Postdoc is not a magical time when you suddenly know everything.

Although many of us who work toward a Ph.D. feel a huge sense of accomplishment once we’ve completed it, there are some feelings no one talks about once it’s done…

Uncertainty. Imposter syndrome. Anxiety. Sadness.

From the outside looking in, many of my friends and family say things like “the hardest part is over now!”.

While I can’t say what the hardest part is, many of the same feelings I grappled with during my doctoral program persist during my postdoc.

Uncertainty: will I be employable after my two years are up?

Imposter syndrome: I must have gotten lucky and had an easy time getting through my Ph.D. There’s no way I have all the skills I need to succeed; my postdoc advisor will realize soon and regret hiring me.

Anxiety: I just want to know what the future holds already!

Sadness: I feel inadequate and I miss my family/friends.


I have an amazing postdoc advisor, who is extremely generous with his time and always willing to listen, whether it’s asking small questions about data manipulation or how to navigate academia and be productive.

Despite this, I still have many of the feelings I mentioned above.

This is not to scare anyone about what the future holds after a PhD. This is merely something to think about.

A postdoc is not a magical time where one finally has a sense of confidence and knows everything they need to know.

I still need pep talks, and if anything, I am more aware now of what I don’t know than ever before.

However, I am now finding comfort in knowing that I have an extra few years to learn new analyses, refine my existing skills, and I’m trusting the process.

An academic’s life is a lifetime of lifelong learning, and I am learning to be OK with that.

postdoc magical time dana Cotto stylish academic

Dr. Dana Miller-Cotto is a postdoctoral researcher at the Learning Research and Development Center, University of Pittsburgh, USA. Her research interests focus on the intersection of psychology and education, applying cognitive psychology theories to learning math and science.
Dana enjoys exploring styles that reflect her Northeastern style in the winter, as a native New Yorker of West Indian descent. This includes trench coats and heavy scarves. She also loves to wear bright colored sundresses in the summer.
Dana completed her Ph.D. at Temple University in May 2017 in Educational Psychology. 
In her free time, you can catch Dana training for a Spartan challenge, testing out new recipes, or spoiling her pet beagle, Brooklyn.

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