What is the standard time for a Postdoc?

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What is the standard time for a Postdoc?

Postby lhrh98 » Mon Jan 17, 2005 10:28 pm

<5 years definitely. No matter what you are studying. long than 5 years means you don\'t have the potential to succeed.

RE: Know thyself !

Postby Madison » Tue Jan 18, 2005 12:06 pm

Hey David!
Thanks so much for the kind words!

Being at a big school teaches you a lot about how to manage your career. You see lots of examples of what are often sarcastically called postdoc emeritus hanging around - people who have been a postdoc a long time. It's real clear that here the people that get the good jobs hit the postdoc running, make a big impact, and then get out while the iron's hot. I?m sure that it?s not fun to be shot a dose of reality, but this is how big-league science is done.

The reality is that all science needs to be done on a time scale, and the system selects the people that can function in that type of environment. It's hard to get a good postdoc if you're a grad student for a long time. It's hard to get a faculty job if you?re a postdoc a long time. It's hard to get an RO1 early in the assistant prof. time if you don't produce results quickly. It?s hard to get young investigator awards if you don?t produce impactful results early in your career. It's hard to get tenure if you don't have one (at least) RO1 funded AND renewed by tenure review time. It's hard to get the RO1 renewed if the work initially proposed doesn't get done within the allotted time frame.

I?m quite aware that lots of people receive little mentoring, and even less career development advice; I think forums like this are quite valuable so that people can learn from other?s experiences. It?s not impossible to have a career and a life, and it?s possible to move ahead on a slightly delayed timescale. But pretending that you can ignore the ?normal? timescale is naïve. I think knowledge is power, and knowing that this is what it takes to get the top jobs can make you more competitive (for even jobs at less intense institutions) by allowing you to match your profile as much as possible to those that are seen as ?good?, or to recognize your own shortcomings (we all have them) and try to diffuse them to strengthening another part of your profile.

While ?The really successful people (like my wife) probably don't waist their time reading and posting on forums!? may be true, even successful people look for advice. Like how about advice on dealing with multiple offers? Or dealing with your PI who wants you in lab, while you?re gone 80% of the time interviewing? Or what do you do when you?ve got offers in front of you, there is pressure to accept one, and the school you really want is moving slow and hasn?t decided yet who they want to interview? What about dealing with insecurities on being successful as an assistant professor? I thought this post was quite nasty, and immature.

The reality is that the competition is fierce. There are quite a number of people at the top, and there are myriad stumbling blocks along the path that quietly chip away at people?s marketability. It?s hard to stay focused and motivated when things get tough and you get little support. This can lead to slacking off and trying to ?find yourself? (I see this all the time). The best thing to do is to recognize this potential pitfall waiting ahead for you, and do your best to cope with the postdoc stress by working even smarter and more focused. I know lots of people who think that being in lab for 100h a week is working hard, and a good thing. Most often they?re not even working. There?s also those who are in lab a lot, and are constantly scurrying around working, but all their work never amounts to anything. They?re almost never actually doing experiments that end up in papers. This is why I try to know what I want to show and then try to show it. I don?t do broad experiments trying to ?try something?.

The best of luck to everyone this hiring season. I?m going to go try and be that ?clever cookie? now :)

The standard time for a postdoc can last till you decide to change careers.

Postby Paul » Tue Feb 22, 2005 8:58 pm

The standard time for a postdoc can last till you decide to change careers. As bad as that sounds, look to the up side, you do have a college degree, and it\'s pretty easy to find someting that pays better than science and only requires a 40-50 hour work week. I do wish that society would quit trying to sucker more kids into the crapy excuse of a career called science.

What is the standard time for a Postdoc?

Postby TF » Wed Feb 23, 2005 9:11 am

I have a question that is based on what I read in Madison's last post. It sounds like Madison is interested in making the transition from academic-postdoc to academic faculty.

So my question is this. If someone wants to move from academic post-doc to industry R&D, is the path taken by madison the same? How important are the hot papers? Is turning out more papers as opposed to a hot paper more important? Is the post-doc path to industry the same as a professorship in academics? It would be great if some people could comment on this.
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From postdoc to R&D?

Postby Emil Chuck » Wed Feb 23, 2005 12:40 pm

I'm going to caveat this hoping that other people on the hiring end know more than I do (because I know they do). My impressions are as follows:

I think publications are important, but you need to have a clear idea of your marketable skills. Your paper demonstrates your competency at those skills as judged by peer review.

I sincerely doubt that the path to an R&D position is the same as the path to a t-t academic position. For one thing, the needs and expectations of the hiring groups (if we can stereotype them) are completely different. From what I know, you have to be more flexible and more accommodating as a manager and a scientist in an "industry" setting, and you probably have better human resource support for improving your position within the company (that is to say, they value who you are).

I don't have ad descriptions on-hand, but I'd say read them when you're not looking for a job and figure out what you need to do to be as strong a candidate as possible for those jobs. Certainly talk to people who work in those industries and who hire people into those positions.
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What is wrong in being postdoc more than n years?

Postby Marco » Wed Feb 23, 2005 7:04 pm

First, I think that postdoctoral employment is not anymore a training as it was before. However, I believe that for most PhDs, the first postdoc is an opportunity to continue growing scientifically and to don?t give up or be disconnected from the world of the research. To be brief, my opinion is that today a postdoc is just a job like any other job. It?s a way of earning a salary, to have health insurance,... by doing science.
So there is no shame to be postdoctoral researcher for more than 5 years. We can take advantage of the postdoc system by having the opportunity to continue to built a package that will allow many of us to get a better position.
Good luck

What is wrong in being postdoc more than n years?

Postby Doug » Wed Feb 23, 2005 9:59 pm

If postdocs paid living wages, it might be able that 5+ year stints would be acceptable/useful. Unfrotunately, most postdocs pay poor salaries, especially relative to industry. On top of that, the longer the postdoc continues, the less credibility the postdoc carries for the job search, since, by definition, a successful postdoc quickly becomes a successful independent researcher, ready to take the responsibilities of running their own lab. You'd be hard-pressed, I think, to find someone you could convince in a job interview that a long-term postdoc was a strategic decision.

So I'm already ruined?

Postby Patrick » Thu Feb 24, 2005 2:07 pm

This subject is near to my heart as I am just about to start a second post-doc after an unhappy and unproductive first. I found myself in a miserable situation working for a PI that I did not get along with personally and fighting against a lab that was run with a strong system of favoritism. I put up with things that I would never let happen if my job and career were not at stake. The level of stress and frustration took a big toll on my mental and physical health. I stuck this out for almost 3 years until we had enough done to publish something. By the time I was done I was ready to quit science and wondered why anyone would put themselves through such hell to make less than people with an associates degree.

After just a few weeks of relief I realized that I was in a very miserable situation and I should not give up my life goals based on one experience. I got myself back together, started applying, going to interviews, and just got accepted for a postdoctoral position at NIH which I start in May.

So here I am with 3 years of post-doc experience and one publication to show on my cv. I am starting a new job with a lot of potential at a good instituation. I feel like a second chance to do the job I used to love.

Then I come here and read the posts. The general theme I pick up is that I'm already screwed and that if you have more than 2-3 years of post-doc you can not get hired in industry or academia no matter how successful I am in my new postion. What is left then? I am qualified only to be a lab tech because my first post-doc did not work out? Maybe I should see if the factory downtown is hiring. After all no sense even bothering trying again if I am already worthless no matter what happens the next few years.

I have a hard time believing the field is so shallow that you get one crack at a single project and that is it. Its hard to believe that I was a promising young scientist just 3 years ago with the respect of a number of other successful scientists and now I have no hope because I am doing a second postdoc. Do the people on this board all speak from hard personal experience or is this a generic rule that is being written into stone? I am very interested in hearing whether people really believe everything being written here.


So I\'m already ruined?

Postby Doug » Thu Feb 24, 2005 2:31 pm

You should certainly take everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) written here with a grain of salt. There are too many variables involved in how a given post is tilted, for instance if someone's ms just got rejected, or someone got turned down for a faculty job and sees nothing but interminable postdocs in their future, obviously they're going to come across as bitter and their advice will have a negative slant. My hunch (distinguish from fisthand experience) is that an unsuccessful postdoc won't be held too strongly against you, provided your second turns out well. My previous post was more in regard to viewing a postdoc as a viable career path or as anything more than a stepping stone. I'd guess that everyone on this forum has a story of someone they know who had a bad postdoc or was even in postdoc hell who turned things around and got a position they ended up happy with.

So I'm already ruined?

Postby Dave Jensen » Thu Feb 24, 2005 2:46 pm

Doug's advice is right on target. Forum discussions, by their nature, slant to the negative. My opinions, posted here freely about postdoc length, are based on my experience -- but there are PLENTY of examples of people who have busted through those "long postdoc" concerns and made a success of themselves (and not just the rare person). It depends a lot on your abilities to "market" yourself when you get out of the postdoc mode. And, if you have an unfortunate first postdoc, followed by a successful second one, most hiring managers (in industry) would give you a break.

You are not already ruined. You are, however, incentivized to really start cranking on that new job.

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