Are you planning to do a PhD? I have heard this question many times, when I was close to finishing my studies. In the end of a day it didn’t feel as a bad idea. If you do it in Sweden, it gives you job security for 4 years (sometimes even more, if you teach and do some other tasks) and a decent salary, and you have a chance to continue doing research (if you like it, of course). The employment conditions of PhDs vary across departments and universities, but generally they are good compared to other countries.
That was my logic in 2010, and I embarked on the getting a PhD position. In the first place, I tried to continue in the same research center, where I worked during my master level studies. I participated in a project, and, after we had finished our manuscripts, there were several PhD positions available. I crossed my fingers and applied for one of them, and it went quite well in the beginning, as I was shortlisted and interviewed. But, in the end it didn’t happen!
The safest plan didn’t work out (getting a PhD post with someone you know is probably the easiest way to get one), so I started my project of sending applications to other universities. All in all, I made 16 applications within one year. Some of them were clearly hopeless, others more realistic. Out of these 16 applications I got 4 interviews and 1 job offer, and the latter transformed into my current employment at Uppsala University.
Looking backwards, I can say that all was about knowing right people. The departments, where people didn’t know anything about me never contacted me back, whereas all interviews that I got were one way or another connected to my Stockholm studies, where I did my master. I suppose that it was easier for the selection committees to rely on the opinions of people they knew personally, rather than on my CV or motivation letter. After 1.5 years of working as a PhD student, my conviction about the importance of social capital is even higher. In the hierarchies and bureaucracies such as universities, it is really important to be attached to someone “senior”, who knows other people and help by “pushing” your career forward.