Hello there bloggies! Welcome to Trainee Tuesday!

Usually, on Trainee Tuesday, I talk about things I have experienced myself as a trainee. That is no different today as I want to talk about something I’m struggling with now just over a year into my postdoctoral fellowship. When should I look for my next job?

It was far easier to answer this question as a PhD student. I had gotten permission to write my thesis in May 2013 with an eye on May 2014 to graduate. Not only did I begin writing my dissertation straight away, but I also started preparing my CV/reference letters/cover letters and started my job search. My advisor knew I would obviously been looking for a new job since I was graduating and was fully supportive.

This timeline worked out perfectly. I was able to identify labs I was interested in joining and to get my networking on during fall conferences. My interviews and visits took place during the holidays/early winter, and I had a position by February. There was no scrambling, and I felt as if I had enough time to examine all of my options.

Now, I have just finished the first year of my postdoctoral fellowship. I work for a great PI and for a talented group. However, as I’ve documented before, I have decided to not continue in academic research as a PI. My thought is to move forward with a position in science writing, editing, communication, or other related field. My PI is well-aware that I am likely to leave academia and not be a PI. We had that lovely discussion a few months back, and he has been very supportive in my thought process.

Despite this positivity, I am still unsure how to move forward, particularly with the timing of my job search. Unlike my PhD, there is no definite end of my fellowship. I have a renewal until summer of next year, but that is not a firm, fixed end date. I also don’t think it is necessarily best for me and my career to stay in this fellowship until next year. I think that it is more important to start making the transition out of academic research and into my new area. So, in that vein, I have started scouting out job listings, probing around my network some, polishing my CV, and drafting cover letters. I want to prepared to go hard when I make the ultimate decision to go for a new position.

However, there is still a bit of lingering doubt of when I should start applying for positions. What obligations do I have to my current lab? Do I have to “fulfill” my contract? Or am I free to go whenever I find out what the next step is? I know what the answer is in industry and the real world, but the answer in academia seems to be governed by a different set of rules. Not only that, when should I tell my PI about this job search? Should I mention it early on? I don’t feel like that’s the answer. Or should I wait until I start getting offers and interviews? What if potential employers ask for reference letters from my current PI? I feel like there is a lot of delicate maneuvering that will be involved.

Thank you for stopping by this edition of Trainee Tuesday! Have you made the transition out of a postdoc to a new position? How did you handle the process? Let me know in the comments below or on twitter @DrFsThoughts. I’ll be sure to keep you all updated here as I move forward in the journey for my next step.

See you all later!

-Dr. F

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