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Taking time off after PhD


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Hello all! Finding myself at a bit of a crossroads and would really appreciate any and all advice. 

The situation: 

Recently completed a geochemistry PhD after a BSc in chemistry (focused on analytical instrumentation and organic synthesis). The former was a 50:50 mix of all-day lab work extracting and analysing samples (as well as maintenance of instrumentation), and writing (papers, thesis etc.). 

Result: 3 first author publications, 1 other, and 3 more in the pipeline (under review/submitted). Have a chance to work on at least one more with a supervisor. Developed statistical programming skills throughout the project - am convinced there isn't a data processing/visualisation workflow I could not automate. 

Am 24, approaching 25. 

Require a visa to work in Europe (despite having two passports... heh), and thus realistically have 8 months left to find a job in the country where the PhD was done. 

Having been a "student" for 20 straight years, do not want to stay in academia and want a lab-based industry job instead (e.g. working as part of a R&D team). 

Have a crippling stutter - might take me 15 seconds of huffing and puffing to greet someone when nervous/stressed. 
Plus, zero industry experience. 

The question: 

Would I be shooting myself in the foot by taking ca. a year off before looking for jobs? The dilemma is: Nearly everyone I know (including family) tells me I have got a "golden ticket" and would be an idiot to return to my home country (suffering from economic unrest - even MDs can't always find jobs). Plus, I already feel the post-PhD uselessness and the clock is ticking. 

However, I have been away from family for 7 years and it's eating me alive. My father is in his 70s - would like to spend some time with him. I can afford a year off financially, and who knows - finding a job in my home country may be possible, albeit with an abysmal salary by EU standards. 

What would you do? Thank you and apologies for the long post.

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In your 20s I see nothing wrong with taking a year off after a major achievement like a PhD (this is fine even after a Bachelor's in my opinion).  You literally have plenty of time left to join the rat race, save for retirement, buy a house, etc.  In your 30s or 40s a year would be excessive so maybe 3-4 months would be more realistic.  It sounds like you know you want to take the year off and you just want someone to say your reasons for wanting to do so aren't crazy.  Your reasons aren't crazy.  Your parents won't be here forever and spending time with them now (while they still remember you and can move about) is never going to be something you regret.  The year off can also be used to really think about where you want to live and how best to enter the job market there.  If you so choose, you can also work on your stutter.  You can also enjoy some of the things that 20somethings who were less productive than you enjoyed routinely........sleeping in, taking a road trip, doing something stupid just because, binge watching some random tv show, travel, etc.  You can also engage in some hobbies you've always been curious about and just plain relax.  Be sure to journal about your year so when you're old you can remind yourself of all the fun you had.

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  • 2 months later...

No, not necessarily, as long as you can explain it. It's not outside the realm of possibility to say "After my PhD, I took off a year to take care of my elderly father and take care of some other family matters, but I am back and ready to enter the job market again" or something similar.

However, the visa situation complicates things. Since you are international, if your goal is to work in Europe, you may find it difficult to re-enter the country for interviews and the like after you leave. And when you are in really heavy application mode, you might find yourself having to come out of pocket to fly in and out of the country. Or, worse, for some roles they may not want or need to sponsor visas, so you might find yourself locked out of certain roles because of that.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't return home for some time - but it may mean that you need to return home for shorter than you want so that you can return to your current country for the job search; or it may mean you have to conduct your job search differently after you stay in your home country.

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