A Strange Reality

Today has placed me in a strange reality, yet it is also a fairly common one across much of the academic world. Just over 3 months ago, I defended my doctoral research. Since then I have been writing manuscripts, making dissertation edits, submitting documents to the library, and continuing active projects.

As of June 1st, my doctoral funding was up but my advisor was kind enough to find another project to work on that had funds that could float me for about a month. So, as July approached, I became anxious as I hadn’t heard from any of the jobs I applied to and was left in a bit of a limbo as far as what my next step would be.

Today, I still have not heard back from any positions and I have officially turned in the keys to my apartment since my lease was up (I allowed the lease to expire because I know my next position will not be in Starkville). So, as of lunchtime today, I hold a Ph.D. (ABD) in Wildlife and Fisheries, and I am both unemployed as well as homeless. Now, that is not to say that I don’t have anywhere to stay/sleep. I have several fantastic friends across multiple states that are happy to help me out until I get my feet under me, and to them I am forever greatful.

But this strange reality is one that hits home with me and is something that I think many people often overlook. There is a common misconception that once you obtain your Ph.D. “the world is your oyster”, as it were, but that isn’t always the case. Professor and advanced research positions are just as competitive as any other job/career and the projects we are a part of during our schooling typically have hard timetables. So when the deadline hits, the funding is up. And if one of your connections can’t find a project for you work on, or a short-term position, your source of income dries up immediately.

Typically, graduate students are already job-searching before their fuding runs out, which is great practice. This is something that I had also done but the hiring process is taking longer than it typically would (due in part to the COVID-19 crisis). So, I guess the take-away from this post is a nudge to reach out to your friends/family that have graduated, or will be in the coming weeks, just to check on them and see how things are going. Because I am sure there are many who, like me, had taken steps to transition more seemlessly into their next position but that may have been disrupted. So a simple check-in and the chance to catch up with an old friend may be a small but hugely important part of their day.

Bradley M. Richardson
Bradley M. Richardson
Research Fish Biologist

My research interests include aquatic ecology, species interactions, aquatic macroinvertebrates, and freshwater fishes.

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