Supporting early-career researchers in today's job market - Lessons from a Career Development Retreat for Postdoctoral Fellows

Monday 4:30pm-6:00pm
Poster Session Part of Monday Poster Session


Patricia Montano, NCAR/UCAR
Rebecca Haacker, NCAR/UCAR
Valerie Sloan, NCAR/UCAR
Scott Landolt, NCAR/UCAR
Scott Briggs, NCAR/UCAR
Man-Yau Chan, NCAR/UCAR
Samantha Hartke, NCAR/UCAR

Being a postdoctoral fellow can be a rewarding, yet stressful time in the life of a researcher. The pressures of establishing a research portfolio while looking for the next career position can be challenging. Employment opportunities are often not found in academic institutions and postdocs have to branch out and consider opportunities in research labs, private industry or non-profit organizations. The COVID-19 pandemic added new challenges for postdocs including research delays, hiring freezes, less networking, and isolation.

The Advanced Study Program at the National Science Foundation National Center for Atmospheric Research (NSF NCAR) has supported the career development of postdoctoral fellows for more than 60 years. To mitigate some effects of the pandemic on postdoctoral experiences, NSF NCAR has emphasized professional development and career support for postdocs. While research skills and technical writing are essential, additional skills are important for career advancement. Examples include proposal writing, data science, diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice, leadership, interpersonal skills, science communication, and project management. NSF NCAR teaches these skills in workshops and seminars developed for postdoctoral fellows and early-career researchers.

A series of unique workshops focused on career development was held at a retreat for postdoctoral fellows in Breckenridge, CO in 2023. During the retreat postdocs were invited to share their experiences, learn about careers in different sectors, and do hands-on activities to define their brand, create welcoming and inclusive work environments, and build a supportive network. NSF NCAR's education and training programs are regularly evaluated and evolve to meet the changing needs of students, postdocs, and early-career scientists. This poster will share lessons learned on how to support postdocs to succeed in STEM careers in today's post-COVID job market. We will share the design, activities, and outcomes of a two-day retreat for postdocs as one way to support networking and career preparedness.