‘Administration’ is not usually a word that fills researchers with joy. However, a little experience of administration in your work setting can be a significant boost to your CV.
If you are hoping for a long-term career in academia, administrative experience can give you a valuable insight into the way that your department and discipline operates. If you are thinking of a career outside academia, some administrative experience will demonstrate that you have valuable transferable skills and that you know how to put these to use.
Roles that may be available
Administrative duties that may be open to research staff include:
- an organiser or a guide for prospective students on university ‘Open Days’
- a position on a departmental committee or working group. The positions open to research staff may be representational (e.g. to be the ‘voice’ for other research staff) or have a specific remit (e.g. a Health & Safety representative)
- a representational role on a university-wide committee or working group
- a role in a local research staff association or forum
- a role as a trade union representative
- a representational role on a national committee, e.g. the UK Research Staff Association.
What are the benefits?
It is important to bear in mind that most of these roles are voluntary ones. Most researchers’ contracts of employment will not permit significant amounts of time being taken out of the working week for administrative duties, so you may have to be prepared to take these on as ‘extra’ work. Representatives of trade unions are allowed ‘reasonable’ time out of their normal duties in order to undertake trade union-related work, but any time taken out of working hours should be negotiated with your line manager first.
Some of the benefits that can be obtained from administrative work include the following:
- it is a chance to develop your transferable skills – e.g. organisation and project planning, people skills, time management – and put these into practice in a context other than your daily research work
- it is an opportunity to make connections with other staff – particularly members of staff that you might not otherwise meet. In other words, it is an effective way of networking beyond your research team, and possibly beyond your department or university
- it helps you see the bigger picture – you get an understanding of the organisational, business and policy reasons that underpin the work that you and your colleagues are doing. If you are hoping for a long-term academic career, some foreknowledge of how universities operate and why they operate the way they do can be invaluable.
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