Ever wonder why you never hear about postdoc job opportunities at military research institutes?
One reason is that adequate job advertising is severely lacking or completely absent for most military research postdoc positions. As a result, most prospective postdocs have no idea where to go, or what they need to do to get one of these jobs. I’ll tell you what you need to know and how to start looking for these positions.
Postdocs are hired by military research labs through government contracting agencies. Two such agencies are the National Research Council (NRC) and Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE). Military institutes such as USAMRIID and Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) use these agencies as the primary way to employ postdocs.
You can visit the websites for these contracting agencies to learn how they work. Links to these opportunities are listed at the end of this blog. Keep in mind, the application process for some agencies can be lengthy, so plan accordingly. For example, the NRC requires a written research proposal.
One of the problems is that most of the lab descriptions on the NRC Research Associate Program (RAP) website are not updated regularly by the PIs and it’s very difficult to know which labs are currently looking for postdocs. In order to find out, you have to email each PI directly. Many of these emails get ignored because PIs are extremely busy and are constantly getting bombarded with emails from prospective postdocs.
Also, the funding situations for these labs are always in flux. However, if you have no connections with these places, emailing the PI may be your only option. Be persistent, and you can increase your odds by emailing multiple PIs. But make sure to tailor each email/CV to each respective lab/position and avoid mass emailing every PI in a division.
Try to make an impression by being different or memorable in some way. If possible, I highly recommend approaching these PIs at conferences you attend to make a face-to-face connection. This will dramatically increase your chances of being hired if an opening arises.
A PI friend of mine at ECBC was recently looking for a postdoc but was having trouble finding any candidates.The salary was top notch for a postdoc but despite that, he didn’t hear from a single candidate for months through his limited advertising. Someone eventually contacted him after seeing his personal post on LinkedIn. They were actually already one of his connections.
Although it may be difficult to connect with people in such a narrow scientific discipline, I’m sure there were plenty of qualified postdoc candidates out there. Connecting is the problem. Most of these jobs are filled by a chance connection even though there may be better candidates available.
Advertising is difficult for these institutes because good advertising costs money. Hiring a recruiter or taking out an ad in a journal like Science is expensive. Most budgets aren’t set up to pay for postdoc advertising. However, there are some free advertising options available, so make sure to check these places for postings. American Society for Microbiology (ASM) Career Connections is a free service for both job seekers and employers who are ASM members. There is also an abundance of job groups and postings on LinkedIn. And as you know, Bio Careers is a great place to search for jobs.
I hope some of this info will be useful in your search. Although these jobs may be difficult to find, they are certainly rewarding. Best of luck!
NRC RAP: http://nrc58.nas.edu/RAPLab10/Opportunity/Programs.aspx
ASM Career Connections: http://www.asmcareerconnections.org/jobseeker/search/results/