Do You Postdoc Past a Recession? And Other Related Questions

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ZAFCorrection
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Do You Postdoc Past a Recession? And Other Related Questions

Post by ZAFCorrection » Wed May 29, 2019 10:59 am

Theoretically, I will graduate next summer with a PhD in the experimental side of engineering. The pay and the type of work in industry seem very promising, but it also seems there is a good chance the economy will take a nice hit within the next couple years. Does it make sense to postdoc your way through the bad years and not get hit with the scarlet letter of "fucked by the recession"? I'm not sure if it makes more sense from a resume perspective to deal with under- or unemployment in the real world or making a consistent 40K pretending to be a serious scientist (postdoc).

A secondary issue I have recently seen, which will most likely get worse in a recession scenario, is getting an offer 6-12 months before graduation (standard procedure) and having it evaporate right before starting. Would there be a case when it makes sense to hold off on the job hunt until I could actually take the position?

Solvent
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Re: Do You Postdoc Past a Recession? And Other Related Questions

Post by Solvent » Thu May 30, 2019 8:59 am

The effects of scarring from graduating into a recession are real. Presuming that you could tell when the recession was coming and had options other than looking for grad positions in industry, I'd consider them very seriously.

I graduated right before the Global Financial Crisis, but fortunately Australia came through that OK. Even so, some people in my cohort who had received grad offers in banking did get them retracted - I can only imagine how much that would've sucked.

Tyler9000
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Re: Do You Postdoc Past a Recession? And Other Related Questions

Post by Tyler9000 » Thu May 30, 2019 10:25 am

Well, if your goal is ultimately to get into industry then the other side of the story is that being a perpetual student/researcher can eventually become a net negative for some employers. Whether it’s fair or not, some engineering managers see people with super-advanced degrees and no actual experience as being high maintenance with an aversion to actually producing stuff with all that knowledge. Eventually you have to leave the academic nest and get your feet wet.

But to your point, it's true that some markets are better than others for certain types of skills and sometimes you just have to work with the hand you're dealt. That's life! I imagine you probably have enough stress in your life finishing your PhD without worrying about getting screwed on a job a year from now due to a poorly timed recession that may or may not happen. So don't waste energy worrying about things out of your control. Just do the best you can with the information you have today and don't over-think it. You're smart, resilient, and adaptable (or you probably wouldn't be a PhD candidate reading a forum about ERE), so I'm confident you're going to be fine.

Sclass
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Re: Do You Postdoc Past a Recession? And Other Related Questions

Post by Sclass » Thu May 30, 2019 12:40 pm

Tyler9000 wrote:
Thu May 30, 2019 10:25 am
Well, if your goal is ultimately to get into industry then the other side of the story is that being a perpetual student/researcher can eventually become a net negative for some employers. Whether it’s fair or not, some engineering managers see people with super-advanced degrees and no actual experience as being high maintenance with an aversion to actually producing stuff with all that knowledge. Eventually you have to leave the academic nest and get your feet wet.
I agree with this observation. There was a certain point I realized I shouldn’t write PHD on my business card. I got so technical over some periods I had a boss who was shocked to learn I had a doctoral degree. It was really embarrassing for both of us when the CEO corrected him. See, the CEO used the teams’ degrees as marketing, but I wasn’t there to do science. I think I was hand wiring a backplane at the moment boss shrieks “what you have a PhD? But you’re so, so...uh practical.”

And worst...a postdoc! That is a waiting game for an assistant professorship. No problem if you intend to be an academic but if you plan on entering industry you’re just circling the airport waiting to land. You will get no merit badge in the real world. Worse, some organizations have legacy policies where they pay post grads for their years of experience in grad school. Some managers know the experience isn’t worth paying for and will pass on a candidate before he eats into his limited budget. So it can work against you.

But...and there is always a but. School is a great place to hang out and live the ERE life. You don’t make much, you don’t consume much. You build your mind. You exist in an ecosystem where money isn’t the main score card. What’s not to like?

While struggling through grad school a mentor warned me that I’d never make enough money with my advanced degree to catch up with the guys who just went to work right out of college. I did a back of the envelope calculation and indeed he was right. My solution to that is invest your fellowship.

Worse, I missed the 1993 recovery by going to grad school. I finished up in 1998 just in time to watch my fellow Classmates from 1993 get minted millionaires in the dotcom bubble. I tried to jump in and got there just in time to toast them at the end of the party in 2000. How’s that for timing a recession? Then I struggled for years ducking the lay-off specter at HP as the company shrunk after the bust. You can’t win. But you can lose. :lol:

So timing? Meh. Find something you want to do and do it. Isn’t that what a postdoc is for? Waiting around for something to open up?

ZAFCorrection
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Re: Do You Postdoc Past a Recession? And Other Related Questions

Post by ZAFCorrection » Thu May 30, 2019 1:21 pm

@Sclass

As something to enjoy, academia is pretty weak. The power differential between PI and everyone else in the group is insane, and so abuse is rampant. The hypocrisy is also pretty amazing. A good example is me periodically getting asked my research interests after having been forced six times to switch research directions (major topic shifts) in five years of grad school. Your research interests are what get you a position and funding. End of story.

I'm probably over-thinking it on the job front. To my knowledge, you guys are right about postdocs killing some industry chances. A couple of likely companies I know like to hire PhD's, but with the caveat that they better be fresh grads. My main concern is this story of the last recession of people graduating into it, not getting jobs for months or years, and having that turn into a persistent cycle of under-employment/compensation even years later. But maybe that includes a lot of people with less hustle and fewer skills.

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Re: Do You Postdoc Past a Recession? And Other Related Questions

Post by Jean » Thu May 30, 2019 6:08 pm

I graduated in 2010 with an engineering dégrée and never found a job. My costudents which continues with a phd and graduated around 2015 are all having a great carreer.

Sclass
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Re: Do You Postdoc Past a Recession? And Other Related Questions

Post by Sclass » Thu May 30, 2019 8:40 pm

ZAFCorrection wrote:
Thu May 30, 2019 1:21 pm
@Sclass

As something to enjoy, academia is pretty weak. The power differential between PI and everyone else in the group is insane, and so abuse is rampant. The hypocrisy is also pretty amazing.
Ahhh. I have selectively wiped this part of grad school from my memory. Yuck. I was there.

At least see what is available to you outside. Interview.

As for thinking you’re going into a recession economy in two years :lol: I have a significant portion of my money bet on quite the opposite. But what the heck do I know. You are over thinking it.

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