Friday, May 29, 2009

To post doc or Not to post doc

I have lately been on numerous panels. Work life balance. How to get a faculty position. How to prepare a successful packet. How to succeed in a faculty position.

(BTW: The last is my personal favorite - I've been doing this under 1 yr. What do I know about succeeding. I think I asked the other panel members as many questions as the audience asked. I had an advantage - I was sitting next to them.)

However one panel which I haven't been on officially (because there isn't a panel dedicated to it), but which basically becomes a discussion at every other panel is: should you post doc or not. This is a complex question, which is really dependent on the individual. So, I've compiled a short list. This was compiled this morning during a phone conversation, but it was compiled none the less.

Positives (+)/Negatives (-)
+ you need rec letters b/c: a) you didn't work with enough people during your PhD to get 3 "solid" letters for a faculty application, b) you and your thesis advisor hate each other (happens frequently)
+/- you need more publications: this isn't necessarily a good reason, the bar goes up the longer you work, and it necessarily guaranteed that you will get publications
+ need to expand your network
+ want to change fields: plan to do at least a 3yr post-doc
+ you need more skills: this is a valid reason, but don't screw your post doc advisor over - ie only post doc for 1 yr. You cost your post doc advisor a lot of money. Even if you have a fellowship.
+ you and your significant other need to match up (time line wise)
- everyone else post-docs: not true (except in bio/chem/physics/math)
- can't decide between industry and academia: post-doc'ing isn't really going to help in that decision

So, in the end, I don't really have any advice - unless it has to do with rec letters or research field.

But, just the same, everyone keeps asking me for my advice. No one asked me last year. It isn't as though the day I became a prof I was handed the magic book that had all of the secrets to the prof universe.

1 comment:

muddled grad student said...

I'm a final year (I hope) eng female grad student and I some how though "everyone else post docs" unless they are going to the industry - hmmm something to think about.