If you are thinking about applying for a postdoc, there are quite a few points to consider before starting your search. Previous blog posts have focused on assessing whether a postdoc makes sense for your long-term career goals and on how you can find the perfect postdoc for you.
Here are some more frequently asked questions (FAQs) to bear in mind as you undertake your postdoc search:
Can I stay in the same lab, or the same institution? It is common that your first postdoc would be a short stint in the same lab as you finish up any remaining projects. Normally this does not last more than one year (and typically much less). After that you will want to diversify your experiences by finding a new lab. Staying at the same institution is a bit different. Finding a new institution gives you the ability to experience science in a new setting. But sometimes you may need to stay (family, financial, or you just really like it). In this case, it is recommended to at least find a new lab, perhaps even in a new department so you gain the independence that a postdoc needs.
Do I really need a postdoc? This depends on your chosen career path. If you want to be an academic faculty member, you will almost certainly need a postdoc. If you would like to go to industry R&D, a short postdoc might be necessary to be competitive with other applicants. If you would like a non-research position, a postdoc may be unnecessary—but—you would have needed to start preparing for this career path as a graduate student so you have the credentials to make this career switch.
If I start a postdoc and hate it, do I have to stay? This is one of the best things about being a postdoc, if you hate it you have more flexibility to move on than you did as a grad student. Since there are no degree requirements, you have the freedom to choose your own path. If you are in a postdoc you do not like seek the advice of your other mentors and the postdoc office to navigate switching research groups.
Can I get teaching experience as a postdoc? Maybe. This is something you and your advisor should discuss. Teaching experience will also be your responsibility to find opportunities by connecting with colleges and universities that will help you gain these experiences. (unless you are doing an IRACDA postdoc: http://www.nigms.nih.gov/Training/CareerDev/pages/PartInstIRACDA.aspx)
Does the institution/research group I go to make a difference? Maybe. This question really is asking: will the pedigree of my advisor make me more attractive for a future job? This depends on what you want to do next, but it could be a factor in your decision. Even if you use pedigree as one of your decision factors, we also strongly recommend that you consider the mentoring style of the advisor and how their mentoring will fit into your long-term career goals. Pedigree means nothing if it means you are going to have a miserable experience.