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Postdoc advice

Early career staff development / Promoting young scientists
Supporting the successful career development of PhD and Postdoctoral researchers is a top priority in the Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, the Faculty of Maths and Science, and the University of Zurich. The goal is for the IEU to make a strong and lasting contribute to the next generation of nationally and internationally excellent scientists, teachers, and communicators.
This document provides some general advice and sources of information. It is a work in progress. Please contact Owen Petchey if you would like to contribute.

General advice
Make a plan. Planning how your time in the Institute will contribute to your career development is essential. With the help of your support network, make an appropriate plan, with objectives and milestones. Milestones should be achievement of goals that will have a direct positive effect on your career, such as learning a new technique, submitting a manuscript, and teaching a course. Consider a Gantt chart to see the big picture. Consider specifying monthly goals that serve as markers towards milestones. Consider specifying SMART objectives.
Begin with the end in mind. To make a plan, you need to have one or a few goals. A goal might be to maximise the chance of getting an independently funded fellowship. Or secure employment conservation organisation. Or to secure a permanent academic position.
Recognise constraints. Your goal statement should include any constraints, such as might arise from limited time and resources, family commitments, and or geographic preferences. Different countries have different academic systems, so find out about the system in any country you have a particular desire to work in. Only once these are recognise can the opportunities be optimally exploited and the negative impacts minimised.
Identify development and training needs. What skills and knowledge will you need to acquire to meet your goals? How will these be acquired? By when will these be acquired. If you want to work in a particular country or a particular group in the future, start making contacts there and planning a visit.
Monitoring your progress. You must track whether you are meeting your plan, adjust your work accordingly, and revise the plan to meet any changing conditions and goals. If progress is faster than planned, what extra can be achieved. If progress is going slower than planned, what is causing this and can it be fixed. You should revisit your plan yourself at least every month. You should revisit your plan at least once a year with people in your support group.
Your support network. It is a good idea to recognise your support network. Don’t think that just one or two people are there to support your career development. There are many people that can provide you with support. These include members of your research group: your group leader, postdocs, PhD students, technical staff, administrative staff. You will almost certainly interact with people in the Institute (Faculty and University) that are outside your research group. Friends and family, of course, are often excellent sources of support. Try to identify which people can provide different types of support.
Support from your Research Group Leader. In addition to ad hoc support from your research group leader, consider having at least a yearly formal meeting to review and plan your career development. This should be a ‘big picture’ meeting that takes a broad view of the previous year, provides feedback on the progress in the previous year, and identifies objectives for the coming year. This meeting can also identify development needs. You should have one of these types of meetings very soon after you start working in the IEU. You should carefully document these meetings (a template is at the end of this document).

Support from your research group
Consider yearly meetings with your Research Group Leader, as described on the previous page. Consider distributing any career development information you come across with your group.

Support from the IEU
Postdoc Funding and Career Management seminar series (ECO 391)
Project Management course (ECO 362)

Support from the Faculty
The faculty has a website about mentoring. On it the faculty (MNF) recently released information about Mentoring II, which is a career development programme especially for early career stage staff (PhD, Postdoc). There are a few activities supported:
1. Short-term mentorships abroad.
2. Peer mentoring groups.
3. A programme of career development courses for postdocs.
4. Protected time… funding for existing postdocs to carry out or finish research projects at UZH.

Support from the University and elsewhere
Fokuslaufbahn: Career development courses and coaching focused for women.
Gleichstellung: University equal opportunities office.
Teaching courses run by the university.
Continuing education programme of the University.
Transferable skills courses of the University.
The Graduate Campus lists many types of career support for PhD and Postdocs.
The University Careers Service, and the same from the Kanton.
Also Check out the Life Sciences Zurich Young Scientist Network.

Research funding for early career stage researcher
Sources of funding for individuals can be found at this web page, some is specifically for early career stage researchers.
E.g., the Forschungkredit.
Also, consider an application for Investitionskredit. Details can be found here. I think that applications go through the Institute Directorate.

Support from the Association of the Non-Professorial Academic Staff (VAUZ)
From the VAUZ website: “University’s mid-level staff faces a vast number of expectations in their positions: Academic teaching, administration, as well as the regular assistance to the assigned professor in their research. The cheaper workforce is used to do a huge part of the workload – especially in the current climate. Very often, the mid-level staff is thus put into a difficult position. When are its members supposed to finish the scientific papers they are hired to write? In such situations, it is crucial that the academic mid-level staff organizes itself. VAUZ makes sure that, in the face of the vast amount of duties, the staff’s rights are not neglected. It is there to improve the employment of this particular part of the academic staff.”
Please consult their website for further information.

Support online and books
(There is much more out there than listed here. I will add to this list whatever material I come across and am sent.)
A faculty maintained web site with many links.
Nature jobs often has articles interesting for early career scientists:
Mentoring: On the right path. An article with advice for PIs about how to mentor, and for early career stage researchers about what they can do to help themselves also.
An article in Nature about making contacts and networking.
An article about one reason why teaching is good for research.
How hard are you prepared to work? And the importance of maintaining balance.
An article about time management by Simon Queenborough.
An article about how to use your PhD to get a job.
An article about starting up your own group.
An article about some things women can do to be more successful.

Humorous support