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How to start, maintain and motivate a cohort 

Here we offer practical suggestions on how you can get your cohort off to a good start and keep that momentum going. You’ll encourage engagement by building a supportive peer community around career development, through things such as running a buddy scheme or holding social sessions. 

Starting well 

  • Get the cohort introduced to each other as early as possible. You could do this in person or virtually. Create a virtual messaging board or space for the cohort to give mini-virtual introductions to each other. You could use a virtual platform such as Padlet or Mural for example (we used Mural). See onboarding a cohort for more details. 
  • Support communication within the cohort by setting up an instant messaging group or workspace for your cohort postdocs to message each other. See onboarding a cohort for more details. 
  • Facilitate sharing of collective cohort concerns by asking the cohort what concerns they have as they embark on their career development. Sharing the responses anonymously can help the cohort see they aren’t alone in their apprehension, and it will help you to address it. This can form part of your on-boarding process. Download an example of a resource created after holding an induction section here.
  • Encourage a sense of community by grouping postdocs together to meet in a buddy scheme. Meeting in small, informal groups can help support accountability as well as building social links. See the how to run a buddy scheme for details.

Maintaining engagement 

  • Communicate regularly with your cohort. You may wish to communicate with your cohort via regular email updates. We found direct email was the postdocs preferred method of communication. We ultimately sent emails to cohort participants approximately every two weeks; one at the start of a month and one mid-way through. In these emails you might like to include upcoming events, past events the postdocs may like to revisit or catch-up on, buddy group prompt questions, a reflective journal prompt for the month and any other feedback prompt or other reminder. For more details see How to run a cohort practical and logistical considerations
  • Communicate with stakeholders that support your cohort. You may wish to keep the PIs/managers of researchers informed via email of what their postdocs are doing on the cohort. 
  • Prompt your cohort to continue to communicate with each other. Remind your cohort to use the available communication channel/s to consult their peers to support their own career development. If you’ve chosen to use an instant messaging channel you could periodically post a question to promote discussion.   
  • Revisit cohort shared concerns periodically or at the midpoint of your cohort. You could re-present them with the initial concerns they raised, you could ask which, if any, of these were still significant concerns for them. You could enquire about what their topmost concern now is. Again, doing this helps the postdocs see that others share the same concerns and helps you address them. 
  • Run social sessions as part of your career development offering. Social sessions can be an effective way to get postdocs to interact and foster a sense of community around career development. See how to run social sessions for more details. 


  • Provide an easy route for cohort members to communicate with each other. 
  • Prompt participants to communicate with each other periodically. 
  • Find out and address the main shared concerns your cohort has throughout their career development journey. 
  • Encourage social interactions within the cohort through social sessions and buddy schemes. 
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