Professional Societies Alliance for Life Science Education (PSALSE)

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Tips for Engaging Postdocs

Postdocs are an important demographic to serve because they are productive researchers, regularly attend society meetings, and are preparing for future careers. We have found that they are generally receptive to professional development because it is so important to finding the next job opportunity.

Objective: We facilitated an “innovation in Action” discussion section at the 2015 National Postdoctoral Association meeting (Baltimore MD). Around 20 representatives from societies, representatives from postdoc offices and associations, and postdocs were present. Below, we share the most significant of the ideas and thoughts generated at the session.Overall, the attendees thought that there is a general lack of awareness by postdocs with regards to the importance and utility of professional science societies.


  • Communicating with postdocs about professional development opportunities
    • (Most important idea arising from the session) Work with the National Postdoctoral Association and/or campus postdoc offices/postdoc associations to disseminate flyers, bulletins, articles for their newsletters. Almost all campus postdoc offices/postdoc associations have a weekly or monthly newsletter, and postdocs commented that they are more likely to read that newsletter (from a local representative) than a notice from a national society (from an anonymous person)
    • Educate, inform, and encourage principal investigators to send their mentees to offerings from professional societies (direct email to PI’s about postdoc programs)
    • Require LinkedIn profiles or other permanent contact information when registering for membership. Postdocs change affiliations regularly and it can be difficult to keep up membership if the society can no longer be in contact
    • Postdocs generally prefer email and twitter for science-related promotional campaigns
    • When using email as the communication tool, make the message as personal as possible. This may mean sending out messages to smaller subgroups of interested parties.
    • It is best to start communicating with postdocs as early in the postdoc experience as possible.
  • Services/resources that postdocs really want from professional societies
    • Career resources, such as stories, mentoring, pathways, workshops, cover letters/resumes, experiences outside lab about careers outside academia
    • Assistance with immigration issues. This may be an opportunity for a collaborative effort by societies because the majority of them are international
    • Opportunities to serve on society committees. Consider having trainee representation on all committees


Contributed by Rachel Horak