My colleague Darcey Gillie and I facilitated a 2-part workshop this week and last with research students called Planning an Academic Career. If you were there you’ll know the workshops were aimed at helping students to understand what it takes to succeed in an academic career and how to approach academic job hunting and applications. There was a lot of lively debate and discussion which we said we’d share on this blog and may be of use even if you weren’t at the workshops.
We started out by asking students what an academic career means to them. Students focused on the freedom to pursue academic interests and to enthuse others about their subject, but there was some concern about the lack of a clear career path as the quotes below illustrate.
teaching, helping and supporting students and being involved in a stimulating and creative environment
making the most of what I am talented at, turning my life’s passion into a sustainable career and hopefully contribute to new knowledge and overall happiness
lots of insecurity on the way to stability/tenure; balancing research, teaching and funding
For the full list see below:
We also discussed what an academic really does with the idea of getting beyond the headings of research and teaching. From the discussions emerged a clear picture that an academic job consists of a huge range of tasks, and the ability to manage conflicting demands on their time due to a heavy workload is an essential skill! Some of the less obvious tasks mentioned included providing references for students, communicating research to public, travel planning, admissions, presentations at open days, adapting content for specific students, and community engagement.
For the full list of some common academic tasks and responsibilities we came up with see the documents below.
Students also spent time assessing the skills and experience that would make them stand out for an academic job and sharing ideas about how to fill gaps in experience. For more ideas see experience you need in the academic career section of our website and the assessment information on the Manchester academic career website.
The second of the two sessions focused on strategies for job search and applications. It will probably not be a surprise that there was a big emphasis on expanding your academic network and we spent a lot of time discussing how to network effectively. For those of you who cringe at the mere mention of networking you may want to check out the networking game Darcey developed over the summer. It’s a great chance to reflect on what networking really means (a two-way conversation between interested people?) and how to do it more effectively. You can access the game here and see a few suggestions for sources of academic job vacancies across the world below.
We spent some time talking about academic applications and what should (and should not) appear in an academic CV. You can find out more in the academic CV section of our website. Students came up with a list of what should be covered in a research statement and teaching statement (or together as part of an application supporting statement) in an application for an academic job. You’ll see the feedback below but it’s important to remember that the level of detail for each section and space devoted to it in the application will change depending on the emphasis of the academic job (i.e. does the job vacancy emphasise teaching or research more?).
Darcey and I really enjoyed working with students in both the workshops. If you have any questions following on from the session or on planning an academic career generally just get in touch.