Sunday, April 28, 2013

Applying for post-docs

Several notices about post doc fellowship applications have landed in my email inbox this week. Deadlines are looming. Those of you still searching for employment for the coming school year might be thinking about applying for a post doc. It seems to me, although I have no data to back it up, that there are a lot more post docs for philosophers out there these days, especially if you're willing and able to leave the country for a few years.

I had a post doc research fellowship that started the summer after I graduated. I firmly believe it made a huge difference for my job prospects, for several reasons:

1) I went to a good, but not great, not Leiterrific grad school (ranked in my AOS, but just outside the top 20). My post doc gave me a modest pedigree. 
2) My grad program wasn't so hot on mentoring. My post doc PI was awesome as a mentor, and took that role very seriously.
3) The post doc was pretty demanding about publications, so I went from 0 to 8+ during my two years. Add to that good mentoring about publishing, conferences, etc. That aspect of it was invaluable, and not something that I, realistically, could have done on my own.
4) Although mine was a research fellowship, in my second year I was asked to teach a grad course as a sabbatical replacement, which enhanced my teaching portfolio (which had previously been a lot of undergrad courses).
5) I had really good, multidisciplinary networking opportunities (funding for conferences, lots of interesting people at the university, etc.), and had excellent colleagues who are now lasting friends and collaborators. Of all the jobs I've had, my post doc was the Best. Job. Ever.

On the down side, the post doc meant packing up my family and relocating for two years, and then doing it all over again when the post doc ended. The payoff was that I did dramatically better in my final year on the market than in my first two years, and I landed a TT job, and I think that's largely attributable to my post doc experience. An unforeseen side effect of the post doc: I always saw myself teaching at a SLAC, but I never had a single interview with a SLAC. Only research schools seemed to be interested, and I suspect that was a consequence of having had a research fellowship. I can't speak to how teaching fellowships might affect one's profile.

Needless to say, I endorse post docs as a career enhancement, but also as a paying job that serves as a useful bridge between grad school and a permanent job. Some of the postings I've seen this year actually pay very well (one in Australia was over $90K, one at a state school in the US was $65K -- those are both well above starting salaries for assistant profs). It's possible to go from one post doc to another, although some have time limits (5 years post degree is typical).

Applying for research fellowships is not very different than applying for a TT job. The dossier is typically pretty similar, although you may be asked to specifically address how your research will be furthered by the faculty at the host institution. You may also be required to have a research agenda that's defined by the fellowship or the funding grant. References, writing sample, CV, cover letter.

If you have questions about applying, or about post docs in general, ask 'em. If you have advice about post docs -- post it.



Anonymous said...

I completed a post-doc and it was a great experience. A sub-par school in Wisconsin wanted to hire me as a VAP for sub-par wages. The post-doc saved me. Still, I heard of post-doc abuses. One was a research center in Ohio that made it a condition for completing a post-doc that the person not teach. By the time my friend did two years there he had no teaching experience and thus no job. He had to leave academe for a job in industry. Another story is of a well known (say UC) school in Los Angeles that hired a post-doc out of a competitive pool, but she had not completed her Ph.D. She promised to finish it before starting the post-doc, but didn't. The director of the post-doc program let her complete the post-doc without a doctorate. My guess is that the director never took a class in logic. So all the rejected candidates with doctorates had to go look for pre-doctoral fellowships.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have an educated guess about how many more postdocs might be advertised in the coming month or two? I thought we'd passed the point where the vast majority of the postdocs available for this year would have advertised, but maybe (hopefully) I'm wrong?

Anonymous said...

Can somebody please tell readers where these postdocs are announced? I use PhilJobs as a source of information but do not see any postdoc announcement over there. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

12:00 PM. Many postdoc positions in Europe aren't widely circulated or advertised, but filled through a competitive, bottom-up procedure. Such postdocs offer attractive salaries (at least assistant professor level), healthcare and retirement plan, are for several years (usually up to 3), and non-renewable. You need to take up contact with people from philosophy departments in the place you want to do your postdoc, and they can direct you to research facilitators etc to make it happen. Chances of success are typically low (5-10%), and you need to write an original research project:
- British academy postdoctoral fellowships: (you need to be an EU citizen OR have your PhD at a British institution)
- Marie Curie Intra-European research fellowships for career development (you need to be an EU citizen):
- NWO veni (Netherlands) - I think all nationalities can apply, but I am not sure.
- Humboldt postdoc grant (Germany) - all nationalities can apply, but only if you've not been associated with a German institution

zombie said...

In bioethics, ASBH and AJOB list postdocs.

Philos-l listserv:

philosop listserv:(

higheredjobs lists US postdocs

As noted above, postdocs are more abundant in Europe than in the US. Also more abundant in Canada. I think they are a growing trend in the US. Here's one in Michigan that pays extremely well: