Credit: Siqi Meng
Postdoc perspective: Why postdocs should spend time building bridges
When I decided to pursue a postdoc, one of my PhD advisers offered advice to guide my search: “In the next few years, only part of your role will be to conduct exciting research and publish papers. The more important goal is to get the next job afterward.” I took this to heart and reflected on what tools I needed to build a bridge to the next stage of my professional career as an independent academic investigator. Learning new technical skills in a new research field was important to me, but gaining leadership and mentoring experience was something I also valued.
A few months after starting my postdoc in 2017, an opportunity emerged to start a new researcher-led safety team, the Joint Research Safety Initiative (JRSI), whose mission is to improve the lab safety culture at the University of Chicago. I realized that I could assist in launching this effort with other enthusiastic researchers that value this goal, and shape sustainable programs that can address unmet safety needs. It’s challenging for me to balance my time between research and involvement as JRSI vice president, but the experiences and soft skills are invaluable and can serve as examples in the behavioral interviews I will encounter as I look for jobs this fall.
Every postdoc experience is unique, but there is so much more to the experience than conducting lab research. I strongly encourage potential postdocs to begin with the end in mind and seek career development and leadership opportunities that will help you build a bridge to your next job.