Planning for Your Career

As we move into a New Year many of us will have made resolutions for the coming year and will be thinking about all the things we plan to do better and devote more time to. Planning for your career is one of those resolutions that will be a good investment of time.

Long term career planning and development never ends it is something that you should be consistently striving for in an ever increasingly competitive market. If you don’t put anytime into thinking about your priorities it is likely that your career will stagnate.

Plan in stages:

Planning one year ahead is relatively straightforward. Think about the goals that you want to achieve this year. Are there new skills that you want to learn? A certain number of papers you are aiming to publish or a level of funding that you intend to secure? Alternatively, are you aiming for a promotion at your current institution? If so you need to understand the criteria that will allow you to move up the ladder and fully demonstrate that you’ve mastered these extra responsibilities. Perhaps you are considering moving to another institution? If so you will definitely need some selling points to enhance your status as an attractive candidate. You might decide to try learning new IT technologies such as podcasting or perhaps novel online teaching methods. You may choose to aim for external awards perhaps for funding or conference presentations. These awards are hugely competitive but even being involved in the process is great experience and shows dedication and determination. You can always look to take on extra roles in your department, joining committees and undertaking training courses are all ways to demonstrate development. Of course you can always use your 10 days professional development allowance towards some of these activities.

In some ways the ongoing pandemic has increased the ease of professional development because you can attend events, conferences and training events in ways that were not previously possible. For example, gone is the need to take a whole day in order to travel to an event or not attend because of location. You can now attend a live session, participate in breakout rooms, choose to be visible on camera or not and participate for only part of the event. This gives greater flexibility on what skills you can achieve (also refer to the Researcher Development Framework for more information on key skills sought). For more information on career planning and creating an action plan use the Toolkit provided by A final pointer is to keep your CV up to date as this will make it easier to record your new achievements quickly and easily and will also put you in a good position for making job applications when the time comes.

5 year plan:

This will by nature be a more flexible plan than your 1 year plan. In 5 years you will ideally make at least one jump up the ladder during this time. Sometimes academics consider changing institutions in order to further their careers. This is a possibility but there is mixed evidence for doing so. Some academics make a very successful career without moving institution so don’t feel you have to move. Consider though if other intuitions are more aligned with your research area or if they have a calibre of student that you would be particularly keen to work with. Talking to colleagues and seeking a mentor to guide you through the process can be invaluable!

If you have a strong idea what direction your career needs to follow over the next year think about the things that you need to prioritise in order to make the goal happen. For example, if you intend to move into another sector start by thinking about what you want that new role to be. Think about the parts of your current role that you enjoy and what you want to be doing on a daily basis. Take time to do some self- reflection / conduct a skills audit. Develop contacts, network / speak to people to develop that industry insight. Professional bodies and societies are very useful for developing new contacts and insights, anything that you can attend to widen your network is a useful investment. Finally make sure that you know where to look for vacancies and remember that if an application is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Put the time in to creating a tailored application as you will be more likely to make it to the next round rather than if you send in a generic application.

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article then do book a 1:1 career consultation with the IAD Careers Consultant.


This blog was written by Eleanor Hennige.  Eleanor is the IAD’s Research Staff Careers Consultant, supporting fixed-term research staff at the University with their career planning and options.  In addition to running our 1:1 appointments, she also delivers our suite of career workshops, career discussion groups and works with Schools/Research Staff Societies on career specific events and workshops.  Eleanor works on a part-time basis (4 mornings a week) and can be contacted at

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