I'm thinking of applying for an ESRC Postdoc (not a pre-planned project), and have narrowed it down to 3 people as potential mentors - I think! One is an amazing professor at a great Uni who does exactly what I want to do, the other is a very good senior lecturer at a Russell Group but not as directly related to what I do, the final one is at a pretty poor university but is a senior member of staff and again almost exactly on topic.
The question is who I go for. I don't know the procedure exactly, but should I apply for the amazing professor then work my way down? If I get rejected by the ESRC with one, can I apply with another?
Your choice of adjectives suggests you'd really like to work with the first one!
Ignoring their universities, how are their respective departments viewed in your field? What are the publication records like for each of the potential supervisors? What's the current funding status of their work? I think funding tends to beget funding. I reckon if your potential supervisor has just been awarded a programme grant, your own application may be more successful than if s/he is approaching the end of a project grant and hasn't lined up the next thing, for example.
I was going to say the same thing, you kind of answered your own question in your post! Sounds like you would really prefer the first one... is it that you think you are more likely to have a succesful application with one of the 'lesser' options? If that makes sense... In other words, going for what you think you can get, rather than what you actually want? There is a famous quotation about that, can't remember it now, but it basically says - go for what you really want!
Having recently gone through the ESRC post doc route I advise you to pick the mentor who has a good reputation - as your application is partly judged on that plus the degree of 'fit' between your work and their experience. Plus go for the one who will be able to give a bit of time to it as they have to write a good mentors statement and check your application form. Oh and if you get rejected you can only reapply if your application is substantially changed - which I think basically means no!
It is a lengthy process. Writing the actual application form takes time and also chasing everything up such as mentor statements, head of department statements, costings etc. But good practice for real life research I guess.
Definitely worth going for though! Good luck with it!
Although I'm not a postdoc, I second the advice to 'go for what you really want': when looking to change supervisor, I contacted loads of academics, and only got one 'yes' - that was from the one who I thought was way out of my league, but who was my dream supervisor. I'd written to him with a what the hell attitude!
It stands to reason that if your work is right up their street, they'll be more likely to be interested in you.
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