Takeaways from Expand Your Career Options: Postdoc Pathways  

This spring, three panelists with postdoctoral work experience shared their stories and advice on obtaining a postdoc position and moving beyond in the Expand Your Career Options virtual panel.  

Key takeaways from this panel are captured below.  

Reasons for Pursuing a Postdoc Position  

  • Continue developing your research projects originating from your PhD; 
  • Expand skills and experience within research; 
  • Set a foundation for future faculty career; 
  • Continuation of collaborative projects or connections with individuals at the research center or lab  

Tips for Searching Postdoc Positions 

  • Network with people at conferences;  
  • Reach out to professors; 
  • Connect with those who share similar research interests with you; 
  • Get to know a variety of postdoc opportunities such as fellowships at institutions and government agencies;
  • Seek advice on your research statement for various postdoc funding applications. 

Deciding What is a Good Fit  

  • Factors for consideration include mentors, your relationship with them, geographic location, benefits, healthcare, the notoriety of the lab, etc.; 
  • Think about the next job after the postdoc and how the postdoc you choose positions you for the next project or job; 
  • Talk to other postdocs at the institution and learn about their experiences; 
  • Find a postdoc that expands your skills or allows you to dive into some exciting research questions. 

Strategies to Advance Your Career Beyond Postdocs 

  • Invest time in on-demand skills in your field;  
  • Send application materials to as many people as possible for their review to identify weaknesses in your CV; 
  • If you are interested in going into the industry, talk to your cohort or friends who have been in the industry; 
  • Decide your career goals and keep updating them; set short-term and long-term goals; 
  • Don’t restrict yourself to certain positions that align with your research, but be open minded; 
  • Plan ahead and change your approach if it’s not working; 
  • Start your search a year ahead or earlier. 

Time Management Tips 

  • Keep track of everything you are juggling; 
  • Use a calendar to “time-box” your day to prioritize tasks; 
  • Reserve your most productive hours for the hardest tasks; 
  • Tackling procrastination by moving your procrastinating tasks to different time blocks;  
  • Do a reevaluation of your priorities.  

Advice for Doctoral Students Looking for Jobs 

  • Talk to people in and outside your field, in academia and in industry; 
  • Keep networking and asking for advice;   
  • Be open to new experiences and opportunities; 
  • Recognize that graduation and job search occurring at the same time is stressful; don’t let the stress consume you; 
  • Be organized; split your time and spend 20% of your time in job search; 
  • Keep your career options open – don’t keep all your eggs in one basket; 
  • Have faith that you can get a job and finish your PhD. 
By Damiao Zoe Xu
Damiao Zoe Xu Graduate Assistant, Graduate Student and Postdoc Career Programs and Services (She/Her/Hers)