I found this article today, written in 2002, by Dr. Johnathan Yewdell, a scientist at the NIH (National Institutes of Health, in Maryland, USA). From what I have heard, Dr. Yewdell is an excellent scientist, and an excellent mentor. He so eloquently sums up what the issues of being a postdoctoral fellow is, and why it is so difficult.
So, for those of you who feel that once you get your PhD, you're off and running into a lucrative career, read the article. If not here are some of the highlights;
1. Postdocs are often referred to as trainees; if this were true, we would have training periods much longer than any profession (say, neurosurgeons) at about 15 + years!
2. Postdocs are often the most skilled workers in a research lab, and are often plugging in 60+ hour work weeks, but received at times almost poverty level wages, living in some of the highest cost-of-living cities where the biggest academic centers are.
3. The lions share of credit for the work of postdocs go to their mentor, and the bulk of any financial proceeds go to the university, who often fail to even recognize their existence within the university setting.
4. Most mentors fail to acknowledge that even though they use the 'I did this too' reason, they often received their first tenure track job 10 years younger on average than today's postdoc.
This is an EXCELLENT article... Published 5 years ago. What has changed since then? Not a lot. Sadly.
To postdocs, I urge you. Stand up, and get involved!