I will be a postdoc in the coming academic year. While I have not decided on where I will be in September, it seems likely that I will be a research postdoc at a decent research university.
An aspect of a life as a postdoc that I had never considered before is the following: what is your social life outside of academia like as a postdoc?
As a PhD student, I had a very tight group of friends; we were friends from day 1 in graduate school, and that friendship continued throughout. Our friendship strengthened by going through many difficult classes together, staying up all night finishing homework, and studying for quals together, not to mention talking about how much it blows to be a PhD student, and worrying about the job market.
I feel that I will not have this privilege as a postdoc. We are all there to do our jobs (i.e. research), and I do not see building the same kind of camaraderie amongst the newly-hired postdocs, for these reasons:
- there are no excuses to spend a ton of time with one another (no homework, no quals to study for, etc.)
- we will likely have different research areas, and possibly have nothing in common to talk about in terms of academics.
- there are way fewer postdocs than there are graduate students. I would be lucky to have maybe three or four other postdocs hired with me by my department. Maybe we would get along, maybe we would not. I do not have the luxury of choosing the people that I like anymore.
- at least some postdocs must have family. I have found that married people are less likely to yearn for a close friendship. This narrows down the possibilities for friends even more (not that I would discriminate against married people, but they often dissociate themselves from, say, a late-night out of fun).
I would love to hear from the people who hold (or held) research postdoc positions from PhD granting institutions. I feel that teaching postdocs would give different answers, as you would meet more often to discuss teaching.