Planning to succeed in your career

 In 2021, the Culture, Employment and Development in Academic Research Survey (CEDARS) aggregate results reported that:

Male research staff are more likely to have career development plan than female research staff and that few research staff in general seek professional careers advice.

Only 15% of research staff reported spending 10 or more days on professional development, with female research staff being less likely to have time to develop their research identity (47%) or leadership capabilities (50%).

There were high levels of interest in a wide range of training and development activities, including leadership (67%) and managing others (67%). 

What actions can be taken to help support researchers' careers as a result of these findings?

Introducing the Vitae Researcher Development Framework (RDF)

The RDF is grounded in research and describes the knowledge, behaviours and attributes of a successful researcher. It breaks down into 4 domains, 12 sub-domains and 63 descriptors then expands on each for up to 5 phases of development.

What can the RDF be used for?

Simply looking systematically through each area can help identify and prioritise development needs as well as recognise areas of existing strength. You might even see attributes that you hadn’t previously associated with research. Focus thinking by asking yourself what RDF areas you excel in and which you’re most excited about developing. The RDF is appropriate to researchers at any career stage and whether you already have a career master plan or no plan at all. If you don’t want to continue in academia or even in research it can help you identify skills you developed as a researcher, consider how these might be transferable to other contexts and articulate that.

‘We don’t have much time to think about career development and when it’s already written down you can keep coming back to it and see if you are complying with your own recommendations.’ First year doctoral candidate asked to try out the RDF

Most good things need a plan to make them happen, whether it’s a simple or an elaborate one. To start, you could list areas from the RDF (for example the 12 sub-domains) and brainstorm possible actions to develop knowledge or skill in your own priority areas. You might also note down evidence to demonstrate existing strengths by area: think about evidence that would be useful for your CV. If you have an existing career development plan, check it against the RDF to identify gaps. Ask peers, a line manager or mentor for feedback on the strengths and development needs you’ve identified and ask for ideas on opportunities to gain new knowledge and skills. Can you use your plan in a formal appraisal?

With 63 descriptors with each having up to 5 phases of development, Vitae has produced some complementary tools. Our lenses on the RDF pick out a sub-set of knowledge, behaviours and attributes with relevance to a specific context.  For example we have lenses for getting started in research, teaching and knowledge exchange. If you want something to make planning and storing information easier, you might try our online app the RDF Planner which is available by subscription (before you subscribe as an individual, find out whether your institution holds an organisational subscription you could use).

Find more advice and resources tailored to researchers on the Vitae website: Members, register for best access. Most UK universities and institutes offer Vitae membership to their staff and students.

Vitae RDF full content graphic jpeg low resolution (jpg) 2011

RDF graphics for web and print can be found here