Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Resilience: The feedback dynamics between you and academia

Dr Emily Troscianko and Dr Rachel Bray

In the first post in this series on resilience, we thought about how you and the academic environment interact. We considered some of the benefits and drawbacks of working in academia, and some of the personal characteristics that might make you more or less resilient in the face of its stresses.

In this post, we offer a way of modelling these interactions in more visual, dynamic terms. Seeing things drawn as well as written can be helpful in understanding the underlying structures (it’s not just about me…), and in adopting a fresh perspective on choices available to you.

Monday, 2 July 2018

CV obsession: why fixating on past experience is costing you valuable time and energy

Steve Joy

“Please will you have a look at my CV?” “The thing I’m most worried about is my CV!” “If we have a few minutes left, I was wondering whether you could have a quick look at my CV.” I long ago lost track of the proportion of one-to-one appointments, informal chats at conferences, and even phone calls with friends that have included these words. The CV seems to be the idée fixe of the vast majority of early career researchers I speak to. You probably think that it’s perfectly reasonable. But I have news for you: stop obsessing about your CV. It’s rarely the real question. It’s often a cause for self-doubt. It’s almost always a signal of not having the right mindset. And it’s energy which you can much better channel in more productive directions.

Let me explain.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Resilience: does academia complement or conflict with who you are?


Emily Troscianko and Rachel Bray

Everything in life has its stresses, and academia isn’t necessarily more stressful than any other professional sector. But academia does have particular contours of cost and benefit, some of which we readily talk about while others are easier to ignore.

Opening a conversation is often the key to igniting personal reflection and action, and it’s in this spirit that we offer six posts over the coming months on the linked topics of resilience, self-awareness, and identity in academia.

Friday, 20 April 2018

What do you mean you don’t have a Plan B?


Diane Caldwell

“What’s yourPlan B?’” When do you stop pursuing ‘Plan A’ and turn to identifying options for your ‘Plan B’?  Or is it too late to develop an appealing and viable ‘Plan B’?

Our everyday reference to ‘Plan A’ for academia and ‘Plan B’ for the other, often less well-known world, is so natural that we hardly notice.  But what are the implications of this binary way of thinking and conversation?  And what do these mean if you think of yourself, or consider others to view you as, having invested in the first stages of an academic career? 

Friday, 16 March 2018

Are you one of us? Non-academic employers’ perspectives on researchers

Rachel Bray

Whatever the job, employers have a common set of questions in mind when evaluating applicants. Are you capable of doing this job? Will you work hard? Will we work well with you and enjoy having you around? Do you share our priorities and values? Are you one of us?

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Relaunching the Early Career Blog!

Dr Steve Joy

We are delighted to relaunch the Early Career Blog – with new articles and a team of new contributors! The blog has been viewed 69,002 times by readers from five continents in the space of just 4½ years. But until now, it has always had just the one author, which means, apart from anything else, that my extended spells out of the country have led to several periods of total inactivity. From today, that’s set to change: the blog is being relaunched by a team of contributors from the universities of Cambridge and Oxford – and I’ll still be here too, contributing the odd post. The team is made up of careers advisers and researcher development professionals, all experts. In fact, if you tot up our combined experience of advising PhD students and postdocs, it exceeds 45 years, so we have a decent evidence base to work from.

As we make this exciting transition, I hope you’ll indulge me if I take a moment to reflect on how the blog came about, and what its ambitions are for the future.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Structuring an academic cover letter

Dr Steve Joy

This autumn, the Early Career Blog is undergoing various changes, not least in the colour & choice of font. Whilst we make further changes, I am expanding & updating for 2016 some of the most popular posts – starting with this advice on structuring a cover letter for academic jobs. Below is a skeleton structure for a two-page cover letter, suitable for lectureships & similar positions in the UK as well as at research-intensive universities overseas. If you’re applying to a research-only job, then you could simply omit the two teaching paragraphs.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Your research: being necessary & useful

Dr Steve Joy

At this time of year, many early career researchers are preparing job documents for academic applications. Lots of PhD students are in the throes of finishing up & preparing to move on; the competitions for Junior Research Fellowships are just around the corner; the US job market is about to go into full swing; and looking towards the autumn, which isn’t as far off as it might seem, there will be a spate of other deadlines. For all of these applications, you will need a persuasive, tautly worded pitch to describe your research. And this is the first place where most people go wrong.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Five job application behaviours – and what they say about you

Dr Steve Joy

[An edited version of this article was also posted on the Guardian Higher Education Network.]

A couple of years ago, I proposed ten irritating mistakes in academic CVs and ten suggestions for writing good cover letters. I think that those tips are still relevant today, but in the intervening years, I have noticed a pattern. Applicants get so wrapped up in worrying about how to present themselves that they stop seeing the wood for trees, and they fail to see what their behaviour implicitly communicates about them to the panel. Here, then, are five examples of such behaviours and why you should guard against them.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Academic interviews: listening for the subtext

Dr Steve Joy

It’s said that, across the whole world of work, interview panels are only ever asking three questions: 1) Can you do this job? 2) Will you do this job? 3) Do you fit the culture of our organisation? There’s a lot of truth in this saying. What it means is that, in effect, the candidate’s task is to decode the phrasing of the interview questions in order to figure out what’s really being asked – whether you have the skills, the motivation, or the right cultural ‘fit’. It’s a powerful tactic.