This week I had the honor of speaking at the Annual Postdoctoral Career Symposium at the Texas Medical Center. I'm not sure if that's what it is actually called, but this place in Houston features medical schools associated with Baylor College of Medicine, Texas A&M Medical, Rice University, University of Texas Medical School, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston Methodist Research Hospital, and University of Houston. Such concentrations of research also are anointed with a concentration of postdoctoral researchers.
Postdocs can easily become a lost class in any university. They don't get the attention of undergraduate and graduate students and don't enjoy the same access as faculty. Pay is typically awful, and postdocs are running out of time to start families before they transition into a career or old age-- whatever happens first!
My mission was an extension of what I do at the University of Florida, give some love and guidance to this under-represented and under-appreciated class of professional scientists.
We spoke about the importance of branding, and how some simple outreach can be the difference between a successful application and one that is looked over. We discussed the need to exceed expectations, the need to write, and the need to develop a brand. All of this can leverage the tools of social media networks to build the brand.
Transitioning from postdoc time to an academic career can be challenging, but some simple steps can improve your chances.
In a later talk I discussed the philosophy of the academic interview. Too many times it is a postdoc out of time and money, desperate for a position. That is a ticket to failure.
Instead we talked about how to position yourself as an exception scientist with a beautiful story. I emphasized the need to come off as an interested collaborator, a good friend, someone excited to fit into a department's mission, and someone that just would be a trusted colleague. After all, we're stuck with you until we retire, so we have to have someone on board we like!
Carolyn Dietz and Angie Vidal were the Co-Chairs of an outstanding organizing committee. The arrangements, food, travel and schedule were impeccably prepared, and the whole conference was amazingly tight and well organized. Kudos to them for such a great effort in addition to their normally busy research lives. Their efforts are the kind of leadership that all postdocs should seek to propel themselves into their next careers.