Postdoc – UW Graduate School Skip to content

Postdocs, we are in this together.

As we have entered the virtual Spring Quarter, it is important to acknowledge that this is an unprecedented time for all of us, especially you, postdocs, given how our world has changed dramatically in the face of COVID-19. We are advised by the governor to stay home and stay healthy, but we need adaptation and reconfiguration to continue playing the roles of effective researcher, trainee, and teacher in academia. At the same time, these changes have impacted how we normally operate and make plans, which could result in additional stress and anxiety. Please trust that you are not alone if you are experiencing feelings of isolation, job and financial insecurity, the stress of balancing work and family, and general information overload. Here, we offer some strategies in the hope of supporting you during these challenging times. 

Adjust and adapt. When the normal daily routine gets disrupted, we can take some time to plan for a new routine. Daily, most of us are used to going to the lab, commuting to the office, or meeting friends and colleagues for coffee or lunch. Now, we are working from home, reducing the time outside to a minimum, setting new expectations with PIs, and making new plans for research progress. Most likely, we also need to attend to the family’s needs in the midst of finding a new healthy ‘work-life continuum.’ This is overwhelming, but now, you must adapt. Remember, focus on the things you can control. There are things FOR EVERYONE that you can’t control or predict. It is normal to fear for the unknown and get stuck with negative feelings. The truth is, everyone is worried about similar things to you; for example, falling behind in your previously planned research schedule and being not as productive as expected. Please make new plans, carve out work hours, and separate designated workspace from personal space, if possible. Check out the guidance from the UW Office of Research on mitigating the impact to research during this time. Most importantly, be flexible – with yourself and others. Everyone is doing the best they can. 

Take care of yourself. It seems the world has stopped functioning when every trip we take has to be “essential” to our lives. Without being overwhelmed by what we can’t do, think of all the things we can do and enjoy: Taking a nap, reading a book for fun, going for a walk, trying out a new recipe, practicing yoga and meditation, setting up a karaoke station, zoom/Facetime with family and friends, cleaning and organizing. Now can be a great time for reflection, re-assessment, and reorientation – things that should be done regularly but often aren’t prioritized in our regular workdays. Please be mindful of your feelings; ask yourself: am I feeling disappointed, overwhelmed, sad, or worried? Recognize these feelings, and don’t judge them. Check out some ways to help you mitigate the impact of stress and 21 self-care resources

Stay connected. Please take our advice to remain physically distanced, but socially close. You are not alone during this time. Stay connected with your family, friends, colleagues, university offices, professional societies, and groups on social media. If you are experiencing information overload on social media, take a break from your electronic device. There are national resources you can reach out to, such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP(4357) and teletherapy through HIPAA compliant means. We, your UW postdoctoral community, are here to support you through online channels: reach out to the OPAUWPA, and PDA whenever you need it. 

At the OPA, we recognize this is a challenging time, but also one for new opportunities. We are working diligently to continue providing professional development opportunities via online format to our postdocs. As we work together, please reach out to us if we can be of support and assistance. 

Additional resources: 

Pursuing passion projects: One way to make the most out of postdoc training

In the December 2019 newsletter, we shared why and how we can pursue our passions. Here, we introduce one way of pursing your passion without burning you out – through passion projects.

Passion projects refer to projects that you pursue, typically in your spare time, to enrich your life. There are many reasons to start a passion project during postdoctoral training. You can utilize passion projects to learn or enhance certain skills (see 7 essential skills that recruiters are looking for in PhDs), apply your strengths and/or talents (for example, your current research project might not require you to dance, but you are a great dancer), or to establish new skills and experiences as you set out on a new or different career path (see story about Postdoc Brewing Company). Ultimately, passion projects help to keep you motivated. If you didn’t have an opportunity to pursue passion projects while in graduate school, now it’s a great time to start. Here is some advice as you explore your passion.

  • Passion projects need to be time-bound.

Research projects tend to take a long time. As postdocs, you shouldn’t take on a passion project as a second job. Once you identify something you’re interested in, these short-term projects need to be much less time demanding, with a defined start and end date. Besides, you will experience gratification by accomplishing your goal sooner. For example, if you are interested in strengthening your Python coding skills, enrolling in an online course or following a YouTube channel with a structured course can be time-bound options.

  • Passion projects encourage collaboration with people outside your area of expertise.

It’s easy to spend all your time with your lab mates during work hours and your family or friends during spare time. Try starting a passion project with people outside of your normal circle, such as colleagues from a different lab or outside of academia entirely. Consider meeting some fellow postdocs from your postdoc association (reach out to UW Postdoc Association) – this is a wonderfully supportive community, and you have more in common than you think!

  • Passion projects expand your network.

Networking is very important in the job search process. In support of your long term success, it is helpful to start networking early. Passion projects provide opportunities for you to connect with people outside of your normal network. Stay in touch with the people you meet in the process, and reach out for an informational interview if you are interested in learning more about their different career paths and life decisions. Finally, pursue your passion projects intentionally to help you transition throughout your career. Passion projects may not be related to your current research interests, but you are sure to learn something new. Importantly, keep a record of challenges you faced and the solutions that supported your success. You will find countless opportunities to apply these skills and lived-experiences later in your career and life. Dr. Dan Moseson, a member of Graduate Career Consortium, shared his insights about pursuing passion projects on Inside Higher Ed. This might inspire you to initiate or collaborate on a passion project soon, “Being an academic made me a better DJ, and being a DJ showed me a fluid, improvisational side of myself that seems to be the source of my best professional work.”

Additional Resources: 

Enrich your portfolio through conferences

Since spring 2016, the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs has supported the professional and career development needs of postdocs towards independence through quarterly travel grants. To date, we have funded 66 postdocs to travel to regional, national and international conferences. Travel grant recipients kindly shared their conference experiences, and we are highlighting several of them here. We encourage you to check out what your fellow postdocs’ experiences have been and think about how attending academic and professional conferences can enrich your portfolio and move you one step closer to your career goals. Conferences not only provide you with an opportunity to get feedback on your work or to be inspired by others’ work, but also to network and build meaningful relationships that might lead to new collaborations or a future job.

During the meeting, I was able to meet with co-authors to discuss plans for a manuscript on continuation of the work I presented. Additionally, I am starting a position as a postdoctoral fellow in the Research School of Earth Sciences at the Australian National University later this year and was able to meet with my future supervisor and colleagues about my new role and research plans. It was a very productive meeting for me.”
– Pamela M Barrett, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Fall 2017 Postdoc Travel Award Winner

It was a truly wonderful professional opportunity to be able to attend this meeting. I also had the opportunity to discuss ongoing work with two collaborators who were also at the meeting. In particular we started exploring a promising idea to tackle an obstacle we have been facing in our project, something which was much easier to do in person!
– Mariana Smit Vega Garcia, Mathematics, Winter 2018 Postdoc Travel Award Winner

Perhaps most importantly, attendances of this small conference were also afforded with ample opportunities to network with one another. I met many leading psychologists and early career researchers who gave me advice on the upcoming job market season. Although the idea of going on the academic job market is terrifying, I am heartened and encouraged by the support network I have developed in this conference.”
– Jin Xun Goh, Psychology, Spring 2018 Postdoc Travel Award Winner

My original work was well received by the international community and more importantly, I left with a sense of reassurance that my research approach and results will help further the field of microbial proteomics. The conference provided a great platform to network with other early career scientists as well as facilitated meaningful discussions with professors. I met several young professors from smaller institutions in the US who provided encouragement and mentorship and I also made connections to professors at international institutions who introduced me to several early career funding opportunities abroad targeted towards future leaders in environmental science.”
– Rachel Lundeen, Oceanography, Spring 2018 Postdoc Travel Award Winner

As an early-career member of the society’s Council, I attended council and business meetings, which afforded a view into the inner workings of running a society and planning a large international conference. I would love to help shape the future of this society and take a part in modernizing its web and social media presence. To this end, I am running for Secretary of the society and my candidacy was announced on the last day of the conference.”
– Gabriella H Wolff, Biology, Spring 2018 Postdoc Travel Award Winner

Another great benefit I received during the meeting was to meet several senior researchers and discuss my future research plan, as well as my plan of applying for a faculty position. I contacted them by email before the meeting started. I was able to meet with the people I contacted while I was at the meeting. The feedback I received from them help me plan for my job application.”
– Ping Chao Mamiya, Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, Summer 2018 Postdoc Travel Award Winner

We appreciate past postdoc travel award winners sharing their insights, and highly encourage you to visit our website and learn more about the Postdoc Travel Grants. We look forward to receiving your applications and please send any questions you may have to

Expand your skill set – or just have fun!

As UW postdocs, you are eligible to take classes at the UW. This can be a great way to expand your skills or knowledge base, explore a new discipline or research method, or just take a course of personal interest to you. We often talk about “making the most of your postdoc experience” while here at the UW. The rich array of courses offered here is one such way to accomplish this objective. Take a look at your IDP (you review yours regularly, right?). Do you have research goals, career goals or personal goals that would benefit from a class? UW employees are eligible for up to six credits of tuition-free courses per quarter, though some Schools and Colleges do not accept tuition waivers. While you already have an advanced degree and may not even need these courses to be included on your transcript, some course instructors prefer to have you registered in the course so they can expect full participation. Reach out to faculty who are teaching classes you are interested in and ask them if they are open to you auditing, sitting in or registering for the class. 

If you are registering, here are the steps:

  • Apply for non-matriculated student status. Active student status is required for you to register for courses. To apply to be a first-time or returning non-matriculated (not seeking a degree) student under the tuition exemption program, complete the online Non-Matriculated Application For Tuition Exemption. This application requires payment of a $80 non-refundable application fee.
  • Complete a tuition exemption form online.
  • Enroll through MyUW. If you are using tuition exemption, you will not be able to enroll until three days into the quarter. Always communicate with the faculty early if you are interested in a course. 

For J-1 scholars, you need to inquire with the International Scholars Operations (ISO) regarding the possibility of receiving credits for classes. As long as registering for classes doesn’t interfere with your exchange program requirement, it is possible. J-1 postdocs have successfully signed up for one to two credits in the past, but it’s on a case-by-case basis. Since as a J-1 scholar you are working full-time to satisfy your requirements, taking more credits can be difficult. You should also work with your home department HR to determine your tuition waiver benefits. H1-B visa holders do not have such restrictions on taking classes.

You can always track classes you have audited, or trainings you’ve taken at conferences (like pre-courses) in your “Further Education and Training” section in your resume or CV.  The OPA thanks Postdoc Fellow Dr. Shiyun Cao for sharing these steps with us to pass along to other postdocs.

Postdoc Well-being

As postdocs, you are much more than just researchers, scholars and scientists. You are whole people, with families, personal commitments and a full spectrum of interests. The academy sometimes focuses on your intellectual contributions alone. Evidence now shows we do our best work if we have plenty of sleep, connect with others and have breaks for play and other “offline” activities to reset our minds.

The January 2019 issue of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s publication, ASBMB Today, is dedicated to Wellness. Several authors wrote in their tips for maintaining wholeness while doing the challenging work of being a postdoc. Take stock of where you are now. According to the Gallup Wellbeing to Work scales, feeling solid in these five domains can make a difference to your work productivity (For a well-written explanation and example of this, read Craig, 2019, Finding the help you need):

  • Purpose well-being: Liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals
  • Social well-being: Having strong and supportive relationships and love in your life
  • Financial well-being: Effectively managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security
  • Community well-being: The sense of engagement you have with the areas where you live, liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community
  • Physical well-being: Having good health and enough energy to get things done on a daily basis

For you as post-docs, it may be very difficult to feel solid in most of these categories without considerable effort. And your feelings about these categories may change day-to-day. At the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, we recommend reaching out, finding people around you (in or out of the UW) who have shared interests, and putting YOURSELF on your calendar each day, even for 30 minutes.

Our OPA team contributed to a piece on holistic mentoring to the ASBMB Wellness issue. The piece includes a guide to asking expansive questions; Given the roles you play as mentors to students and others around you, you may find this helpful. Let us know what you think — we welcome your feedback!

In the meantime, it is 2020 National Mentoring Month, so take a moment to thank someone who has been a mentor to you over the past few years. We certainly recognize you and the valuable role you play as mentors at UW and beyond, and we thank you. Even as you are serving others, you must continue to take care of yourselves. 

Postdocs, Take Stock of Your Skills!

As the season turns to fall, it’s a good reminder to check in with how your career preparation is going. In past newsletters, we have shared tips and resources about career exploration, self-assessments, informational interviews, assessing readiness for academic careers and other elements that are so essential to the career preparation process. Regardless of your next job, it can help you to spend time reflecting on skills, competencies and unique strengths you’ve developed through graduate school and during your postdoc fellowship training.

You have developed skills that are valuable to your next employer, whether you are going into an academic career or seeking a position in other sectors. And you have developed skills and strengths whether you know it or not! It can help in your process, particularly if you are experiencing self-doubt or imposter syndrome when it comes to the job search (we all experience this!), to have a former co-worker or current team member give you feedback on what they see as your unique strengths and contributions to the team. Here are just a few examples of how accomplishments that may feel routine as part of your extensive training really are giving you great skills:

Completion of your Ph.D. or a postdoc project requires you to become skilled in project management, leadership and organizational skills. You are responsible for setting and meeting deadlines, reporting on results to your PI and mentors and building new collaborations as your project evolves and new questions arise. It’s also likely you’ve organized a department speaker series, hosted an outside speaker or helped to organize a conference. These activities reflect a range of skills that many positions in diverse sectors will appreciate.

You are comfortable presenting your work, which is likely very complex and technical, to a variety of audiences. Through your training, you’ve learned to ‘read the room’ and present your ideas at an appropriate level. In a research group meeting, you can be very technical. Conversely, when describing your work to your family and friends, you likely use more generalities. You’ve learned to use the power of persuasion to convince funding agencies to support your work, for your committee to move you towards graduation, to set strategic visions for your project and to motivate other team members. These skills are invaluable both inside and outside of the academy.

You have learned to make progress even when not all of the information is known. The most exciting projects are the ones with outcomes that are unknown but once figured out, lead to new questions and avenues to explore. This requires comfort with ambiguity: the definition of a graduate and postdoc experience. Often times, the whole picture is unknown when you start a project, but you figure it out as you go along. Your ability to think on your feet, to manage stress, and to tolerate change is remarkable and should be highlighted.

A more expansive list of skills and competencies can be found here: (1) Professional Skills and Competency Checklist, (2) Core Competencies Self-Assessment Checklist, (3) UW OPA blog on transferable skills. By reviewing these common capabilities upon which employers evaluate applications, you can determine which skills you have already developed, and more importantly, identify those that need further attention before you feel fully qualified for a job. Also, remember that if a posting matches your skills by roughly 75 percent, it’s a good idea to go ahead and apply (see The Muse). Employers often identify all the traits an ideal candidate will have; however, most don’t fit the bill 100 percent. If you’re close, go ahead and apply! You are ready for your next professional adventure.

Postdocs, Start on the Right Foot at UW!

The OPA had the pleasure of welcoming a group of new postdocs to the UW at our orientation on September 20, 2018. It was great to spend time with everyone at both the orientation and professional development sessions, as well as the Taco Bar to celebrate National Postdoc Appreciation Week. We truly value your role at the UW and want to help you achieve your professional and personal goals as you move toward an independent career.

For those who could not attend, or have maybe been at the UW for a bit but still have questions about resources and opportunities, we share some highlights of the resources and career development thoughts here:

  • The mission of the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPA) is to holistically support postdocs throughout the UW. Our website provides resources for all aspects of your professional development: career exploration, skill building, writing productivity, grant writing, mentoring and support networks. In addition, you can schedule an appointment for a one-on-one discussion of your pathway to independence, strategies for managing conflict and career exploration.
  • The UW Postdoc Association (UWPA) works to establish and support a committed network of UW postdocs and provide professional support (e.g. career seminars, research symposium). The UWPA works to support postdoc parents with an innovative Postdoc Parent Group! Postdoc leaders are creating opportunities to improve postdoc experience at the UW.
  • A newly formed Diversity Postdoc Group is starting off this week, recruiting new members.  Thanks again to postdoc leaders for stepping forward to create this group aiming to provide community building, mentoring and targeted professional development, and improve research and training culture. See announcement below for contacts and information on the first meeting.
  • If you are interested in an academic career, please look for upcoming announcements from the Future Faculty Fellows workshop and the Science Teaching Experience for Postdocs (STEP) program; both are open to all UW postdocs. We recommend attending the Future Faculty Fellows early in your postdoc experience as it helps you plan for your future.
  • The UW Career & Internship Center provides downloadable guidance documents focused on the job search for academic careers and diverse career pathways.
  • If you find yourself in a difficult situation and would like some advice, you likely know that you can reach out to your mentors, department chair and administrators, and us at the OPA. An additional resource is the Office of the Ombud, where you can receive confidential, neutral and informal guidance concerning job security, career advancement and research collaborations, and planning for difficult conversations.
  • The Institute of Translational Health Sciences (ITHS) provides access to funding (e.g., KL2) and workshops focused on career development and grant writing.
  • Finally, when looking to unwind from a long day of research, make your way to the Intramural Activities Building (IMA) or the Waterfront Activities Center (WAC) where, for a reduced rate, you can access the pool, fitness classes, workout facilities, and boat rentals. There really is no cheaper gym membership in town, and they have a Gear Shed where you can check out outdoor gear for your next adventure.

We closed with a brief workshop sharing tools and strategies for making the most of your postdoc experience. It is important to start planning your career progression, build your mentor team (individuals that are invested in YOU), set goals that are attainable and specific, explore diverse career pathways, and learn how to network more effectively. There are some great planning tools that can help you, such as Importantly, be open to new ideas and don’t be afraid to jump in a new direction. Keep a look out for our OPA professional development programming and e-newsletters where we will take a deeper dive into: Effective Individual Development Plans; Pathway to Independence; Careers in Industry; Diversifying Your Funding Portfolio, and much more. We want you to enjoy your time as a postdoc at UW, so let us know how we can help you be successful and feel supported.

The postdoc experience continues to receive national attention.

In our last newsletter, we shared some take-home messages from the annual National Postdoc Association (NPA) meeting. Here at UW, we hope you were able to join the UWPA for their 14th annual research symposium last week. In addition to the wonderful talks and posters from UW postdocs, the UWPA welcomed postdoc-advocate and national leader Dr. Gary McDowell as the keynote speaker. Dr. McDowell became the first Executive Director of The Future for Research after completing two postdocs in research. Among his other national publications and activities, Dr. McDowell most recently served on the National Academies of Science (NAS) task force that, just two weeks ago, presented their recommendations to support postdocs entitled The Next Generation of Biomedical and Behavioral Sciences Researchers: Breaking Through.

In his plenary talk, Gary summarized the historical perspective that framed the charge to the NAS task force:

  • The attention to the postdoc experience is not new. A 50-year-old book, entitled The Invisible University: Postdoctoral Education in the United States, highlights many of the same issues that still affect postdoc training and mentorship today.
  • Postdocs should be encouraged to spend more time as independent researchers and thinkers, not simply data-generating factories!
  • While 80% of US biomedical PhDs transition to postdocs, only ~8% eventually move on to tenure-track jobs in academia (though many more secure academic positions that are “without tenure for reasons of funding, or WOT”).
  • Where do postdocs turn for guidance in non-academic careers, be it in industry, foundations, government, or public policy?

With this background, the NAS task force met throughout 2017 with the goal of influencing funders and institutions to step up and take responsibility for the gaps that persist. In particular, they emphasized shared responsibility for postdoc experience and early career researchers, transparency in postdoc pathways and alumni outcomes, accountability for mentorship and a clear separation between the employee and trainee components of the dual-role postdocs hold.

  • Training and mentorship for postdocs is the responsibility of funders (NIH, NSF) and employers (universities and companies), and it should be transparent and sustainable. The NAS has specific recommendations to ensure the growing biomedical workforce is properly trained and supported.
  • Similar to increasing the diversity at the graduate level, research institutions should be more intentional and proactive to recruit and retain more underserved and underrepresented postdoc fellows.
  • Emphasis should be placed on the successful transition to independence, with a particular focus on quality mentorship (including formal training of mentors) and a coordinated increase salary, in the number of fellowship opportunities (F- and K-awards), and partnerships with businesses (via the NIH SBIR/STTR programs).
  • Postdoc training should be term-limited at five years, facilitating the ability to transition successfully to better-paying positions in a timely way.
  • Research institutions and the NIH should expand the number of staff scientist positions to accommodate the growing number of postdocs who transition from mentored training career stage to research positions.

As we often say here at the OPA, the national reports recognize postdocs as part of the essential research and learning ecosystem at our research institutions. We could not do this work without you, and we look forward to continuing to partner as we work toward tangible improvements to the postdoc experience.

National support for the postdoc experience

Earlier this month, the OPA and UWPA traveled to Cleveland, OH for the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) annual meeting. This is always an exciting conference, where leaders from postdoctoral associations and institutional offices gather to share best practices, recent research, and to strategize for future efforts supporting the postdoc experience. Here are a few pearls:

Take a holistic approach to postdoc experience. There was consistent advice across presenters that all postdocs need to explore various career choices. This is part of your postdoc training experience, and should be part of your regular work week. Feeling prepared for your next step is key, and is a purposeful investment. Dr. Rafael Luna, former executive director of the Boston-based National Research Mentoring Network, offers this advice: you must determine what you’re good at, what brings you joy, and what the world needs you to be. These are great questions to reflect upon and then discuss with your mentor as you move towards independence. Are you getting the correct experiences to prepare you for this future?

A number of recent students and reports raise concerns about certain issues within the postdoc experience:

  • The NPA conducted a survey of sexual harassment across postdocs and it is clear from the numbers that too many of you — men and women — have experienced unwanted sexual attention in workplace settings
  • The NPA will be launching a survey of stress, anxiety, and well-being among postdocs this summer, as we know these are key issues of importance and concern for many.
  • A session focusing on needs of international postdocs highlighted challenges with visa renewals, funding eligibility*, and transitioning to working in the U.S.
  • Most institutions have extremely limited information about where postdocs go next, and this limits our abilities to refine training programs, justify additional support efforts, and better prepare you for your futures.

It is clear we have work to do within our institutions, both culturally and structurally. Fortunately, the federal funding agencies are paying attention, highlighted by recent National Academies reports. Drs. Edwards and Mahoney are now on the NPA Advocacy committee, so we will be monitoring and participating in these national efforts in an on-going way and will bring back what we can.

Mentoring Matters. Another recurring theme of several sessions focused on mentorship, and how much having a mentor who is invested in you and your future makes a difference. There was good news from the national survey of postdocs conducted by the University of Chicago (results coming soon) showing that the majority of postdocs were satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their faculty mentor. That said, it can take work to get the mentoring you need. Several speakers reflected the idea we promote at the OPA — you need a mentoring team! One person is not enough to guide you through research, career, and personal support. The federal funders are interested in more accountability for faculty and better faculty mentor preparation. More programming and initiatives are coming.

Finally, there is widespread interest in raising the visibility of postdoc contributions to research, teaching, mentorship, service, and community. Throughout the spring, share a highlight or tell your story on social media with the #postdocstory hashtag.

We anticipate expanding upon these sessions and many more through local workshops or future blog posts. Look for additional recaps from the UWPA in their newsletter. And, please review the meeting agenda; if you have any questions about specific sessions, please let us know and we will be happy to share notes with you.

*FYI: International postdocs are eligible for the NIH K99/R00 award that can facilitate your transition to independent research and a faculty position. If you work in the biomedical, public health, or behavioral sciences, check out your NIH institute to see if they offer this funding mechanism. We will be holding a workshop in the future regarding how to prepare a strong application. The OPA will also be updating our resource list to include additional funding mechanisms available to international postdocs.


Are you ready for an academic career?

We know from reviewing national data that most entering postdocs believe they want a career in academia. And yet, a few years later, this career path becomes much less desirable. What happens? After seeing up close what your faculty go through — grant seeking, publication struggles, promotion demands, and other daily elements of the academic enterprise — the academic path may no longer be so attractive (we understand!). We also know you hear plenty of stories about how competitive it is “out there.” These concerns are real. And, we know that all of you can be a successful academic, if that is the path you truly want to pursue. We have several programs that can help support you in making an informed decision, or in gaining the skills you need to be the strongest candidate for an academic career.

Assess Your Readiness: What do you need to be ready to go “on the market”? It depends. The team at University of California developed a simple tool to help you self-assess whether you have the elements that hiring committees are looking for, whether it is at an R1 institution, a primarily teaching-focused institution, or a position with a mix of research and teaching. The Academic Career Readiness Assessment is a free PDF that provides milestones to work toward.

Seek Diverse Role Models: Who is successful with diverse funding portfolios? Who is managing the kind of work-life balance you would need? Who is a great mentor and effective research group leader? Who believes in you? You need more examples of how to be a faculty member than just who you might be exposed to in your immediate research group. Talk to junior faculty in your field and ask how they have navigated their transition to independence.

Learn What You Need: One great place to learn more about what you might need to be competitive on the academic job market is the Future Faculty Fellows program, which is sponsored by the UW School of Medicine and is open to all UW postdocs. The 2018 two-day program will happen June 11–12. Need more teaching experience? Apply to be a fellow in the Science Teaching Experience for Postdocs (STEP) program next year (applications due September) or ask around where you might be a guest lecturer. You can also ask to shadow a faculty member you admire.

Ready to Go? Seek Internal Reviewers: Tailoring the cover letter is so important for each position, as is getting feedback on all elements of the faculty package. Unsure what to include? In addition to the resources provided by the Future Faculty Fellows program, check out the numerous guides for each element at the UW Career & Internship Center. Ask for a friendly but critical review from your mentoring team, as well as a handful of near-peers. The more eyes you get on your application, the more you can fine-tune it and make sure you stand out from the crowd.

As always, feel free to check in with us in the Office of Postdoc Affairs, or make an appointment with our faculty advisor. We are here to help you strategize and would welcome the opportunity to advise you on your next career steps.