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Getting the Most Out of Your Postdoc

At the UW and the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, we are committed to you getting the most out of your postdoc experience here. There are a few national policies and high-level recommendations that can be useful if you need leverage to ask for time from your faculty advisor, or to step out at take risks, or to start exploring career pathways. There are many more, which we highlight in our Postdoc Handbook. Just to get started, here are a few based on work from entities including the NIH, NSF, National Postdoctoral Association, and others.

  • National Definition of a Postdoc
    • The NIH, NSF, and National Academies of Science have adopted a consistent definition. A postdoctoral fellow (postdoc) is “an individual who has received a doctoral degree and is engaged in a temporary and defined period of mentored advanced training to enhance the professional skills and research independence needed to pursue his or her chosen career path.”
  • Dual Role of Postdoc
    • The federal Office of Management and Budget states that postdocs have a “dual role” as both an employee and a trainee entitled to reasonable release time for professional development while on federal research grants. Professional development can include travel to conferences, networking or informational interviews, attending workshops, volunteer or service opportunities, and teaching opportunities.
  • 5 year term limits
    • Based on federal recommendations, postdocs should be limited to a five year term limit across several employment titles. The focus here is for you to make the most of your time in your postdoc and then to launch into the job or career you are ready to have!
  • Annual reviews and IDP requirements
    • Individual Development Plans (IDPs) are required for NIH supported postdocs and recommended along with annual evaluations for all postdocs as important mechanisms to encourage constructive feedback for postdocs, clarify responsibilities and expectations, record accomplishments and performance, and establish future goals for career growth and development.