It is important to encourage postdocs to take up development opportunities outside their current research project, by actively suggesting such opportunities to them. Some examples from my own experience supporting postdocs include:
- suggest they dedicate around one day a week to working on career development opportunities and their own projects
- ask them to share with the wider team (i.e. our research Centre of around 35 academics, postdocs and PhD researchers) what extra activities and initiatives they are currently working on, to inspire others
- help those who would like to remain in academia to gain a teaching qualification (Associate Fellow or Fellow of the Higher Education Academy) and provide them opportunities to gain experience in teaching and student supervision
- offer a postdoc to join as a co-supervisor on a PhD project particularly relevant to a postdoc’s methodological and sectoral expertise
Certainly, job security is high on the agenda, so I always look for ways to extend their contracts, as well as encouraging them to apply for funding themselves, with my help in putting together research project costings and proposals, deciphering funders’ guidance, inviting non-academic project partners, and soliciting internal peer-review.
As a result, one of the postdocs I am working with has become a Researcher-CoInvestigator on a successful ESRC project; others have applied to take part in competitive research funding sandpits, and another one has led an application to a Leverhulme Small Grant Scheme as their very first proposal.
Career progression is important, and people often need help with interpreting promotion criteria, and here I draw on my experience serving on promotion committees as well as on many recruitment panels for both academic and research roles.
The most senior postdoc I am working with is currently applying for promotion to Research Fellow, and we have crafted it together to make sure it is as strong as possible. The three other postdocs are not applying for promotion this year, but we have nonetheless started putting together their promotion applications as a developmental exercise.