What to do after a PhD degree is one of the most commonly asked questions for recently graduated students. If you’re planning to capitalize on your PhD learnings and take the next step in your career, pursuing a postdoc researcher role is the most beneficial. Before we talk about the strategies to excel as a postdoc researcher, let’s understand the basics of being a postdoc researcher.
Who is a postdoc researcher?
A postdoctoral researcher phase is a critical juncture between a PhD student and a full-time academic, offering an excellent opportunity to demonstrate and develop skills acquired in your PhD journey. The most common postdoc role is a research-focused position in academia. However, postdocs also exist in industry, government, non-profit, and other non-academic organizations.1
What are the roles and responsibilities of a postdoc researcher?
In the postdoctoral phase, researchers collaborate with experienced mentors to conduct research, which can be part of existing projects or based on their original ideas. They play a crucial role in writing and publishing academic papers, often in collaboration with lead researchers. Additionally, postdocs are responsible for securing grants to fund their research projects. These activities are crucial steps toward becoming lead researchers themselves. This experience allows them to refine their research skills, develop new techniques, and contribute to their field of study. 2,3
However, the post-doctoral phase also comes with its share of challenges. Research reveals that only 23% of doctoral graduates find placements as research staff within higher education, and another 14% establish themselves as lecturers.5 Certain disciplines present even steeper hurdles where only 14% of individuals in arts and humanities subjects succeed in securing coveted research roles. Post-doctoral researchers need to navigate these challenges strategically and develop a clear career plan to maximize their potential for success.4 This comprehensive guide provides post-doctoral researchers with valuable insights and practical strategies to excel in their careers.
6 tips for postdoc researchers to take their career to the next level
As a postdoctoral researcher, moving your career forward involves a mix of strategic planning, skill development, networking, and career exploration. Here are some top tips to help post-doc researchers take their career to the next level:
Build a Strong Research Portfolio
Focus on conducting rigorous, high-quality research that enhances your knowledge and contributes to your field. Aim to publish it in reputable journals with a broad readership. You may also participate in conferences and workshops to disseminate your findings, present your research, and network with other researchers to get feedback and broaden your expertise. This practice helps you build a strong reputation and boost your chances of getting a full-time role amidst the competitive landscape.
Collaborate with researchers
While formal post-doc research jobs might not always be readily available, the avenue of collaborative work often presents itself as a viable alternative. It is essential to pinpoint the specific areas or research subjects that interest you and align with your expertise. Simultaneously, identifying established academics within those fields can pave the way for fruitful collaborations and potential avenues for career growth.6
Develop Strong Communication Skills
Write clearly and concisely in scientific papers and grant proposals. Your writing should be easy to understand and free of jargon. To excel here, you can always use AI academic writing assistants like Paperpal to get instant, in-depth
suggestions to polish your academic writing. Practice your presentation skills and use visual aids to present your research effectively in oral presentations.
Strengthen your network
Expanding your network is vital. Prior to future job applications, leveraging connections, like those from shared academic backgrounds, can be beneficial. The core aim of a post-doc is growing both your professional and social networks. This expansion yields a broader skill set and expertise, positioning you as an adept academic capable of independent work and fruitful collaborations.7
Seek funding and apply for grants
Given the ongoing need to apply for grants in your post-doc career, early familiarity with seeking grants is advisable. This entails understanding the process and honing your grant-writing skills. A recommended approach is to aim for at least one successful grant application during your post-doc period. Securing a grant not only positively impacts your research endeavors but also signifies your independence and potential for leadership.
Develop leadership and teaching skills
If you’re interested in an academic career, gaining teaching experience can be beneficial. Look for opportunities to teach courses, lead seminars, or mentor students. Take on leadership roles in research projects and committees and mentor junior researchers. This will help you to develop your leadership and teaching skills and prepare you take on more responsibility.
The postdoctoral journey holds immense value in fostering continuous learning and professional development. While technical expertise remains vital, post-doctoral researchers benefit significantly from acquiring diverse skills. It is essential to recognize that a postdoc is a period of dedicated professional growth. This growth encompasses lifelong learning and the cultivation of critical abilities such as refined communication, adept professional etiquette, effective leadership, and management skills, as well as the responsible conduct of research. By embracing this multifaceted approach to professional development, post-doc researchers lay a solid foundation for their career trajectories and contribute significantly to their growth and the advancement of their chosen fields.
- ‘What is a Postdoc?’ – ORISE – https://orise.orau.gov/resources/stem/professional-development/becoming-a-postdoc/what-is-a-postdoc.html
- ‘Should you pursue a Postdod? – https://grainger.illinois.edu/research/postdoc-opportunities/postdoc-benefits
- ‘Postdoctoral Phase’ – https://www.young-researchers.uni-mainz.de/postdoctoral-phase/
- ‘Applying for Postdocs’ – https://grad.illinois.edu/careers/postdocs
- ‘How postdocs can maximize their career chances in a competitive world’ – https://www.elsevier.com/connect/how-postdocs-can-maximize-their-career-chances-in-a-competitive-world
- What do doctoral graduates do? – https://www.vitae.ac.uk/doing-research/are-you-thinking-of-doing-a-phd/what-do-doctoral-graduates-do
- ‘Applying for a postdoc job? Here are 18 tips for a successful application’ – https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2015/feb/01/applying-for-a-postdoc-job-here-are-18-tips-for-a-successful-application
- ‘Advice and Tips for Getting a Job/Postdoc’ – https://www.lpl.arizona.edu/grad/guidebook/finding-funding/advice-and-tips-getting-jobpostdoc
- ‘Mentoring Advice for Postdoctoral Fellows: A Practical Guide’ – https://stemwomen.net/2021/05/31/mentoring-advice-for-postdoctoral-fellows-a-practical-guide/
- ’ Postdocs’ Guide to Gaining Independence’ – https://www.niaid.nih.gov/grants-contracts/postdoc-guide#publish%20papers
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