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I would like to ask, how can you rule out some "weak" postdocs. I mean weak from a long term point of view - impact on your life, or career. For example, you can apply to positions where you will continue with the same methods you used in your current positions or you can apply to positions where you will learn entirely new skills. Or you can be the only one with your skills in the group etc.

What are the red flags to look out for in postdoc offers?

closed as too broad by gerrit, henning, Buzz, Morgan Rodgers, penelope Apr 6 '18 at 15:57

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • I think it is a bit difficult to answer a question like How not do to something? The offered answer tries to answer the question of "How to do that something", which is not quite the question. Your last line is maybe a bit more concrete: What are the red flags to look out for in postdoc offers?, so maybe you could try and rephrase it along those lines? However I feel that there is rarely standard red flags, and every fishy situation will be specific and not easily generalizable. – penelope Apr 6 '18 at 15:57
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You should look at where your prospective superviser's students and postdocs end up after leaving them. Talk to these people if you know any of them. Also, look at the group publication list. Is the group productive? Do they have strong collaborators?

I have been told to use the postdoc to learn some new technique, or whatever. Your goal should be to make the most of what you already know. It's more important to improve your academic record than your knowlegde at this point. You will not be hired as a faculty based on what you know, but based on what you have published and where.

Having that in mind, try to see, given your current skill set, how good fit you are for that group and department. If you can collaborate with enough people, you'll get more publications. You need to have access in that department to people with similar background to yours. If that's not the case, you will be isolated, and your productivity will drop.

Some red flags I'm thinking about:

  • postdocs and students leaving before the end of their contracts,
  • postdocs and students ending up in poor positions after leaving,
  • not enough people in the group/department with similar background to yours,
  • poor publication record of the professor and postdocs compared to similar groups
  • lack of strong collaborators.

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