I was working on this blog post when I came across this article The stressed out post doc and it really struck a chord with me. Mainly because I think that the support networks for postdocs need to improve. I asked some friends at other universities and their experience seems to be similar to mine – no official postdoc support, mentoring or other networks available – so it’s up to the postdoc to do the leg work.
It was a bit of a shock to me when I went back to university to find that the networks I encountered as a PhD student were non-existing for postdocs. Being a new postdoc at a new university I was glad to join a team that had regular lunch breaks together (not that common as I know from friends) and now that I moved into a different institute within the university I still meet with the first group for lunch every now and then.
Here are some of my networks:
Writing group – I started a writing group a Heriot-Watt University to help improve my own writing skills and the meet with other people to regularly write. The group has 3-4 regular writers (2/3 postdocs and a lecturer) and we now meet once a week for 1.5 hours to write which is usually followed by a lunch. And in addition to getting more writing done the lunch break turned into a group to discuss issues, ask career questions and exchange ideas.
Native Scientist – over the summer I started working for this not-for-profit public engagement organisation. I love outreach and this is a great opportunity to do in Edinburgh but I also get to do it in German. With that difference in focusing on migrant communities I was able to meet German researcher from Heriot-Watt University but also from Napier University and the University of Edinburgh. We regularly meet for a pint to catch up – and this has also turned into a group where people ask about possible careers, what it’s like to do a postdoc etc.
Equate Scotland – I first heard about Equate during my PhD when I attended a couple of their events in Glasgow. They are based in Edinburgh at Napier University and they are great. Just after starting my 3 year postdoc at Heriot-Watt University I was feeling a bit lost – I was mainly looking for some pointers what I should focus on and how to prioritise and I didn’t really know who to ask in university. I was investigating if Heriot-Watt University has a mentor scheme for postdocs and was told no but I was pointed towards the Equate career clinic. After a short questionnaire about yourself and what you want to get out of the meeting. I was “matched” with Geraldine – and it is one of the best things to do. At our first meeting we had a quick chat about my career to date and what I should focus on in the first 6 months. It was great to talk someone with an insight but from outside academia and my regular work environment. I left very motivated and with tasks to focus on. After 6 months I got back in touch for a follow up meeting which fitted perfectly around our annual reviews. Again it was great to talk to someone about my ambitions and career plans – openly without feeling to sound too ambitious or having to worry what people think or how it’s interpreted.
Do you have support networks – are their within your institute, University or on social media? Or do you work at a university that has official networks in place? Please share in the comments.