Choosing a Postdoctoral Position


Postdoctoral training is a transitional time for many people. You need to make sure that you find the position that best fits your needs. Asking questions now and evaluating the answers before accepting a position will save you time and energy later. Remember, when you interview for a postdoctoral position, you are also interviewing the P.I., the other lab members and the University. Just because one situation works for one person, does not mean it works for everyone. Know what you need to be successful, and start from there. It’s better to choose wisely than to try to get out of a bad situation later.

A few questions to think about: 

What do you need to succeed?
What type of environment is best for you? Do you prefer large labs or small labs? What kind of management style are you looking for in a faculty advisor? Do you like a hands-on involved manager or a hands-off more distant manager? What are your goals for your postdoc and what are your long term career plans? Will doing a postdoc in a specific lab with this faculty advisor help you achieve these goals? Do you have a spouse or significant other that also needs to find a position? Do you have geographical constraints?

Faculty Advisors & Positions
Research prospective advisors before applying, and also during and after the interview. Where have former postdocs gone after training in the P.I.’s lab? What is the P.I.’s reputation concerning postdocs? Is this type of research what you want to do? Will you have the opportunity to work on or initiate your own project? Will you have your own space? Will you learn the skills and techniques you need to succeed in your area? How well respected is the P.I.? What do current and former lab members say about their experiences in the lab? Will you need to apply for your own funding? Is there a time limit to the position? For example, the PI can only afford to pay you for one year and after that you will have to obtain your own funding.

Other resources include:

Finding the “Perfect Postdoc” for You by Carol Manahan of the National Postdoctoral Association

The DBBS Student Advisory Committee’s (SAC) guidelines for Choosing a Thesis Lab includes many topics that may be of interest to postdocs looking for labs as well.

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