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How to Find a Postdoc Position

Wondering where to find a postdoc position? The process can be overwhelming, but there are several things you can do to make it more manageable.

First of All, What is a Postdoc?

After earning a PhD, many researchers go on to a postdoctoral position. A Postdoc is a continuation of the researcher’s training that allows them to further specialize in a particular field and learn new techniques. Postdocs are usually two to three years and it is not unusual to do more than one postdoc before applying for more permanent academic positions.

The Earlier You Start, the Better

You should start looking for postdoc opportunities as you begin the last year of your PhD. You can get started even earlier by jotting down the authors of any interesting papers or talks during your PhD.

Do Your Homework

The rule of thumb is that a postdoc should not be on the exact same topic as your PhD, but rather a related, complementary topic. Look for projects that will expand your skill set as a researcher. Put together a list of potential projects and supervisors. Who has published inspiring papers or articles recently? Think back to the conferences you’ve attended. Who did you meet and whose presentations impressed you? Reach out to your network for possible opportunities. Remember that many postdocs promote international mobility so don’t restrict your search to only your home country.

Tailor Your Applications

Each postdoc position you apply to will require you to submit different materials as part of your application. It is imperative that you customize each application to suit the specific position that you are applying for. Pay attention to the requirements of each position and make sure you include all the relevant materials such as:

  • A CV- A CV is a resume of your academic qualifications. You can find an academic CV template here.

  • A cover/motivation letter- Your cover letter must be carefully tailored to each individual postdoc position. Emphasize how your work is relevant to the goal of the postdoc, and reframe your work within their context of the project. Briefly summarize your relevant qualifications for this position. You want to convey how the lab or department will benefit having you there, rather than how you will benefit from getting this postdoc.

  • A research proposal- Your research proposal explains the research you would do during the postdoc. You should introduce the topic while referring to past literature and point out the knowledge gaps in the field that your project will fill. Then go through your timeline of what you will accomplish (including publications) and when. Conclude by explaining how the postdoc fits into your career trajectory.

  • A research statement- Unlike the research proposal, this document goes through your previous research experience and includes publications, talks, conference presentations or posters that have come from it.

  • References- Most positions require two to three letters of recommendation. In addition to your supervisor, you should ask other collaborators or committee members with expertise in the subfield you are applying to.

Send in Your Application

After you have the appropriate materials ready for each application (and have double, triple checked them) send them in! You might consider emailing the PI before you apply, especially if you can make a personal connection to them. They may remember your name and keep an eye out for your application.

You can find hundreds of available postdoc positions on Academic Positions.

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