An Academic Career

The competition

Do you know who your competitors are?

You probably already know several of the people with whom you will be competing for jobs - who attends the same conferences as you or your PI, who is publishing in the journals you read, who is getting the jobs you're applying for (or would like to aim for if you're not yet at the stage of applying for jobs)? It's pretty easy to find that information in academia, and then to look at biographies of successful job applicants from their websites, conferences presentations etc.

What can you learn, and how can you make yourself a similarly attractive prospect to academic employers?


Dr Sam Cartwright-Hatton relates how networking at conferences has helped her career.

What gives you the competitive edge?

If you are lucky enough to be in a discipline where there is a shortage of good potential academics, you may have the pick of entry level academic jobs. However, in many disciplines the academic job market operates at a global level, particularly in highly regarded universities and departments. Your competitors could come from anywhere in the world. It's often not enough to be a great researcher to get an academic job; you may need to be better than your global competitors. This could be 'better at research' but could also be 'has a better professional reputation'.

If you have specialist skills which are ideal for the jobs you want, make sure that is clear from your applications. Better still, make sure you are known for these skills outside your research group before you apply, through your network of contacts, your presentations and publications. If the right people already know of your expertise, you may be approached for jobs or 'encouraged to apply' when they are advertised.

Even making informal and social contacts at conferences and showing enthusiasm for others (and your own research) can enhance your professional reputation.