Securing a postdoctoral position is fiercely competitive. There are various things an applicant can do to ensure a successful postdoctoral application. Research carried out by Vitae, which supports the development of researchers, suggests that only 23% of doctoral graduates find employment as research staff in higher education, while 14% work as lecturers. In some subject areas, the figures are even more bleak: for arts and humanities subjects, only 14% secured a research position.
So really the questions is how can one maximize the chances of standing out and landing a postdoc position.
1 Get advice from your PhD supervisor
You need to talk to your supervisor and other academic colleagues to get the big picture as well as useful personal advice on the whole procedure. Since you have been working with your supervisor throughout your PhD, he/she will have a good idea of your skills, abilities and even knowledge gap. Supervisor and colleagues are the best people to get advice from and ask questions for a start.
2 Start building your networks early
There’s a lot of research in the job market about the effectiveness of being known to people before applying to interviews, not just in academia but generally. You might not find a formal postdoc position, but there might be an opportunity for collaborative work. Identify the areas, the research topics that you are interested in, as well as the academics in that field. Go to conferences and see if you can visit the lab or group, mingle around and see what opportunities are out there. Networking is the key to success in any career path.
3 Finding funding
“We’re interested in you but we don’t have any funding” This is a very common response when applying for postdoctoral positions. If this is the case, most universities subscribe to Research Professional, a big database of funding opportunities. The institution itself might also have some idea of local funding you could apply for. Again collaborating and networking with the players in the field can be of a great help at this stage.
4 Look for opportunities outside your specialization
In engineering, one of the mistakes people make is they look for jobs in exactly the same area that their PhD is in. You need to think about transferable skills and how these could apply to a wider range of opportunities. Extensive amount of search on the field is necessary to be able to have a broad picture of related but not necessary familiar grounds where you can contribute to.
5 Look worldwide
It is good to be mobile and willing to move, it is worth looking at opportunities abroad.
6 Consider opportunities for a portfolio career
This is especially common in the arts and humanities where you may have a portfolio career which includes a few teaching opportunities, or some short-term research work together with some consultancy or a part-time job in another sector. You can keep a foot in academia while working outside and taking part in various platforms.
7 Try working as a researcher for a company
Greta opportunity to benefit from the latest equipment and technology as well as doing groundbreaking research on the ground, solving real-world problems.
8 If there is a formal application process, read the guidance
Other tips for successful postdoc applications are: avoiding jargons, customizing your cover letter, talking about something other than your Ph.D., show your personality and eagerness for teamwork. Most important of all being yourself. All these tips and advice may come in handy when applying for a postdoc position.