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Postdoc Pointers

As Massimo at Exponential Book says, "your postdoc is a starting point, not one of arrival." Just like when it came to earning a PhD, "you still have to prove yourself," he adds.

A postdoctoral position is not a 9-to-5 job. "It is an opportunity for you to build the best research credentials you can. It is up to you to make the most of it," Massimo says. "Having landed a postdoc does not mean that a permanent job … is waiting for you down the road." Massimo shares tips for postdocs on choosing a project, publishing, and more.

Novelty is important when it comes to choosing a research project. "Simply accepting a project that is a mere continuation of a line of work that has existed in that research group for a long time, predates you and will continue after you are gone, is probably not in your best interest. I recommend picking something that is new for both yourself and your PA, where his/her experience and guidance can prove valuable but where there is also room for you to make your own original contribution," Massimo says. Postdocs ought not to choose projects that are a continuation of their doctoral work, he adds.

'Publish or perish' is not necessarily the case for postdocs, Massimo says. But, he adds, it is a good idea to get at least one paper out within the first year or so.

Communication is also critical to a postdoc's success, and Massimo suggests that a postdoc meet with his or her advisor once a month, at least. He also says that there is no reason not to actively engage with other postdocs in the lab. "Your fellow postdocs are a tremendous resource; you should not be afraid of sharing your knowledge with them, and at the same time you should try to learn from them as much as possible," Massimo says. "It is true that you will likely be competing for the same jobs, but … there are plenty other postdocs everywhere else in the world who will also be competing with you."