Erez Mills

The first tip for a successful postdoc: Be proactive
 
One day, according to the story, half-a-dozen female postdoctoral fellows came into Barbara McClintock’s office. They told her that they thought the department head was discriminating against them, as all nine postdocs to receive a teaching post were male even though the department had more female postdocs than males. As teaching experience was considered advantageous for job applications, they felt that they were being treated unfairly. McClintock immediately went to the office of the department head to confront him about the matter. He then told her that all nine male postdocs had come to his office and personally requested a teaching post, while none of the women did. It soon became clear that the women were waiting for a public announcement asking for volunteers for a teaching post, whereas these nine men actively sought the posts.
 
This story indicates the importance of being proactive.
 
Many postdocs go through their postdoctoral experience with the notion that they will land a position in academia or industry solely through hard work on the bench. However, except for the most gifted or lucky, this is generally untrue. Good planning and being proactive will increase your chances immensely. For example, if your dream is to work in company X, it might work better to pay company X a visit and ask what they require from prospective applicants before the beginning of your postdoctoral research. They might tell you the specific techniques they frequently use, and if they favor hiring people who are experienced with at least some of them. Armed with this knowledge an individual can steer his postdoctoral experience to make him better suited for future positions in that company. Networking with people who work in prospective companies and academic departments could also give you an advantage.
 
Allocate at least 5% of your time to collecting information regarding your future and for planning that future. Importantly, see that the 95% of your time that is invested in science is invested wisely, in a way that will bring you closer to your goals.
 
BioAbroad membership is one of the tools in your disposal for information gathering and networking. Through the arranged meetings and workshops and through the BioAbroad site and newsletter you can gather more information to help you pick the right goals and make the right decisions. 
 
Erez Mills, Microbiologist, is currently a postdoc at the University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Erez is also the BioAbroad regional manager in Seattle.