My PhD lab is still paying me post-graduation-Should my CV say postdoc?
September 9, 2013 3:00 PM   Subscribe

I graduated with a biochem PhD a month or so ago. As is common practice at my institution - my thesis advisor offered me a few months of additional funding to finish up some papers while I hunt for industry jobs. Formally, I now have a post-doc appointment and salary, but I'm not actually taking on any new projects or doing any new science, nor do I have funding to stay her for more than another month or two. How should this look on my resume? I'm only applying to industry positions, not to academic positions or proper post-docs.

Currently, my CV has my PhD listed under education (with a date in the recent past), and under experience, 'Graduate Researcher' listed as '2008-current.' On the one hand, I want it to be clear that I'm not currently unemployed; on the other hand, it seems odd to list a new postdoc position...
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Leave it the way it is. "Post-doc" doesn't just mean "after they handed me the paper."
posted by Etrigan at 3:02 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

What is your formal title with the payroll department? Maybe something like "Senior Researcher"? That what you should go with.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:05 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Job entries should be by by employer rather than title. Multiple titles should be listed within the entry.

2008–present Department of Studies, University of Southern North Dakota, Hoople, ND
Research Associate, 2013–present. Graduate Researcher, 2008–2013. Designed and executed research projects on penguin management that resulted in nine peer-reviewed publications.
posted by grouse at 3:31 PM on September 9, 2013 [5 favorites]

Leave it as it is for now. If you get to six months past submission or more, and you are still being paid, that's when it's time to list it as a new "post-doc" position, whether or not the research is very different from your Phd. At that stage if asked by an interviewer what you have done since your PhD, you'll have some sort of answer, whether it is "completed a paper on X topic to submit to Y journal" or "tweaked one of the experiments from my dissertation and run it again with new variables".
posted by lollusc at 3:49 PM on September 9, 2013

Given that you are officially a postdoc, and that you're applying to jobs in industry, I'd follow grouse's suggestion. Moving up to a fancier job title is the sort of thing that looks good on a resume. Academic interviewers might look at the word "postdoc" and say "Ok, so what new project have you been working on?" and get irritated if you don't have one — but outside academia, I suspect the reaction is more likely to be "Okay, he got promoted, that's promising."
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 3:54 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think this is firmly in the category of previously solved problems, even with your specific circumstances. Surely your advisor or former students in the lab (who presumably ended up in the same position) have an opinion.

I do know someone who ended up as with 'research associate' as a job title, through a somewhat more varied path than yours. If someone asked, they'd say "I'm like a postdoc, but not actually." (To grad student me 'postdoc' implies there was some sort of competition for the position, rather than it being handed to or created for you.) So that seems like a reasonable possibility if your adviser tells you to invent a job title.
posted by hoyland at 4:08 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Congrats on completing you degree! I'm in the social sciences, but in my field a postdoc connotes a competitive hiring process. Industry jobs might not care, but I think most academics would look at this and presume that you are trying to fluff up your CV if you list your current position as a postdoc.
posted by jtfowl0 at 6:03 PM on September 9, 2013

I deal with this stuff for my lab. If you've defended, you should be drawing a salary from the university rather than a stipend. Payroll or your department's business office will know what your official title is. Mine is listed online in the same place I find my electronic pay stubs and W-2s.

This might just be my university's bureaucracy, but anyone in my lab needs to be officially appointed to a position. The grant funds can't go towards someone's payroll without it. Ask your business office what the transaction for your payroll says. (We did this with a Ph.D. student after she defended.)

There are also regulations about NIH minimums for postdoctoral fellows.

I'd say postgraduate researcher and leave it at that. Essentially the same, without the postdoc connotation.
posted by supercres at 6:05 PM on September 9, 2013

If it's a common thing in your lab, ask your PI or recently-moved-on lab mates. But as someone in a field where this sort of thing is not unusual, I would easily be able to parse something like grouse's example, and there is some value in showing that your PI was willing to keep you around.

That said, even though it's for a short period, you may want to try doing some things that demonstrate your willingness to "move up the ranks"--take a grant-writing seminar, lead lab meetings, write up some SOPs for incoming students, little short-term goals like that. It'll be useful to make it sound like an active choice to stay for a few extra months if you are asked in an interview. If you're so burned-out and done that you're really just killing time, I would finesse it a bit by listing years but not months of employment without listing the promotion, because there are some styles of interviewer that blandly go through the whole resume and they'll expect to see an onward and upward progression.
posted by tchemgrrl at 8:46 AM on September 10, 2013

I've recently been on the other side of this (PhD recruiting) and I'd go with grouse's suggestion. I *hate* it when someone tries to pass off a fake postdoc or (inadvertently) obscures their graduation date.

If you had a new project, list the role separately as a post-doc or a post-graduate researcher. Otherwise it's just one of the titles you've held as part of the "job" that was your dissertation project.
posted by janell at 10:55 AM on September 10, 2013

hoyland: I do know someone who ended up as with 'research associate' as a job title, through a somewhat more varied path than yours. If someone asked, they'd say "I'm like a postdoc, but not actually."

I could have been that someone, and I stayed in that research associate position for nearly five years, too---part time, towards the end. It was intentional, not while I was looking for something else, either. And as also said upthread, "Research Associate" was exactly what the payroll department called me, so that's what my resume says.
posted by seyirci at 2:55 PM on September 11, 2013

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