The final year of a PhD is scary for many reasons. All of your hard work is coming to an end, you have to write a very long book and there can be lots of uncertainty about what’s next. For me, the ‘what’s next’ was always scary. So many thoughts would constantly run around my head, such as how and when will I be able to get a job? So, I thought I’d write a blog about how to find post-doc jobs!
Disclaimer: I know not everyone who does a PhD wants to stay in academia, and the idea of doing a post-doc to some people is awful. But, early on in my PhD I knew I wanted to do one. As hard as my PhD has been, it has been such a wonderful experience – and I know I’m so lucky to have had such a good experience. I’m not saying it wasn’t hard, at some points it was so challenging, but the knowledge and skills I’ve learned and the people I’ve had the privilege to meet and work with have made it all worthwhile.
Okay, so back to post-doc jobs. There are a number of questions you should ask yourself when thinking about the post-doc job: what do you want to research: i.e., do you want to stay similar to your PhD work or widen your research focus? What skills do you want to gain? And where do you want to do one? I wrote a previous blog considering some of these questions. But this one focused on the practicalities of finding one.
When to start looking for a post-doc job?
I don’t think there is any fast or hard rule on this. And I think it is impacted by where in the world you’re looking to go and be a post-doc. From my own experience and speaking to others people usually suggest you start looking as early as 1 year prior to finishing up your PhD. 1 year can seem quite early. But, if you are wanting to move across the world for a job, it’s important to start making those connections early to show that you may be interested in joining that lab! See the next section for info on how to contact potential PIs. Big moves can take a while and if you are wanting to join a specific lab and there is no ‘current’ money then you may be able to apply for fellowships to work in those specific labs. If this is the route you decide to take, these can take time.
Where can you find post doc jobs?
I would say that Twitter is one of the best places to find post doc jobs! Lots of labs, when they have funding, do post the job adverts on Twitter – so make sure you’re following the labs you’re interested in and keep an eye out for those important adverts! There are also a number of websites you can go on to find post-doc jobs these include:
- Jobs.ac.uk: This website not only gives you job opportunities within the UK but around the world. You can filter it to specific areas of the world and specific fields which is pretty helpful.
- Dementia researcher: The dementia researcher website not only has many helpful blogs and podcasts about postdoc jobs but also advertises them too!
- John Hopkins postdoc funding spreadsheet: This is something I came across on twitter (thank you twitter). It’s basically a huge spreadsheet for neuroscience related post-doc funding. Its updated pretty often so it’s a good resource for when you’re looking for post doc jobs/fellowship funding.
(Ed Suggestions – Linkedin is good for industry jobs, and Lab Leaders from the USA often post jobs on to Twitter that are listed on website, you can also check AlzForum and BNA who have job listings, and individual institution website including UKDRI)
How to contact/introduce yourself to principal investigators
Introductions from your supervisors
It can be helpful to speak with your supervisor about your future plans because they may be able to help. Obviously, I’m aware that not everyone would feel comfortable talking about these things with supervisors but your supervisors are likely to have widespread networks. If you know your supervisor has a contact with a lab that you may be interested in, you can always ask for them to introduce you at a conference or via an email, and then you can take the reins. This way it can alleviate some of the pressure/nerves of introducing yourself to new PIs!
One of the best ways to contact potential PIs is through email. In a short email tell them that you’re coming to the end of your PhD (give them a brief idea of when you will be done), tell them why you’re interested in their lab, what skills you could bring to their group/ what you want to learn from their group and make sure to attach an updated CV! It can also be helpful to suggest to set up a short meeting to discuss these things in more detail!
Conferences are also fantastic places to develop connections and find potential post doc jobs. So, it’s great if you get the opportunity to go to a national or international conference in your final year of your PhD. When presenting your work, make sure to introduce yourself to your audience, ask about their role and where they do their research – a tip is to write down the contact details of people and to email them when you return! Many PIs will also be at these conferences looking for potential new group members! So, if you know of a potential PI going to a conference seek them out: attend their talk or their poster session. I was lucky enough to meet many PI’s at my first ever AAIC conference and I definitely developed some good networks by being there. So, conferences in your final year can be super helpful for those post-doc job options!
What happens next?
Well, this is where things are not as easy to write about, because funding in academia is so different across the world. From my experience, in the UK, if you see a post doc job and apply for it, and you’re selected for interview, then you go to your interview (which is pretty much. like a PhD interview). But if you’re interested in a lab in the USA, then it may be that the lab has no advert for a specific job, but the PI may have money for you – this is why it’s so important to contact potential labs, even if they are not currently advertising for post-doc positions. If the lab is interested in having you as a post-doc, then what may happen is that you may be invited to visit the lab, to give a talk, to meet lab members and then to have an interview – to see if you like the environment/to see if it would be a good fit!
So, there really is no one way of finding a post-doc job! However, my take home message would be to contact PIs early, to look out for opportunities on twitter and to network at conferences!
Beth Eyre is a PhD Student at The University of Sheffield, researching Neurovascular and cognitive function in preclinical models of Alzheimer’s disease. Beth has a background in psychology, where she gained her degree from the University of Leeds. Inside and outside the lab, Beth loves sharing her science and we are delighted to have her contributing as a regular blogger with Dementia Researcher, sharing her work and discussing her career.