worked on was meh, so although I developed a new software suite it's still not clear if the data is good enough for a publication (I think so, but let's see).

I am applying for postdocs, and I am not getting any interview. Is it because I only have one paper (three more in the pipeline), although introducing a brand new technique? I have the impression I have been cheated: everybody kept saying publish and it will be better, but things are not better (except for the fact that I closed a quite big problem). I got interviews with a few software companies, but I have a strong feeling that I will miss the opportunity to do research independently, instead that implementing something... Do you think this is unreasonable?

I'm probably better than average as a researcher, but I have a worse than average track record. Is there a way to fix things or is it game over?

closed as off-topic by Enthusiastic Engineer, Buzz, aparente001, user3209815, padawan Dec 4 '17 at 17:47

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    Your first postdoc was quite short. Would it be possible to stay on with this advisor, in a slightly different position? Less pay? Unpaid? (If you have some savings.) Could you teach part time? // It's important not to get discouraged or panic if your job search isn't immediately successful. Okay, you haven't had a perfectly smooth ride so far -- well, that happens sometimes. Try to focus on the positive. The skills and knowledge you've gained. What you have to offer. – aparente001 Dec 4 '17 at 2:09
  • "Is it because I only have one paper" yes. Also, your supervisor was correct. Conference papers are not valued much in Physics. – Anonymous Physicist Dec 4 '17 at 11:18

Reputation: Regarding if your publication record is a problem, it depends on the field. I suggest searching on Google Scholar researchers at the same stage as you (ending their PhD and those that have started their first postdoc) to get a better idea.

Network: If you are on good terms with your first postdoc PI, which I assume you are, then also ask them if they know of any positions. It is insufficient to be applying for postdocs, in some areas they are very competitive. Your advantage is that you have solved a big problem (apparently), but who would know that? Use those that do know to help you out, they might specifically mention you to so-and-so who is looking for a postdoc.

Publish-or-perish: Stepping out of academia will put you in a worse position, I think it will be hard to return.

  • Thanks for the answer! Reputation --> I did my PhD in materials science / physics, and on average what people do is to learn a few techniques and apply them to study something. In this case, 3-4 publications seems to be the average. It is very unusual to make a new technique. Network --> I'm doing that. Publish-or-perish --> thanks for your opinion. I might need to get a job soon, but I will go on applying and finishing my paper. – albus_c Dec 3 '17 at 19:56

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