I will be applying for postdocs soon (in the US and Europe). I think I have a profile that is competitive, and I want to do a postdoc at a top place where my advisor did his postdoc (and continues to collaborate with his postdoc advisors). It has sort of been a childhood dream of mine to go to this place, and hence I am set on going there if I can get in.

My advisor thinks that it is a bad idea for me to try and go there, because it doesn't "look good" if I go to the same place where my advisor did his postdoc. He thinks that in order to get a tenured position some years down the line, I need to "separate" myself from my PhD advisor and his collaborators, and do something different on my own. He recommends that I in fact do a postdoc at other schools that are not highly ranked, but which have good people working in my field. I suppose his assumption is that getting a tenured position has little to do with the prestige of the school where you do a postdoc.

I was hoping to get opinions on this here. Does it really look that bad if I work with my advisor's collaborators?

1 Answer 1


I see three issues.

First, your advisor is correct that working with a wider set of collaborators is good for you. Good for your mental and career development. The advisor seems to express this in opposite terms, though: keeping insulated is bad for you. I think that later representation is less true than the other, but agree that it has some effect.

The second issue is that you have to be productive as an early career individual (academic or not). This works the other way. Keeping contact with those with similar interests and ideas can be a way to produce a lot of interesting things. You already have a strong base.

The third issue, of course, is how strongly your advisor will support you if you decide to go with this group rather than take their advice to "spread your wings". You can predict that better than anyone here, of course. Generally, however, it is a bad idea to go against an advisor with strong views.

So, arguments on both sides.

Note however, that your own productivity will weigh heavier than the "prestige" of any institution you are associated with. Spending a couple of years at, say, MIT is a big deal, but only if you make good use of your time there.

Following your own dream has to count for something, of course.

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