6 tips to find a postdoc
Written by Isabelle
- Start early. When you reach the last year of your PhD, you should start to define your postdoc project. For some, this is easy because they have a clear idea of what they want and what they need to achieve their career goals. For others, this is trickier because they hesitate on the direction they would like to take. But don’t panic, there are solutions! After working for some years in the lab now, you already know which techniques you like to employ and which topics fascinate you (or inversely, which techniques and topics you dislike)! Based on your preferences, you could think about which subjects you would like to explore and which new techniques you would like to learn. Ideally, your whole career path should tell a story, and having bridges between your PhD and your postdoc is appreciable. It’s good to show that you can combine different techniques on diverse subjects but they should be connected in a way. Another tip is to think about a project that matches the current or next hot topic; this could be beneficial when applying to grant/fellowship support.
- Network. Talk with your PhD supervisors and senior colleagues. This is the easiest way to get feedback on the project that you would like to develop. Next, go to meetings and approach PIs doing the science that you like. When you attend a meeting, you can always request meeting interviews and invite PIs to your poster/talk. It’s a good way to make contact and to have a personal connection. Try and keep in touch afterward. Your next potential boss might appreciate your application more if he/she can associate it with a face.
- Find the lab. You can find the lab during networking at scientific events or by applying online. You can always do spontaneous applications and directly contact the PI for whom you would like to work. But, for many reasons, your timing will not necessarily match with their timing and they might accept to hire you only if you find your own funding prior to joining. To have more success, I encourage you to look for job announcements on websites like naturejobs, FENS job market… One advice is to tailor your application to your targeted lab; don’t send a standard cover letter. You have to grab the attention of your recruiter and convince him/her that you are the best for the job. Another suggestion is to be mobile and to look worldwide. If you want to stay in academia, it’s always better to be able to list an abroad experience in your CV.
- Be ready for the interview. When the PI is considering your application, he/she will offer you a formal interview (via phone, skype or on-site). Here, you have to be ready to talk about your PhD experience but not exclusively. You should show that you know and understand what the lab you are applying to is working on and demonstrate how your project can fit in. Put yourself in the PI’s shoes and be proactive.
- Visit the lab. It’s highly recommended to visit the lab where you want to do your postdoc. Never join blindly! This is the opportunity to see if the lab is running well and to discuss subjects of interest with your future colleagues. Further, it will give you some ideas about the work atmosphere, the support provided by the PI, office hours, lab budget, opportunities to attend meetings and/or, go to training...
- Select a postdoc that excites you. Ultimately, you might have the choice between several options. You should always privilege the one that will maximize your postdoc experience and the lab which gave you the best impression. If you are going to work there for some years, it should thrill you and keep you motivated.
Written by: Isabelle Arnoux. Edited by: Radhika Menon. Featured Image: NGC/Design.