Support for managers who supervise postdocs

Most researchers strive for an academic career. But only 5% of all postdocs in Germany are becoming a professorship.

For this reason, young academics would like support in career planning from various sides, including you as managers.
Because you bear responsibility for your postdocs, you as a manager should support them in their professional orientation. It is therefore important to discuss career prospects at an early stage.

Successful careers for your postdocs also cast a positive light on you and your research group. This strengthens the attractiveness of your department and the JGU.

On this website you will find suggestions and information so that you can discuss career prospects with your research staff.

Many of the JGU managers already support our postdocs at this site. Also join them.

Your role as a “Career Advisor”

Superiors cannot and should not assume the role of "career advisors". They provide professional support and take on a part of the consulting work for the planning of scientific career paths.

Based on your own scientific experience, “plan B” often seems to be an emergency solution or even a failure. With this bias and the variety of roles as supervisor, advisor, evaluator and mentor, you cannot take on a neutral advisory position that is necessary for the confidentiality and effectiveness of the advice.

Superiors should be aware of the diversity of career paths, and there should be openness and acceptance towards them. They should be well informed about career development opportunities at the university so that they can recommend them to post-doctoral students.

See also literature references.

Discussing career prospects with young researchers

The question of “Where should the journey take us?” plays a central role in the future career planning of academic staff, since it is particularly a question of the far-reaching decision as to whether they want to and should (continue to) pursue an academic career.

Within the context of this project, important insights could be gained about how the local postdocs approach their career planning, which questions they are pushing around and what their needs and desires are. Based on these findings, a flyer Discuss career perspectives with researchers (in German) was developed which offers both sides - postdocs and supervisors - suggestions for systematic examination of career issues. This guideline can be integrated into the annual review, which has established itself as an important instrument of employee management and personnel development at JGU.

Preparation for career talks for managers

The annual meeting at the JGU has three focal points: work tasks & environment, cooperation & leadership and perspectives & development opportunities.
The annual meetings initiated by you as a manager are suitable for discussing career perspectives within or beyond the academic world.

Before you conduct the interview, some questions should be answered by you as the manager.

Would and can I offer the employee a contract extension or continued employment?
How much time remains for the current qualification goal? How long would a temporary follow-up employment still be legally possible?

The guide to the annual meeting Jahresgespräch supports you in inviting and conducting meetings.

The colleagues of the Human Resources department PA 1-3 will be happy to advise and support you with regard to the Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz (§ 2 para. 1).

Which professional development do I consider suitable for my employee?

Is the postdoc suitable and fit for an academic career?

What non-university perspectives do I see as a manager for professional development?

General questions to be answered for both academic and non-academic career paths are e.g.:

• What competencies does the employee already have for this? What should be expanded if necessary?
• What support options can I offer for the career path (e.g. networks, conferences, publications)?
• Which (of my) network contacts can I offer the employee?

The post-doctoral candidate is thus in a position to develop a self-image on the basis of which he/she can become active and identify attractive occupational fields for him/herself.

Consulting for managers

If you have any questions about career perspectives, academic or non-academic, preparation for discussions or career options for individuals, you can contact us at Personnel Development.

Please feel free to contact Dr. Frauke Choi if you have any questions about career perspectives, academic or non-academic, preparation for discussions or career options for individuals.

Our colleagues of the Human Resources Department PA 1-3 will be happy to advise and support you on the subject of contract extension.

General conditions: Guidelines for good work at the JGU (Leitlinien guter Arbeit an der JGU)

In the guidelines for good work, the JGU promises to qualify young academics for national and international employers within and outside the university sector. Advice and information in career planning, especially from the supervising professors, are of particular importance [...].

The interview on career perspectives is therefore a central instrument with which you can meet these requirements. You should be aware that universities educate for our society and for research. The very diverse options of non-academic career paths are valued just as highly as academic career paths.

Guidelines for good work at the JGU /Leitlinien guter Arbeit an der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Decided in the Senate on 18.12.2015 (Top I.10)

General conditions: Guidelines of the Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz for the Promotion of Young Researchers (Leitlinien der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz zur Förderung ihres wissenschaftlichen Nachwuchses)

The aim of these guidelines is to set out the JGU's self-image in dealing with its young scientists and to formulate standards which are supported by the entire university and which are thus effective in terms of both the attitude and actions of its members. Decisive factors here are:

  • enabling and promoting early academic independence, and
  • appropriate recognition of the achievements of young scientists, and
  • the acceptance and assumption of responsibility by caregivers and carers.

Guidelines of the Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz for the Promotion of Young Researchers (Leitlinien der JGU Mainz zur Förderung ihres wissenschaftlichen Nachwuchses), decided in the Senate on 29.06.2018

The “JGU Leadership - Shaping Change (Wandel gestalten)” project started the process of further developing our leadership culture by developing joint leadership guidelines for the entire JGU. A large number of measures and strategic concepts have been in place since 2012 to implement the new management guidelines

Führungsleitlinien JGU -Leadership, Decided in the Senate on 16.12.2011

General conditions: The Act of Academic Fixed Term Contract (Das Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgeset)

The Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz (WissZeitVG - The Law for Academic Fixed Term Contracts) regulates the employment periods for young scientists before and after their doctorate at a university.

Scientific and artistic personnel can be employed for a limited period of time without any objective reason for a maximum of six years before the doctorate and a maximum of six years (in the case of medicine, a maximum of nine years) after the doctorate.

Further contracts are only possible subsequently if an unlimited contract is concluded or if an exceptional reason applies, e.g. fixed-term contract after third-party funding or with a representative.
Temporary contracts on the basis of Grundlage des §2 Abs.1 WissZeitVG are only permissible if the employment is for the purpose of promoting one’s own scientific or artistic qualification. It is therefore necessary to state a qualification objective.

Only with a permanent contract can you work in academic research on a long-term (or permanent) basis. Otherwise, you should orient yourself towards a different career path.

The colleagues of the Human Resources Department PA 1-3 will be happy to advise and support you with regard to the Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz (§ 2 Abs. 1). For individual questions, please contact your contact person in the Human Resources Department.

This information should serve as a first source of information. It does not replace individual advice from the Human Resources department and is not legally binding.

Literature references

  • Nickels, B./Löchte, A. (2017): Karriereberatung für Promovierende und Post-Doktorand/innen, Zeitschrift für Beratung und Studium
  • Leitlinien guter Arbeit an der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Beschlossen im Senat am 18.12.2015 (Top I.10)
  • UniWIND Arbeitsgruppe Kompetenzprofile von NachwuchswissenschaftlerInnen - Wissenschaftliche Forschung und (außer)wissenschaftliche Karriere 2014.