25 March 2011
By Tennie Videler
In an ideal world researchers (and everyone else) would take responsibility for their careers as a matter of course and the focus on teaching by skills developers would be a lot less. What do you need to be career savvy? It’s been a while since I’ve tried to shoehorn anything in ‘9 ways’….
- Understand yourself. Be self aware- your skills and experiences, what levels they are at. The Researcher development framework (RDF) is a useful tool to help you think about your skills.
- Take a step back to think about how you got to where you are now. Understand that the skills that got you your current job and make you good at what you do now may not be the same as those you may need for your next step.
- Think about what evidence you have for your skills. Make a note of examples as you think of them for later use. The more concrete the better (can you quantify it at all?). If you decide to apply for positions outside academia, consider how to articulate your skills to your prospective employer.
- Be proactive in managing your career. Turn a wish list into a plan by breaking it up into manageable steps with realistic timescales. Look for opportunities, especially those that fit into your plan.
- Understand the academic pathway. Find out about restrictions imposed by funders well before these cut you off! Be realistic in what you need to achieve in terms of output, papers and experience. Bear in mind though that there is never only one cut and dried pathway.
- Understand the funding landscape: research councils, charities, mobility fellowships. Find out the relevant deadlines, requirements and how competitive the different possibilities are (but don’t let that put you off applying!)
- Understand the alternatives. Academic research is not the only career. Many of us choose to go into other careers (sometimes feeling pushed rather than jumping). Other careers may have a lot going for them and it’s worth reconsidering your preconceptions (one I hear a lot is: ‘but business is so competitive’- really? Would you rather compete for that rare lectureship or research officer post?).
- Understand the politics involved. Whose help would be useful or unmissable in a given career? What might they want in return for that help? Who do you need to advertise your achievements to? Would it be useful to join certain committees? Would a mentor be helpful?
- Be proactive in building up this understanding, read widely, for example job adverts and their person specifications to build up a picture of what different careers require. Talk to people in sectors you are interested in. Ask what it is really like day to day, about career structures and maybe whether other researchers are employed in that sector. Make use of your careers service (if you have access to one).
I think Andy has done a superb job at doing this sort of thing in his post
Any others to add. You career savvy lot?