Postdoctoral Fellowship Challenges

Postdoctoral Fellowship Challenges

Linda T. Elkins-Tanton
November 7, 2011

To kick off the first Postdoctoral Fellow Workshop at DTM, Linda T. Elkins-Tanton, DTM Director, provided her own Postdoctoral perspective and the challenges she faced in her career. The goal of this workshop is to help postdocs understand she has experienced what they are going through and she would like to help strengthen their prospects as they search jobs by providing them real life advice for their futures.

Her suggestions were first, to practice your talks. Every talk you give is a job talk, whether in a long format, a conference discussion, or an elevator pitch. The more you practice your talk, the more it will feel natural and easier for your audience to become more involved in. Second, share your successful proposals. Find what people are looking for and make sure your proposal fulfills every requirement necessary to get your proposal granted. Her final suggestion was do not limit your connections and interactions to people only within your field. Connect and talk one-on-one with people outside your field because they will all have a vote on you being hired.

Here is a list of pointers everyone gave to the group:

  • Read this: Chronicle of Higher Education: The Chronicle of Higher Education is a newspaper and website that presents news, information, and jobs for college and university faculty, staff members and administrators. Can post advice or read other’s advice on their blog.
  • Rick Carlson: Maintain visibility through meetings, papers, etc. Do good science and present good science. You have two years – take advantage and give public presentations of your data. Budget for meetings.
  • Cecily Wolfe: That advice is applicable to every stage of your career.
  • Linda Elkins-Tanton: Do really good science and take it to the world. Foster your relationship with your mentor and science advisor.
  • Christopher Stark: You’ll need this type of training continuously as postdocs come and go.
  • Susan Benecchi: At the Planetary Science Institute, you can volunteer to read proposals that have nothing to do with what you study. Good to see what makes a proposal work.
  • Eloise Gaillou: Can we put a proposal on line. Share information.          Need a template.
  • Linda Elkins-Tanton: I can share my first unsuccessful proposal and my 2nd successful one.
  • Rick Carlson: Being on a panel taught me to see what is a good proposal. Top 5% of submitted proposals are really good, a big chunk are average.
  • Christopher Stark: How do you take a good proposal to a successful proposal?
  • Rick Carlson: Within the first paragraph more than 5 people know why this is very important. Why it addresses a bigger issue.
  • Cecily Wolfe: Few proposals are outstanding. The middle depends on the panel.
  • Steve Shirey: What kind of reviews did they get?
  • Alexander Peeters: DPS had mock panel, gave them old proposals to read through and judge them and then they are told what the outcome was for those proposals.
  • More Advice: When you are to give a talk at a university, or go for an interview, go to their web page and see their CVs, know everything you can about where you are going and whom you will meet.
  • Steve Shirey: Think of it as entering an academic family and becoming a sibling.
  • Alan Linde: Ask your fellow staff members for time to listen to your talks. Know that the criticism, which could be harsh, is instructive and accept it in the spirit in which it is given.
  • Linda Elkins-Tanton: Meeting in a week or two to discuss what gives a good talk, how to speak to authority, how to handle questions, how to handle aggressive questions, how to handle yourself when you don’t know the answer. Practice all of that. Schedule practice time. 
  • Susan Benecchi: Alycia Weinberger has a link on her web site on how to prepare for a talk. (How to Give a Good Talk by Alycia Weinberger)
  • Alexander Peeters: In the Cosmochemistry group, everyone gives practice talks before an upcoming meeting.
  • Alan Linde: Advised Postdocs to mentor an intern.