There's something about your academic work that made you stick with it for this long. Whether it was the joy of discovery, the thrill of new ideas or even just a love of being in the lab, before you choose a postdoc, it's important to zero in on the aspects of your field that kept you coming back for more. Think long and hard about your academic career, pinpoint what you liked most and then seek out a postdoc that will help you recapture that sort of feeling. As an academic, you're probably used to making meticulous and well-researched decisions, so don't be afraid to use those same skills to plan your own career path [source: Noordam].
Your natural inclination might be to find a postdoctoral position that is as close to your field of study as possible. If you studied philosophy, for instance, you'll probably start by combing through the job postings at some nearby philosophy departments. You may even try to get a postdoc at the same place you did your doctoral dissertation. Even if you're pretty sure you want to pursue your postdoctoral career at a university, take a glance at non-university or non-academic postdocs. It may open your eyes to entirely new career paths.
Since postdoctoral work -- especially when it relates to research -- can be such a personalized and involved process, it's important to make sure that you're a right "fit" with the individual and institution you decide to study with. Don't just check the job description [source: Ng].
Now, it may be tempting to take the first job that comes your way, even if it's not the right fit, but don't be afraid to bide your time until a more suitable position becomes available [source: Noordam]. The more you enjoy your postdoc position, the better you'll do at it -- and the better your prospects to move up the academic ladder.
Fortunately, there are plenty of resources available for both postdocs and postdoctoral candidates. The National Postdoctoral Association, for example, provides a wide range of links and publications for postdocs and postdoc candidates. Also, ask around. Wherever you did your doctoral dissertation is probably crawling with postdocs, postdoc candidates and faculty with detailed knowledge of the postdoctoral experience.
Once you've come across the right postdoctoral position, read on to find out how to get yourself in.