Post-Post-Doc Job Hunt: 6 Top Tips

A third post-doctoral position?

Having reached the end of six years post-doctoral training I began the search for a new position earlier this year. Eager to progress with my career I opted to disregard the idea of a third post-doctoral position. Not only is a third position no guarantee that you’ll achieve a high impact paper but to any employers outside of academia I think it starts to make you less attractive. My impression is they start to think that you’ve stayed at university your whole life because you can’t work in any other environment.

If you’ve left academic research and come back to it or you can explain why a third post-doc was really the best option for you then this doesn’t necessarily apply. The search for a job is a very personal thing, and anything that makes you a bit unusual probably helps and any indication or evidence that you have a broader skill base or an ability to work in different environments is, I think, perceived positively (but note that I am not talking about fellowships here, that’s a different scenario altogether).

As has been discussed in so many blogs (e.g. here and here) there are a lot more post-docs than there are faculty level positions and if an academic career wasn’t going to work for me I wanted to know that now so I could change direction and if necessary re-train before I ran out of options.

Job hunting - the campaign!

Given the tough economic climate and the high level of competition for jobs I thought it prudent to be open minded about exactly what I would do next, and I expected it to be tough so I treated it as a second job with specific time set aside at evenings and weekends. Finding a job takes up a lot of time and effort but remember that it is an investment in your future and getting the right position can change your career prospects enormously. I spent roughly 16 hours on each application:

  • Researching the job and organization
  • Looking at the job specification and brainstorming all the experiences I have had in any aspect of my life (work, hobbies, life generally) that might be relevant
  • Completing the application form or writing a tailored CV
  • Writing my personal statement using the best examples I came up with in the brainstorming, making the ways in which I met the job specification as clear and as uncomplicated as possible.

I had help of course and that made a big difference. My current boss was very supportive and King’s College London, where I’ve done all six years as a post-doc, run a number of really helpful courses to help post-docs think about and plan the next stage of their careers. I also have some very understanding friends who didn’t complain when I abandoned my social life to dedicate myself to the search and family who never tired of talking through application forms and potential interview questions!