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Traveling abroad to meet with potential postdoc supervisor?

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I've made a lot of good contacts over the past year in attempts in securing a postdoc once I finish my phd (hopefully next summer). My research area is fortunately pretty hot right now, but the research groups flush with postdocs are on the other side of the Atlantic. 

 

I've emailed and connected with several potential postdoc supervisors, but unfortuantely, none of them seem to be attending conferences in my country any time soon. Would it be awkward to visit the other side of the Atlantic and meet with these potential research supervisors? I feel like traveling (which I can combine with attending a conference, and therefore lowering overall costs) and meeting with them in-person would show my true desire for working with them, as well as connecting on a personal level, which is difficult to do over email, etc. 

 

Bad idea? Good idea? Pros? Cons?

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Good idea!! In my field, many PhD students in their final year will attend lots of conferences to make contacts, and also schedule "talk circuits" if possible at many schools in areas they would want to work in order to make connections for future jobs. Conferences are great because it brings together a ton of people in the field and it's also a place to give people 5-10 min intro of your research (by giving a conference talk) and this might lead to an invite to come and deliver an hour long colloquium/seminar talk at a school where you want to postdoc. Alternatively, conferences are a good way to network and build connections so that when you want to give a talk at school X, you can reach out to someone you know there and secure an invite.

 

Going to Europe to do this is a similar idea but potentially much more expensive to be going repeatedly or to multiple places. So, I think attending a European conference would be a more cost-effective way to do this since it will bring a large number of people to you instead. If the conference is close to a few schools that you can take the train to, then it would be a good idea to reach out to these profs and ask if you can come give a seminar!

 

So I think in my field, this is not only a good idea, but it's almost an essential thing to do!

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Good idea!! In my field, many PhD students in their final year will attend lots of conferences to make contacts, and also schedule "talk circuits" if possible at many schools in areas they would want to work in order to make connections for future jobs. Conferences are great because it brings together a ton of people in the field and it's also a place to give people 5-10 min intro of your research (by giving a conference talk) and this might lead to an invite to come and deliver an hour long colloquium/seminar talk at a school where you want to postdoc. Alternatively, conferences are a good way to network and build connections so that when you want to give a talk at school X, you can reach out to someone you know there and secure an invite.

 

This. I just came back from such a conference :P

 

If you can combine it with a conference, I'd say -- definitely go. Going in person makes a lot of the interaction go through much more easily and it will greatly improve your chance of finding a postdoc. If you couldn't combine it with a conference it'd be expensive and slightly odd, but if you have a good reason to travel overseas I think you should absolutely leverage it for some visits to potential future labs and for giving some (self-invited) talks. The connections you'll make/strengthen alone are worth it, even if nothing more comes out of it at the moment. 

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and also schedule "talk circuits" if possible at many schools in areas they would want to work in order to make connections for future jobs.

 

I've actually done this throughout this year, and it was a very valuable experience. Made some many valuable contacts that way.

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I'm embarrassed about how long it took to finally reply to this, but such is the life of graduate student! Sorry!

 

I ended-up applying for my conference, and am in the initial stages of planning about how to contact potential postdoc supervisors. How does one contact such profs about wanting to meet with them, without sounding weird and needy?

 

How do I avoid coming across like "Can I meet with you so that I can hopefully persuade you to give me a postdoc?" ;)

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How do I avoid coming across like "Can I meet with you so that I can hopefully persuade you to give me a postdoc?" ;)

  1. First, message the prof to say that you are a researcher visiting the country to attend a conference, and that you are interested in visiting the lab for a research cultural exchange.
  2. Then, if the professor accepts and hasn't already made the suggestion, then inquire yourself about the possibility of doing a one-hour research talk of either what you are presenting at the conference, about your dissertation research work, or an overview of your research lab (or maybe a combination of the three, up to you). This not only shares yourself and your research to that lab, but also shares the types of research they are doing outside of their lab.
  3. Lastly, if the visit is approved and you have your research exchange, return back to your home institution and then e-mail the professor to inquiry about possible post-doc opportunities. It's a good idea to do it after you have left and gave it some time to simmer after you have left, since the professor can give some thought of the impact of your visit.

Doing this gives a sort of informal "interview" to the professor, and also allows the professor to more comfortably respond to you over e-mail instead of in-person.

Edited by Pauli

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I don't think you need to hide the fact that you want to persuade them to "give" you a post-doc! In many fields, it's commonly understood that "every talk is a job talk" and basically, every time you present your work to an academic audience, you are either a) trying to promote your work so that someone will hire you, B) trying to promote your work so that someone will collaborate with you, or c) trying to promote your work so someone will use your work to help themselves in their own work (and thereby cite you). And, when you visit, it gives the students and other people at the school a chance to meet with you, and tell their work to you, giving them more exposure and you could learn a lot from what others are doing. So whenever a good researcher comes to a university to give a talk/visit, it should be win-win for everyone!

 

Doing it the way Pauli suggests is how I would do it too. Like he/she said, it doesn't put pressure on the prof and allows them to politely decline if they don't have the funding/interest for your visit!

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