Doing a postdoc can be a fantastic experience. In the last session of ACL, I talked with Sho Tsuji from Ecole Normale Supérieure de Paris who – just as me – is a very happy postdoc.
The most important thing is to find lab in which you can grow and have a PI that will be a great mentor not only for now, but for the rest of your career. Do a careful screening of whom you want to work with and try to get to know them and people who worked with them (or still do!). Be open-minded and use your network to find out about labs, job search specifics or grant opportunities in individual countries, and personal recommendations.
You will get the most out of your postdoc if you know what you want to get out of it. Make this guide you to what kind of project or lab you want to work in and whether you want to work on your own grant or for somebody else.
In order to find the jobs you want, you need to know your market. Finding a postdoc in the US can be very different from in the EU or Japan or somewhere else. Talk to people who know the market and generally, let people in your network know that you are looking. Your colleagues, supervisors, friends, or conference acquaintances can be invaluable sources of information. Start looking early (at least 1 year before you graduate), identify your goals and potential starting points and then start reaching out. Don’t be shy to email people you are interested in.
Now you need to be competitive. Try to have at least 1 publication in a peer-reviewed journal. It doesn’t matter that much how high impact the journal but you must show that you can get a project from start to publication. In some countries, doing a PhD takes more than 6 years and people typically come out of it with several publications. PIs know that countries are different in that respect, but you must show that you have potential. Talking about potential: make sure your skills stand out on your CV and that you sell yourself as competent in your discipline AND motivated to learn specific new skills. The other thing that is important is your visibility. If you don’t have a google scholar profile yet, make one now. A personal website where you can present yourself as an individual rather than being part of a lab is also strongly recommended (I regret not having done mine earlier). Use the social media outlets you are comfortable with to create your online presence in your discipline. And of course, go to as many academic meetings, conferences, or symposia as possible or even better help organizing one!
Now, if you want to hear more about our personal experiences, watch the video: