Postdoctoral associates and fellows are one of the most important intellectual resources of universities, particularly in a public research institution such as the University of Minnesota.
Most postdocs come to learn new methods and approaches from more experienced researchers. Others are interested in teaching and participate in courses that prepare future faculty. As such, postdoctoral training should be a period of additional learning and discovery. This training should include opportunities for postdocs to expand their portfolios in a way that makes them competitive in the job market.
The following tips and resources will help postdocs and their advisers in building a successful postdoctoral experience.
Form a mentorship
It’s the responsibility of advisers to offer mentoring tailored to the unique career ambitions of individual postdocs. The best mentors serve as coaches, counselors and supporters all at the same time. They guide research goals, offer encouragement, and assist in building scientific networks.
The U of M’s Individual Development Plan can help advisers translate their postdoctoral trainee’s goals into an action plan, and help the postdoc stay on track.
Review the appointment letter
Is the offer for a postdoctoral associate (employment) or a postdoctoral fellowship (non-employment)? There are benefits associated with employment and more limited benefits for fellowships, which are related to tax laws. If you have an employment relationship and it changes to a fellowship, the benefit structure changes.
Pay attention to changes
The postdoc relationship may change with a grant proposal and/or award. Some grants allow an employment relationship, while some are specific to a fellowship award. Become familiar with the differences and how benefits are defined.
Get guidance from HR
The first and best contact for assistance with any human resource issues — from changing appointments to specific benefits — is your college or administrative unit’s human resources consultant.
Take advantage of U-Pass
Postdoctoral associates and fellows are eligible for a student U-Pass, good for all Minneapolis Metro Transit options including light rail. It’s a great deal at $97 per semester.
Connect with the PDA
The U of M’s Postdoctoral Association serves as a liaison between the postdoctoral community and university administration. Over the years, the PDA has grown from an advisory board into an active participant in postdoc education.
In 2004-2005, the association formed an executive board that provides leadership in career development, HR policies, international work and family issues. The PDA has also worked with OVPR and HR to bring added clarity and equity to issues of health insurance, retirement benefits, and vacation and leave.
- Benefits fact sheet for postdoctoral associates
- Benefits fact sheet for postdoctoral fellows
- Policy information: postdoctoral appointments
- Graduate taxable fellowships
- Opportunities for graduate students and TAs
Post by Nancy Wilhelmson, senior policy adviser and Susan Cable-Morrison, postdoc liaison, Office of Human Resources