Career planning for post-PhD, what’s next?

By Cassandra Kist

Many of us in the POEM network are looking forward to the next steps – what happens after we complete the PhD? The excitement and anxiety over the many career possibilities signals we are in a state of transition. Recently, the POEM fellows were lucky to receive a workshop organised by University of Hamburg’s Dr. Ann-Katrin Ullrich, Consultant for the promotion of ECRs and research funding at the University of Hamburg and Katharina Berghöfer, EU liaison officer and research management at University of Hamburg on funding for early career researchers, and Suanne Müller whose position at UHAM promotes doctoral and early career researchers and research funding. The workshop provided the fellows with an opportunity to consider post-doc funding opportunities and beyond (with a particular focus on Germany). What follows is a summary of the workshop and suggestions for other resources regarding the planning of a post-graduate’s career which may be of interest to other ECRs who are in the transition phase and are anticipating the future.

The first thing that was made apparent in the workshop is that there are multiple opportunities and avenues to seek funding for post-doctoral research. Some of the main ones we discussed include:

  1. Horizon Europe
  2. Marie Skodowska Curie Actions (MSCA) Postdoctoral Fellowships
  3. European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant


1) Horizon Europe:

Horizon Europe is the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation succeeding Horizon 2020 with funding available for the next 7 years (2021-2027). Funding calls from Horizon Europe including the MSCA and ERC (further described below) can be found in the “Funding and Tender Portal”. Each funding opportunity contains its own submission process, its templates and associated documents. The online forms must be filled in the Portal and the research/scientific proposal should be uploaded and submitted in the Funding and Tender Portal prior to the deadline.


2) Marie Sklodowska Curie Action (MSCA) Postdoctoral Fellowships:

These fellowships recognise that not all researchers want to or can stay in science and is thus, intended to develop your scientific career through key skills but also for business. For the POEM fellows many of which have collaborated with institutions from the non-academic sector such as cultural heritage institutions, NGOs and schools this specific focus may be appealing for future heritage-based careers and offers a unique advantage. The postdoctoral fellowships offer mobility/training programmes and has two types.

The two different types of MSCA Postdoctoral Fellowships include:

  1. European (moving within Europe)
  • 1 Host institution in Europe
  • Duration Maximum 24 months
  1. Global (moving outside Europe with return phase back to Europe)
  • 1 Host in Europe, 1 Partner Organisation in Third Country (e. g. USA, Canada, Japan)
  • Duration Maximum 36 months: max. 24 months Outgoing phase
  • 12 months return to Europe phase mandatory

To be considered for an MSCA Postdoctoral Fellowship you must have:

  • Your PhD certificate by the deadline of the call
  • You are allowed to apply up to 8 years after your PhD

The applications consist of three parts for which templates can be found on the portal website.


3) European Research Council (ERC):

The ERC funds the Excellence programme of the EU in which all scientific themes are allowed. The ERC looks for:

  1. Excellent researchers (outstanding CV + track record)
  2. Excellent project proposals

Previous examples of projects that have been funded can be found here.

During the workshop we also discussed many other research funding opportunities which were more specific to Germany and included the Humboldt Research Fellowships, the DFG, the Walter Benjamin Programme, Volkswagenstiftung and the Frist Thyssen Foundation to name a few. Some of these funding opportunities look for more ‘radical’ research proposals but all call for a clear scientific aim and hypothesis, time management and project management skills. One question was raised during the workshop regarding the need for a university’s support to apply for many of the post-doc funding schemes – how do you obtain this support? No clear answer was found, particularly in the time of Covid-19 (which makes meeting new potential collaborators and employers all the more difficult), but we suggest leveraging existing networks and reaching out to specific professors and established researchers you are particularly interested in working with.

Another option is to keep an eye on the European Liaison Offices of national research organisations such as KoWi in Germany. KoWi for example usually opens calls for expressions of interest for MSCA Individual Fellowships applications, listing academic hosting institution and research institutes that are interested in hosting MSCA postdoctoral fellows. This provides an opportunity for applicants to identify and approach an already interested institution. Finally, a starting point for thinking about other career paths is Gemstone’s Manual for Highly Skilled Job Seekers, Gemstones is a MSCA-ETN/graduate school similar to the POEM network and has just recently published this useful guidebook. Do you have suggestions to share with us for post-doc funding opportunities? Or a story to share about your own career trajectory post PhD? Tweet us @POEM_H2020 or contact the Newsletter editors:





If you want to make sure you are up to date with POEM, please sign up to our newsletter. We will keep you informed on a regular basis via email of news from the European Training Network POEM, its partners, and projects.

Please be aware of the terms & conditions concerning data protection.


Coordination and Project Management

University of Hamburg
c/o: Institute for Anthropological Studies in Culture and History
Grindelallee 46 | postbox: H8 | 20146 Hamburg | Germany

+49 (0)40 42838-9940 
POEM Uni Hamburg

Concepts, strategies and media infrastructures for envisioning socially inclusive potential futures of European Societies through culture.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 764859.