Grad students! I want to give you a couple words of advice about finding postdoc positions. (Having just advertised a postdoc position, I am noticing some patterns, and perhaps not everybody is getting the mentoring they need when it comes to finding a postdoc position). Thread..
1) If you are interested in working at a particular lab, you do not need to wait that lab to advertise a postdoc position. Get in touch with the PI, tell them why you are interested, and ask if there are any opportunities at their lab. If they like you, they are likely able to...
...find a way to hire you. Maybe they have some extra funds to support you until you get your own fellowships. Maybe they are willing to help you apply for fellowships. So don't just wait for jobs to be advertised. Be proactive.
2) Ideally, start thinking about postdoc positions a year (or more!) before you defend your dissertation. Especially if you feel strongly about working with a particular PI, or at a particular place. This will give (and the PI) enough time to secure funds.
3) You need to actively look into what fellowships are available to you, and ideally have some kind of a vision for what you want to do next. Some people are very clear about what they want next, some people may feel more flexible. But either way, have some ideas, read literature
... When you are asked what your interests are, and what you want to do next, even though you may not be 100% about a direction, have some genuine ideas and answers. It is fine to be flexible, but it is important for you to show independent thinking skills. (Also, we PIs can...
....easily tell when you looked at our website and you are simply using keywords from what is written on our lab website, but you aren't going deeper and offering some real thoughts. Try to be more specific than what is on our lab website.
4) This goes for any job application at any level: When you are reaching out to a potential employer, don't only mention what YOU will gain from working with them. Also mention what you will bring for THEM. What expertise will you bring, how will you help elevate their research?
5) Make sure you have looked into fellowships and funding you can apply for, and be prepared to write your own projects when you join a lab (unless the PI wants you to do otherwise). Show this in your cover letter / email. Tell the PI you could apply for X, Y, Z fellowships...
... This is key, even when you are applying for an advertised (funded) postdoc position. Because those jobs are typically advertised for 2 years, and it is imperative you seek additional function and not depend on your PI. They will do their best to keep funding going...
...but things happen, maybe they won't be able to get funds for you. But more importantly, as you are growing as a scientists, you will start itching to do what you are curious about and having your own funding will give you that freedom. #AcademicChatter #phdadvice #postdocs
6) Labs/PIs are usually flexible about when you can start (unless there is a strict timeline for the funding or project). So, don't let timing stop you. If you impress the PI, they will again find a way to hire you if it works out for everyone. We understand getting visas...
...can take time, or relocating (especially now) is tricky, or you need to finish that one more experiment to wrap up a paper. Just communicate these thoughts and see if you can work something out. Your first aim is to impress the PI, so they want to hire you so bad!
Ok wow, this thread went viral. A couple more things I'd like to add:
7) International (non-US) students. I was like you, and I had very limited options for fellowships, but the opportunities are there. Make sure you have done your homework and you looked into them. Personally,
that is important for me to see that you did your homework. Getting your independent funding will be extremely important down the line for faculty jobs (if that is what you want to pursue). But like anything, there are ALWAYS exceptions. Don't be discouraged. Keep trying.
8) Keep in mind, I am talking about Life Sciences and mostly the USA (but I have some experience as a postdoc in France too, and I think it somewhat applies there as well). But more relevant than my postdoc experience is my experience as a PI now. Having the "insider" info.
While it is not always possible for a PI to come up with a huge chunk of money to hire a postdoc, they may be aware of internal fellowship (at their uni.) OR they may be able to write grant supplements, OR maybe they have startup funds etc... But it is also entirely possible....
....they have none of that. This is where luck comes into play. Which is why it is probably not about you (assuming you have done your homework) but it is meeting the PI at the right time. And like others mentioned, we know other PIs who are looking for postdocs. If I cannot hire
you, I can refer you to a person who is. The issue is, sometimes we don't find the right person after advertising a postdoc position. And I know many PIs would be thrilled if the right person suddenly e-mailed them.
Finally, it is impossible to summarize the complexity of this messy system in a Twitter thread. So, make sure you get lots of other people's perspective. I cannot claim to know everything. But I hope this thread has been helpful to democratize the information a bit. Good luck!