Warning to Post-docs: you have 5 years to get tenure or…
There are many hidden costs of a PhD. Spending 5 to 8 years after college is just one of them. This added to another 2-4 years of postdocs makes the total years after college between 7 to 12 years. These years are not only sucked out of what supposed to be your golden years of 20s and 30s. They also have a terrible opportunity cost.
But that is not the whole story! There is another big surprise waiting for postdocs down the line that almost nobody tells them about! YOU HAVE 5 to 6 years of being employed as a post-doc before not being considered anymore. Yes, you heard me right! This ‘coveted’ postdoc job that pays almost nothing to peanuts, expires too, and you will be over-qualified for it! Why? Because most universities and institutes prefer to employ freshly minted PhDs, and don’t consider older candidates anymore. Many universities and institutes have actually a 4 year window for new postdocs. Also, please remember, grants are only given to new PhDs within 1-3 years of graduation!
It is like your PhD has an expiration date. Out of all places, a PhD expires only in academia. What the irony! After that, what you gonna do? If you get a tenure track position, good for you. If not, you will be up for a big and ugly surprise. Industry and real world doesn’t want you either. They regard a PhD with many years of postdocs as a risky hire, someone that is over-qualified and likely quit on them, and/or find the job not interesting! Not to mention that they likely think your experience is not worth much except in academia. One can act desperate but it is gonna make himself look like a loser and the employers will shun you even more. You can assure them as much that you will never quit and be a good boy, but their opinion of PhDs without a real job experience is mostly negative. You can argue all you want but that is the reality of the outside-academia world. Experience is valued more than papers and publications/citations.
You can dance as much as you want but at the end of the day, all you want is a decent pay and adequate work that keeps you entertained. Academia will almost certainly not provide you with a job despite your best intentions. It will also certainly not give you a good salary for your skills either. But hey! Who needs either?
Today’s PhDs are busy working hard so their supervisor, aka master, can get good publications and tenure! Rest assured PhD students, your effort will not go wasted and/or unnoticed! At least you are helping your supervisor getting his tenure and/or cementing his status as a big shot prof. He may write you a good reference letter as well, worth nothing in industry. As a side effect and on some rare occasions, you may even advance human knowledge. But getting a job and money will likely not be something you can easily accomplish!