Well technically, no.
Lately I've noticed a sad theme among the grad students and young postdocs.
No, they have not yet realized what a pyramid scheme they've bought into.
I mean sad because it's one of the same mistakes I made, so I decided I should blog about it here and hopefully save a few poor souls some pain.
So here it is, Yet Another YFS Rule for Postdocs:
If you are looking for an academic career, do not worry about what techniques you will learn as a postdoc.
Now, I know, some of you are saying But-! But-! But-!
But you are wrong. Now shut up and let me tell you why.
1. Most of the successful people I know did NOT switch fields for their postdoc.
Yeah yeah, I know. Your PIs are telling you to do something different and preferably far away. Ignore them. If you don't want to switch, you don't have to go that far, scientifically or geographically (especially if you're already in Boston or the Bay Area).
2. You will not be recruited to your future faculty position interviews for the techniques that you do, NO MATTER HOW COOL THEY ARE, if you don't have the other important things (famous PI; high-impact papers; topic relevant to the department; ideally also funding; ability to kiss everyone's ass).
In reality, your Future Colleagues actually do care what techniques you use, and if you're going to join their department, they WILL expect you to collaborate with them, which means you better bring something they want and need.
But even though many places still advertise for certain specialties (mass spec; structural biology meaning it has to be crystallography or NMR; etc.), they don't actually want you to show up and plug your techniques per se.
They want you to come and tell them a scientific story with a few main players, a plot line, and a fabulous conclusion (surprise ending is optional).
3. Last but not least, the techniques you think are hot today? Will be gone tamale.
Bioscience is moving faster than ever, and shows no signs of slowing down in this regard: whatever RNAi is now, will be something else for your first batch of postdocs, and the batch of postdocs who come after them.
Whatever you think you're an expert in now, yes some of that knowledge will transfer if you understand the concepts. But the key thing will not be what techniques you know. It will be how well you pick up new techniques every time you need to, even if you're not the one doing them yourself.
I've had some interesting experiences in this regard. Trying to troubleshoot over email? An acquired skill.
Trying to troubleshoot something you've never actually done yourself? Learnable.
Now try it over email. #$%^! Pretty damn frustrating.
Learning how to ask the right questions to help figure out what's wrong?
Priceless. That, my friends, is what a good PI is all about.
Now go out there and get yourself some useful training, not a bag of soon-to-be-outdated generic tricks that all your fellow postdocs also know.
...Unless you want to go to industry. There, they want you to have certain hot skills, and preferably a big long list of them.
The funny part there is, industry is actually ahead of academia in many respects when it comes to technical stuff. Some of their toys might not even be available to you as an academic postdoc. So you'll have to be careful to pick labs doing the relevant things (maybe collaborating with companies?) or do an industrial postdoc, if that option is available to you (and those are few in number these days, unless you're in Japan).
So choose wisely, little grasshoppers. Don't pick your lab for techniques.
Pick it for the mentor*; for the prestige; because you like the location and/or the other people in the lab.
Whatever, I don't know. I've tried all the obvious things and it didn't work out so well for me!
Just don't pick it because you think you want to learn X, unless you have an amazing cool question you want to use X to answer. Don't expect your Lab of X to hand you an awesome project that you can take with you to start your own lab, because they usually won't. All that time you've spent debating over model organism? Irrelevant if you don't know what kind of QUESTION you want to ask with your science.
Lesson over. Now go out there and sign yourself up for more indentured servitude. And yes, you can debate endlessly over what kind of pen to use.
*if you believe in such things, like the Tooth Fairy