Mutual benefits of unlocking postdoc career potential

Session details

Date: 29 October 2020

Session speakers

  • Prof Rachel Williams (Eye and Vision Science) HLS, University of Liverpool
  • Prof Simon Maskell (Engineering) FSE, University of Liverpool
  • Prof Simeon Yates (Communication and Media) HSS, University of Liverpool

Session overview

  • Hear from managers of researchers about the mutual benefits of unlocking postdoc career potential
  • Identify shared learnings and topics for future discussions.

Session recordings

Shared learnings

Discussing careers

Careful balance needs to be found between having an open discussion about career options, and not cruelly shattering the postdoc’s aspiration to remain within academia. These discussions should be part of on-going career discussions, not just suddenly dropped into a PDR meeting, for example.

The case studies on the Prosper portal are useful to highlight the range of careers available and that their skills are valued in a variety of professions and sectors.

Academic aspirations

There were mixed views on whether or not as a PI you can judge whether a particular postdoc will become an independent academic - and if such a judgement is appropriate.

Competition for fellowship funding is such that a strong-looking CV doesn’t do much to differentiate candidates, thus being ‘good’ may not equal a career as an independent academic.

Broadening careers discussion

A suggested conversational direction was to find out what it is that the postdoc thinks they want. This can broaden the conversation out from the desire of wanting to be an academic.

Making postdocs also think about the broader transferrable skills they have (not just those directly linked to their research) also helps. Highlighting these skills can also reduce postdoc's fears of ‘nothing I do translates into an actual job’.

The sharing of career stories beyond academia was seen as useful for postdocs and PIs alike.

Opportunities for independence

Supporting postdocs to take opportunities to display ‘drive’ and show independence were raised as useful whatever the eventual career.

Confidence was also mentioned as a key determiner of success both within and beyond academia.

Internal secondments were suggested as a good way for postdocs to get a feel for other career options.

Possible topics for future discussions

  • How to plan and conduct tricky conversations with postdocs
  • Specific training on how to have these conversations
  • Entrepreneurship.
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