Three Reasons to Do an International Postdoc
What is the benefit of doing a postdoc in another country? Why not just stay where you are?
From my experience talking to many students and faculty and having international experience myself, I can tell you that doing a postdoc abroad can set you up for professional success.
Here are three reasons why.
Improve Your Language Skills
Learning how to communicate in English — currently the international language of science — is extremely important. I’ve seen so many people who have great intellectual and methodological skills not succeed to the degree that they could because they have a hard time communicating in English.
If you are a non-native English speaker, avoid choosing a lab where they primarily speak your native language. It’s actually possible that your English language skills may decrease because you never spoke it in the lab.
Learn New Methods
You should never do a postdoc to continue doing what you’ve already done. It’s true that you may be able to publish more papers if you don’t have to learn new things, but that’s not the point of being a postdoc. The point is to get training in new methods, and going abroad is your opportunity to learn them. And, as you apply for funding, funders will be focused on what new methods you are going to learn.
Grow Your Network
If I had to list three of the most important characteristics of your portfolio in moving forward, the first one would be your network, the second one would be your network, and the third one would be your network.
My guess is that most senior people would tell you that they moved forward — whether it was a job, promotion, grant, somebody joining their lab, or them going to another lab — as a result of the strength of their network. In addition, when my students want to know how to do something I don’t know how to do, I can now almost always connect them with someone around the world.
More broadly, having been to virtually all of SfN’s annual meetings has helped me get to know lots of people in my field and beyond. It’s fun to be a part of this community, but it’s also valuable, not only to me but to the people in my lab. You will meet people and set up research projects that don’t necessarily have to end when you leave. One way to enhance your research opportunities is to maintain that collaboration, especially if you’re at an institution that isn’t as well-resourced as your postdoc institution.
Simply having been in another country can promote your career, and working in an area such as North America, Europe, or Australia can often be a powerful addition to your CV.
Bottom line: Going abroad is a great opportunity to grow personally, gain credentials, and learn new skills.
Adapted from the presentation, Reasons to Do an International Postdoc.