Postdocs Timeline

Postdoc programs differ in length, so you may want to tailor this timeline to your particular circumstances. The timeline here has ideas both for postdocs who are seeking academic careers and for those pursuing positions outside academia, such as in industry, government, or with nonprofits. If you are not sure which kind of career you want, consider talking with your PI or the Director of Postdoctoral Studies.If you are considering both types of careers, it’s best to start your search for an academic position first, because that process takes longer and is less flexible.

While you are working as a postdoc

For postdocs pursuing careers both in academia and outside academia, consider making the following moves:

  • Ask your PI or the Director of Postdoctoral Studies for advice on searching for jobs in your field; discuss your career goals with your advisor and how to create a strategy to prepare for that career.
  • Talk with the Director of Postdoctoral Studies to help you do a self-assessment of your skills and to explore options in your field.
  • Network by attending professional meetings and presentations in your field; introduce yourself to the speakers.
  • Attend departmental speaker series to network with the speakers and other attendees.
  • Pursue opportunities for conducting additional research on teams or with other professors.
  • Start thinking about your job-application materials (CV/resume, teaching statement, research statement, presentation, references, etc.).

Especially if you are pursuing academic positions:

  • Consider whether you want to conduct research, teach, or both? (To find out the different emphases on research and teaching of U.S. universities, see If you aren’t sure, look for opportunities to explore each pursuit.
  • Develop a curriculum vita and have it critiqued by faculty in your department or the Director of Postdoctoral Studies.
  • Talk with your PI to learn more about academic positions.
  • Pursue opportunities to teach and design courses.
  • Submit articles for publication.
  • Participate in hiring for faculty positions in your department and attend their presentations.
  • Prepare and practice presentations for on-campus interviews. Make your presentation distinctive, interesting, and understandable. Research the universities where you will be interviewing so you can ask good questions. Send thank you notes after each interview.
  • Review the literature in your field to prepare for questions and discussions while interviewing.

Especially if you are seeking positions outside academia:

  • Research positions in industry and government for people with your academic preparation; speak with alumni of your academic program and research companies through their websites.
  • Attend programs on resume writing, interviewing skills, business etiquette, and job search strategies; and conduct a mock interview.
  • Develop both a CV and a resume and learn when to use each. Have both critiqued by faculty in your department or the Director of Postdoctoral Studies.
  • Develop a teaching portfolio that includes syllabi, exam questions, and paper assignments, as well as student evaluations.
  • Network with people familiar with employers that interest you. Build networks within your department, with alumni, and with other colleagues; seek faculty contacts who have connections in industry.
  • Pursue opportunities to conduct research relevant to the work you hope to do; find opportunities either on teams or with other professors.
  • Network by attending career fairs at professional meetings; present your work at  conferences.
  • Research job leads to learn more about available positions.
  • Do a mock interview with the Director of Postdoctoral Studies to get feedback.
  • Take course work in other areas to expand your marketability, such as in finance, entrepreneurship, and management (as a postdoc associate you can take one course per semester).
  • Seek experience overseeing undergraduate as well as graduate research in your lab.

When you are ready to apply

  • Alert networks that you are seeking employment and when you will be available. Identify potential opportunities through alumni networks and professional organizations.
  • Apply for positions; check that your applications have been received. Look at online job listings posted by professional associations and in journals. Consult the Chronicle of Higher Education for academic positions. Submit applications for conference interviews. Follow up promising conference interviews by keeping in touch with the interviewers.
  • After you accept a position, thank everyone who helped you.
  • Contact people you have networked with previously to tell them you are now seeking a job; send them an updated resume and CV.
  • Attend career fairs; distribute your resume and CV to employers there. Follow up by sending a letter and your resume or CV.