Postdoc Career Group

The Postdoc Career Group is an ongoing discussion group for postdocs to explore career development topics. Each session is open to any postdoc and led by a certified Career Development Facilitator. Casual and supportive, this confidential group regularly hosts guest experts and provides best practices for negotiating the transition from postdoctoral training to professional career success. Group participation is restricted to UW-Madison postdocs only.


2021 - 2022 Sessions


The 2021-22 conversations were led by Andrew Cusick, an experienced career development facilitator in the Office of Postdoctoral Studies, and UW–Madison Scientist Ellen Dobson.


Should I Stay or Should I Go? - December 16, 2021

Thursday 12/16 9:00am-10:00am. Online event.

Have you wondered how you would spend your days and weeks if you no longer pursued a well-defined career goal? For many postdocs, career and life to date have had an orderly and sequential progression. What should you do when the next step is unclear? How do you decide when it is time to move on?

Join us for a conversation reframing the “stick or quit” decision as a normal and beneficial career process. You are not quitting; you are simply iterating new career possibilities!

This conversation will be co-led by Andrew Cusick, an experienced career development facilitator in the Office of Postdoctoral Studies, and Shalini Nag, the founder of EvidaSolve, a Milwaukee-based management consultancy and a former consultant at the Boston Consulting Group following her postdoc at Yale University. UW–Madison postdoc alumni will also join the discussion.


Mining the Mountain Top for Peak Experiences - October 28, 2021

Thursday 10/28 9:00am-10:00am. Online event.

When was the last time you felt energized at work? Have you ever taken the time to reflect on those energizing activities?

Come prepared to share as we will use a technique developed at the Stanford Life Design Lab to reflect on specific elements that made past work a remarkable experience. We will then take stock of the activities, environments and interactions that made those peak experiences so memorable. Peer discussion will uncover clues for changes you need in your current position or what to look for when you transition from postdoctoral training.


Finding Happiness at Work - September 23, 2021

Thursday 9/23 9:00am-10:00am. Online event.

Are you happy at work? What is happiness and how can we find it in our careers?

Researchers continue to explore happiness and the elements that contribute to it. Since work can consume so much of our time, it is important to enjoy it in some way. During this session, we will reflect together on the five elements of career happiness using the PERMA model from positive psychology.


Processing the Emotion of Career Transition - August 26, 2021

Thursday 8/26 9:00am-10:00am. Online event.

Are you at a career crossroads? Are you feeling uncertain about your future? Have you considered channeling this uncertainty toward an exploration of new opportunities?

Postdoc training is by definition a transitional state, but a transition to what? Hear from former Morgridge Institute for Research postdoc Ellen Dobson as she shares her own career crossroads story. This event will prompt you to reflect and share with other postdocs the emotions you experience during times of career uncertainty and how you can productively channel those feelings toward new career ideas.


Reassessing Your Ambition for a Faculty Position - July 22, 2021

Thursday 7/22 9:00am-10:00am. Online event.

Are you reconsidering your goal to become a professor? Are you realizing that you might have to consider alternatives you know very little about?

Disruptions brought about by COVID-19 have had negative impacts on the faculty job market worldwide. An already competitive job market has become even more competitive. Meanwhile, the job market outside of academia is booming with some firms taking a full year to hire PhD level talent due to scarcity.

Come share your feelings and brainstorm with supportive peers about your evolving career plans. This will be a safe space for open discussion guided by carefully considered discussion prompts.


2020 - 2021 Sessions


Group Formation Meeting - July 8, 2020

The Bias to Action: Career Exploration group hopes to achieve three main goals: 1) Help postdocs brainstorm and then perform career activities; 2) Enable postdocs to share their career issues and their career activity experiences with one another; 3) Share the knowledge of facilitators with postdocs through discussion of their own and others’ lived experiences while also providing feedback on the postdocs’ activity ideas.

Guest speakers: Ellen Dobson, Assistant Scientist, UW–Madison; Mike Killoran, Senior Scientist, Promega; Rebecca Paradiso de Sayu, Co-Director and Co-Founder, Purposeful PhD


Crowdsourcing for Career Assistance - July 23, 2020

For some postdocs, it can be intimidating to reach out to others for career assistance. The Bias to Action: Career Exploration group is for postdocs who are unsure what they want to do next and are realizing they need help. Join us for a discussion with a supportive group of postdocs to talk about how the steps in crowdsourcing for career assistance. We look forward to getting to know each other better as we move toward ideating actions that will drive our career forward and inspire our sense of purpose.

Postdoc speaker: Jean Lodge, Biomolecular Chemistry


Zooming Out: The Role of Purpose in Career Decision Making - August 27, 2020

Many postdocs feel that if they can’t use their subject matter expertise, they are unqualified for jobs outside of academia. However, organizations outside of academia assume postdocs have subject matter expertise and expect other transferrable skills. This session helps postdocs zoom out, broadening their understanding of their value in industry.

Guest speaker: Rebecca Paradiso de Sayu, Co-Director and Co-Founder, Purposeful PhD


Cold Pitching for Opportunity - September 24, 2020

Do you have difficulty reaching out to organizations where you have no connections? Is it hard to quickly communicate your value proposition? Postdoc Career Group member, Claire Luby will demonstrate how she “cold pitched” an organization she’s interested in to secure an informational interview.

Postdoc speaker: Claire Luby, Horticulture


Exploring Career Opportunities by Communicating the Value of Your PhD - October 22, 2020

Communicating the value of your PhD to people outside of academia is difficult for many postdocs. However, it is critically important that you master this skill if you want to be successful. Join us for a presentation and discussion with a supportive group of postdocs who are learning creative ways to determine who needs their talents and expertise, and who are expanding their professional network and career opportunities along the way.

Postdoc speaker: Ligia da Cunha Moreira, Animal and Dairy Sciences


Advanced Networking Techniques - November 19, 2020

Feeling overwhelmed and confused about the prospect of transitioning out of academia? Could you benefit from learning from others in the same situation? Choosing the career and field of your choice outside of academia can start in many different ways, but it is not advisable to blindly apply for jobs. Informational interviews are a great way to make an informed decision, but what other profitable approaches can you take to learn about and secure an amazing position and launch an amazing career? Join us for a talk with a supportive group of fellow postdocs who are building a community of practice to determine how to combine their talents and skills with business strategies to expand their professional network and career opportunities.

Postdoc speaker: Ligia da Cunha Moreira, Animal and Dairy Sciences 


Networking with Alumni Using Badger Bridge - December 17, 2020

Does the thought of networking outside of academia intimidate you? As an international postdoc, are you unsure what is culturally acceptable when networking? Could you benefit from learning from others in the same situation? Networking has a bad reputation as unpleasant and tit for tat, but in reality, networking in the United States is nothing more that cultivating new professional friendships. When reframed this way, it makes sense to ask the people who are connected to us for help advancing our career plans. Join us for a talk with a supportive group of fellow postdocs about “affinity networking” using an online tool on campus called Badger Bridge. Kristina Zignego, who manages this digital networking platform for the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association, will give a demo and be on hand to answer your questions.

Guest speaker: Kristina Zignego, Digital Product Manager, Wisconsin Foundation & Alumni Association 


Essentials of the Job Search Outside of Academia - January 21, 2021

The job search outside of academia is very different than a job search for faculty positions. Job postings can be cryptic and vague, and if you limit your search to public announcements, you are unlikely to get an interview. This mini workshop will provide you with concise but essential knowledge about job announcements outside of academia. Guided discussion in the session will reinforce the importance of networking and demonstrate why sending "cold" applications should be only a small part of your job search.

Speaker: Andrew Cusick, Career Development Officer, Office of Postdoctoral Studies.


Job Skills Valued in Industry - February 25, 2021

Skills acquired in graduate school and postdoctoral training are valued differently in settings outside of academia. Organizations assume your research expertise and technical skills are excellent. The top skills valued in industry include leadership, project management, teamwork and time management. Unfortunately, many postdocs have difficulty providing evidence that they possess these skills. This mini workshop will provide you concise but essential knowledge about skills valued outside of academia. Guided discussion in the session will reinforce the importance of learning, assessing and articulating skills needed to succeed in settings outside of academia.

Postdoc speaker: Kenna Degner, Surgery


Changing Careers During a Pandemic - March 25, 2021

Has the pandemic left you feeling frustrated and restless in your current job situation? Perhaps changes brought about by the pandemic have actually been good for your work life? You're not alone. COVID-19 has changed the way we work and is currently altering the labor market in general. While the pandemic has revealed many ways in which people can communicate more creatively and work more flexibly, it has also brought significant challenges that can affect people's mental health both negatively and positively. During this session, we will share our experiences and talk about reasons we may want to transition to a new setting or career, and whether this is the right move or simply a reaction to the stress of the pandemic. We will weigh the costs and benefits of staying where we are and riding out the pandemic to a "back to normal" environment versus pursuing a new career.

Speaker: Andrew Cusick, Career Development Officer, Office of Postdoctoral Studies.


Converting Your CV to a Resume - April 22, 2021

The CV used for academic jobs will not work anywhere else. Recruiters and hiring managers in industry will have different expectations than an academic search committee. Specifically, they will expect you to highlight your most impactful transferable skills and show how your achievements will produce measurable results for them. During this session, we will be joined by a recruiter from Covance, a large international contract research organization that routinely hires PhD-level employees, to discuss resumes that generate interviews.

Guest speaker:  Tricia Cullen, Senior Recruiter, Covance and Mike Sievert, Study Director, Covance


Networking Advice for Women - May 27, 2021

We all know networking is a critical skill for getting ahead. Do women and the non-binary need to network differently? Have you experienced gender bias as you attempted to move forward in your career? Do you have successful women mentors? Join us for a supportive discussion with two scientists and businesswomen who will share their perspectives on networking and getting ahead. Danette Daniels is Group Leader of Functional Proteomics at Promega and a member of Women in Biohealth, a group dedicated to empowering and connecting women in science. Juleen Dickson is a former UW–Madison postdoc who recently landed a job in an historically male dominated role at Zeiss AG. Both will share their lived experience and offer advice on the best networking practices that help them succeed.

Guest speakers: Juleen Dickson, Product Application Sales Specialist, ZEISS Microscopy, and Danette Daniels, Group Leader, Promega


Communicating Your Value with Stories - June 24, 2021

Postdocs have experience and skills that are valued by organizations outside of academia. Do you know what those attributes are? Do you know how to communicate them to the organizations that need you? Search committees in academia want quantifiable empirical evidence that you are the best candidate for the job, but most other organizations are looking for something more. Emotional and social connection are often what differentiates a good candidate from the candidate who actually gets the job offer. Join us for a short presentation and discussion of the importance of emotion and storytelling in the non-academic job search.

Speaker: Andrew Cusick, Career Development Officer, Office of Postdoctoral Studies.


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