How do you decide whether and where to do a postdoc? For my PhD I decided mostly randomly, and I got lucky, but in retrospect it could have been bad.

And also: when? (how many months before the end of your PhD)

@acowley Thanks! I'm a bit less than a year away from defending, so it's time then.

@acowley @julesjacobs Another potential reason to do a postdoc is if you *know* you can't ever get an academic position, but want to be allowed to do research full time for as long as possible... If you are a good researcher, you can probably stretch out a decade or more doing this. (But maybe it's not a good idea for your future in that case.)

@jonmsterling @acowley How does one know whether you will eventually be able to get an academic position? (or what the probability of that is)

@julesjacobs @acowley That's a good question, I have no idea... ;-)

But let's just imagine for a moment that a few years ago I did not start doing actual PL research and instead continued working on only proof assistants for cubical type theory. It is quite clear that such a person could never ever get an academic position except by sheer luck.

@julesjacobs @acowley On the other hand, there are candidates who will certainly receive multiple offers from top places...

And then there is the rest of us, who certainly have a chance but it is by no means guaranteed. Based on our profiles, I would guess that both you and I are in that group. (And doing a postdoc does help increase your chances in this group, as you will do better research with more freedom, make better connections, publish more...)

@jonmsterling @acowley Yes and a postdoc does sound like a lot of fun. I would not necessarily mind doing postdocs indefinitely, but the main problem is indeed that that is a road that doesn't stretch to retirement :D

@julesjacobs @acowley Yeah precisely... I wouldn't mind hopping from postdoc to postdoc for as long as possible, but I'm getting married and we need to find some stability and put down roots. The life of the "rootless postdoc" is not really compatible with family life.

@julesjacobs @acowley With that said, enjoy the postdoc stage while you can. It's the most fun I've ever had, and the most relaxed I've ever been in my whole life. And I feel stronger than ever...

@jonmsterling @acowley Congratulations! Do you know on which continent you want to settle down?

@jonmsterling @acowley I have wondered about much PL research is built on Coq, but it seems that if not for Inria, Coq might not even be maintained??

@julesjacobs @acowley That's true... But I do think being a Coq grandmaster is a much better choice career-wise, nonetheless, than building obscure implementations of obscure type theories ;-)

I think however in the end, it is hard to convince a hiring committee that being a master of infrastructure-work (whether it is maintaining tools or greasing the wheels of the community itself) is worthy of a professorship. So I think these kind of interests have to be contextualized within a serious

@julesjacobs @acowley research program that targets scientific problems that people generally recognize as being real.

@acowley @jonmsterling I like teaching, actually, but ideally it would not be only/mostly teaching. I have a long (and growing) list of topics I want to investigate, so it would be great to have time to do that.

@julesjacobs To answer this question about timing, I suggest putting feelers out to potential postdoc supervisors somewhat early. You don't want to finish your PhD and be like "ok, now what" and have nowhere to go... (in such cases, often your advisor will extend a short postdoc.)

You may start also receiving offers or attempts to recruit you as a postdoc, depending on how well-regarded your research is by people who have money to hire.

Anyway, it's probably not too early to start looking.

@jonmsterling I have had a few potential postdoc supervisors contact me, but no clue how to make such a decision. Good idea to be proactive, too. My PhD has been a hodgepodge of topics, and I have heard that you should establish a coherent research program during your postdoc, so what you choose to research during your postdoc may be quite important…?

@julesjacobs Great, that's a good position to be in! And yes, I think you're right. Your work from this point on should demonstrate some independent agenda that you can argue for — it will be good to pick an environment in which your agenda connects with what is being done, but it is also important, I think, to make sure that it is possible to distinguish from the outside between *your* agenda and that of your postdoc supervisor.

@julesjacobs I was really lucky to land with Lars... He and I have many very similar sensibilities, and we have both just the right kind of background to productively collaborate with each other. At the same time, I think Lars's goals and my own goals are a little bit different, which actually makes the collaboration more rather than less rich. And it helps to avoid the possibility of being confused for a cog in his (amazing) machine.

@julesjacobs My main advice, however, is — choose someone who can teach you A LOT. That's the main aspect of my relationship with Lars... he is always teaching me, and I feel like I would have to work for decades before there would be a time when he doesn't have anything left to teach me. Choosing a PhD advisor is comparatively harder because you don't have enough knowledge or experience to know who is for real and who is a bullshitter. After doing a PhD, you are uniquely positioned to tell

@julesjacobs who is for real, because you will be one of the most expert people on the planet in your area of interest. So good luck and have fun!

@jonmsterling I've been thinking about this, and it makes a lot of sense to let the primary criterion be how much you will learn about a topic that you want to learn more about.

@jonmsterling In the same vein, people always give talks about and chat about new research. That is nice, but I wish there were also more exchange of the fundamental ideas of their subfield, rather than the latest ones. The experts in a subfield have a unique perspective that is hard to extract from papers.

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