Contributed by Uyen (May 30, 2013) | Before even considering a postdoc position, my recommendation to senior graduate students and young postdocs is to first spend some time reflecting on your interests, skills, and values.  MyIDP is an excellent tool to start and it was co-authored by Wisconsinite – Dr. Phillip S. Clifford – a true advocate for postdoctoral training. The value of reflection is that you may find out postdoctoral training is not a requirement to obtain the job you want in which case you will save a few years of your life. However, if you decide that postdoctoral training will propel you toward a career of your dream, there are a couple of points I would like to share on choosing an “ideal” academic advisor from my own personal experience and reading a collection of online resources.

1. Seek for an advisor who is a leader in your field. Because we are in the science business, at the end of the day the more exciting and relevant your scientific work is the easier it will be for you to convey the importance of your research to your future employers. Therefore, start with leaders in your own field and if you’re changing field then study the literature and identify leaders in that area by looking at their publication record.

2. Choose an advisor who is an advocate for your career success.  What are some characteristics of a true advocate? I would look for an advisor who

  • Is willing to share his network of contacts with you. Networking starts with your PI and it has proven to work for many people.

  • Has a history of publishing review articles together with his/her postdocs. Aside from publishing your research, being able to publish a review article with your advisor will help you establish credentials as someone who understands the history and the future of the field.

  • Will give you opportunities to orally present your research at national meetings on his/her behalf. The presentations will provide you with the exposure you need to a wider audience, many of whom may be your future employers.

3. Be open about your career plan with your advisor.  Most likely, if you have done the due diligence in researching your advisor’s history in mentoring those who successfully went on to obtain your dream career, sharing your career goals and plan should not be too difficult.  More useful information on this topic can be found below.

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