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Have you decided being a postdoc is no longer for you?

I’ve worked with postdocs now for over 20 years and before that I was a postdoc myself. So I’ve certainly been there, done that and come up with the escape plan! Today I’m going to take you through some tips for how to get out of your postdoc proactively and positively. Rather than running away screaming.  How to look towards whatever might happen next, in a very positive light. 

Think about the decision

The first thing that I’m going to say, and this is true of any career decision, is really stop and think. You’ve made the decision that a postdoc or perhaps an academic career isn’t for you. Before you go searching for another job or head over to the jobs pages, pause.   What’s driving your decision? There must be something that you don’t like about the current situation.  Is it that you think the career progression isn’t great? Or is it because it’s so competitive to get an academic permanent position? Take some time and consider what is important to you. Look at your values and your strengths.


What things do you value? For me, autonomy is a really important one. Being able to do what I want to do, with others and in partnership with my clients but to also have some choice in the work that I do. 

You’re all super educated with lots and lots of skills. You should be able to choose a role that gives you some choice over your destiny. What other values might be important?  It could be:

  • Excellence – being able to take the lead and work in an area that you feel is ethically matched to your value set, allowing you to progress.
  • Being able to use your brain, you’ve all got fantastic brains. Think about how you can use them so that there will be some sort of intellectual satisfaction in the role.

When it comes to articulating values, some people can find it difficult. One of the things you can do is talk it through with someone. You can also get a list of values from the internet and then consider which are relevant and which just simply don’t apply to you.  The problem with this approach is you’ll probably end up with a very long or very short list! 

The best way to then articulate that is to chat it through with someone.  Why is that important to you? Is this one more important than that?  Why is it? You really won’t be able to find the perfect job that takes everything. However, if you can find the one that does offer those values that are really important to you, then that will help.


The other thing to think about is your strengths.  You might be good at a lot of things but your strengths are the things that you really enjoy doing, that make you feel strong. Something that really makes you feel alive. For example, I’m good at numbers but they don’t really thrill me. I can do them yes but I’d much rather have me a day being creative and coming up with problem solving stuff. You all will have lots and lots of skills but it’s a strength that makes you feel strong. 

Once you know your values and strengths, take the opportunity to go and look at the range of things that could give you those things in the world. We spend a long time at work, so it’s got to be enjoyable, it’s got to fulfill those values and play to your strengths. There will be plenty of roles out there that could give you that. Some you may not even have thought of. 

What do I do next?

Once you have an idea of the type of role you want to go for next, you need to start to research.  LinkedIn is a great tool for this and I wrote a blog recently on just that topic.  It tells you all you need to know about researching jobs on LinkedIn. 

Take a look at it here 

Look widely at a variety of roles – not just another postdoc! Your values and strengths might be best served in other types of roles. Ask people for their lived experience of them (always with a cup of coffee in hand!). Don’t operate from supposition but make sure you have the data – both the job description and the human stories. And remember that job descriptions are written for angelic beings – no-one is going to have everything on the list. 

If you would like a structured approach to escaping your postdoc try my free 7 day email list challenge here.


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