First postdoc job-hunting season

Before I kick off blog post number two, I would really like to say thank you to all of you have welcomed me with open arms to the blogosphere and given such positive feedback. It is greatly appreciated!

What I am going to write about here is essentially a brief account of what I actually did to find the postdoc position I currently hold. Which, by the way, I really like so you now know the story has a happy ending!

I properly threw myself into looking for potential jobs around 6 months before my target PhD thesis submission date. Due to the fact that my PhD was funded by and carried out at a research institute different to the university at which I was registered (partner research institute arrangement), there was a defined end date for everything to be finished and absolutely no possibility of extension, so needless to say I felt quite a bit of pressure to have something in place for post-thesis submission. All institutes and universities of course have different policies so I also knew quite a few people who had the option of an additional fully-funded year.

I looked in all the usual places such as New Scientist jobs, Nature jobs and http://www.jobs.ac.uk, but another online resource I found particularly useful was a group on LinkedIn called “Virology Professionals”. This group has a discussion forum and a dedicated jobs section which was where I found two positions that I went on to apply for, and interestingly they were not advertised on any of the ‘usual’ places. You need to set up an account on LinkedIn to be able to access this group (for those of you not aware of it, think of it as a professional Facebook……) and I do personally think it’s worth having one for job-searching and networking purposes. Another approach I took was to e-mail my CV to our lab’s collaborators (with my supervisors go-ahead of course) for circulation around their virology/vaccines division in the hope that somebody would have a position in the pipeline that I may have been suitable for.

So after all of the many hours spent (yes it’s terribly time-consuming) searching for posts I actually wanted to apply for, the writing of cover letters, sending of informal enquiry e-mails and CV proof-reading, I ended up with five interviews over a 6 month period for postdoc positions in Germany, the USA and the UK. A few were over Skype which was a bit of an odd feeling with time delays and random people unexpectedly popping up into the screen, but it appears to be very common these days. I was very happy, and very lucky to be offered four out of the five jobs I interviewed for, but of course I had to do some serious thinking that eventually lead to me accepting the role I am currently in.

The Influenza lab I work in is located in London, the same city I did my PhD in. I was offered posts in the States and Germany and I’m sure many people will be thinking “argh, why didn’t you move abroad to postdoc?!” And that’s a good question. As young researchers, we are often being told that it is better for our career to do a postdoc abroad and I have heard many people say that without doing this, we won’t get as far ahead as our counterparts who have. I am aware this can be a bit of a hot topic and is something many of us worry about, but I am going to write a separate post about this subject as it’s something I feel quite strongly about – so watch this space…..

So essentially it came down to choosing the best role for me at the time which is exactly what I did. And when it comes down to it, isn’t that what we all just have to do? Everyone and their situation is different, and we could have the most glamorous postdoc position, in the lab of a P.I. with a thousand publications, in some far flung city, but if we aren’t happy then is it even worth it?

What I also realised during my job-hunting is that virology is a very small world! But that can definitely be used as an advantage, and I found that using networking opportunities whenever possible was extremely helpful. Personally, I made sure that during job-seeking season I presented my work at meetings and other institutes whenever the chance presented itself, and I also made sure that my PhD supervisors introduced me to as many new people as possible. You never know when just knowing someone can come in handy. Gosh that was a weird sentence to write.

Thank you for reading! The next post will very likely involve me having an ink moustache, so hopefully that will make you want to come back for more……

And to finish off, here is the link to a short careers video I was lucky enough to have the chance to make for the BBC – Bang Goes the Theory.

Bang Goes the Theory, Series 8, ‘Flu – How do you get that PhD?

http://emp.bbc.co.uk/emp/embed/smpEmbed.html?playlist=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bbc.co.uk%2Fiplayer%2Fplaylist%2Fp01x0hfm&title=Bang%20Goes%20the%20Theory%3A%20Series%208%3A%20Flu%3A%20How%20do%20you%20get%20that%20PhD%3F&product=iplayer

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