How to cope with short post-doctoral positions

There are a host of jobs where society is well aware of the difficult conditions faced by people in that line of work. We know that nurses are on their feet a lot and we know that soldiers are often away from home. What many people don’t know is that after completing a doctorate, instead of settling down into one location and getting your head down to work, a young academic is often looking at a decade of a semi-nomadic life. A typical post-doctoral contract can be anything from 12 months to 3 years and is typically highly pressured because of the need to publish regularly to demonstrate your worth as a researcher. 

These short contracts can be very stressful, it is necessary to change jobs frequently and in many cases, this means changing the city, state and even country in order to have the chance to work with a more senior expert in your field and gain the needed funding to carry on researching. Many young academics end up working away from their partners, their families, and even young children in order to stay afloat. Needless to say, this means a strategy is needed to manage the unusual arrangements and make sure that your physical, financial and emotional health remains in good condition throughout your early career. 

Firstly, plan ahead as much as possible. You may need to consider when the lease on your apartment ends, whether you need to sublet or rent your home out and whether you need to rent new accommodation in your next post. As soon as you know where your next post is, start considering how to line up these things in order to save yourself money and stress. You should also make sure to let your loved ones know as much as possible in order to allow them to plan for when you will be around and when you will be away working so that you can have as much quality time together as possible. 

Secondly, keep an open mind. You may find you like a new city or country and everywhere has something to offer. It can help to meditate, take walks around your new area and if you work in a team or lab environment, ask around about what’s good or be social with your labmates. They can be a readymade group of friends. 

Lastly, be straight with your family and loved ones that this is part of your career. It will eventually settle and you will get to be more stable one day but for now, you are doing everything you can to be with them whilst pursuing your research, which should benefit everyone in the long run. If they can see that where possible, you are putting in the effort for them, they will put in the effort for you to keep your relationships strong and supportive through this turbulent phase. Stronger relationships will help you weather the storm of your early career and allow you to enjoy the benefits of a more balanced life later on.  

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