As you get closer to the finish line and prepare to complete your PhD, there’s one critical question that many trainees wrestle with. Should I do a postdoc? In this session, you will learn to define your career goals, understand how they can help you answer this critical question, and identify what type of postdoc would be best for you.
After identifying your needs, preferences, and values (NPVs; see Session 1 of this module), your next step is to use these as a point of reference to help you define your career goals and desired career path. Once you have done this, your next step is to create a career plan using backward design. In other words, you will start at the end. Thinking about the career you want will help you determine the skills, training, and milestones required to get you there. For example, if you want to become a faculty member at a Research and Teaching (RT) institution, it will be important to develop and refine your teaching skills and mindfully develop your grant and publication track record during your training (for more information checkout the Academic Career Readiness Assessment).
As you backward design your career, you need to ask, would completing a postdoc help me get there? Remember, there are many positions and careers that do not require postdoc training. You may find that you are already competitive for the position that you want and that a postdoc is not needed. But what if you need postdoc training to achieve your career goals? Then you’ll need to identify what type of postdoc is right for you. There are different types of postdocs, depending on your career goals. For example:
- Postdocs that prepare you for research-intensive faculty positions
- Postdocs that prepare you for faculty positions at primarily undergraduate institutions (PUIs)
- Postdocs that prepare you for positions in industry
- Postdocs that allow you to explore different career paths
A postdoc is a training experience to specifically prepare you for the next stage of your career. Keeping this in mind will help guide your decision on whether you should pursue a postdoc and which type of postdoc will help you reach your career goals and career path. If you aren’t sure of what your ideal career path is, it’s critical to develop a career exploration plan during the early stages of your training, integrate it into your backward design, and consider choosing a postdoctoral lab that would allow you to investigate and prepare for different career options.
Activities (Exercises and Self-Reflection):
Dr. Laurence Clement is a Senior Knowledge Development Manager at Genentech. From 2014-2021, she served as Program Director for the Office of Career and Professional Development at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). There, she was involved in developing and teaching courses and workshops to prepare research trainees for academic careers at both research-… Continue Reading