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Career Support for New Research Staff

Academia is competitive field to build a career in. It can take a long time to achieve a permanent position, if at all, so the importance of planning ahead is crucial. New Early Career Researchers at Edinburgh need to consider “Where do you want to be in 5 years time?” It’s important to stay open to opportunities and to plan some short and long term goals, considering the possibility of a career outside of academia as your thinking could change over time.

Consider the skills that you already have and those that would be useful to develop as this might feedback into your short term goals. You can find a skills audit to complete on the IAD website. Another useful document to read and fill out is Thriving in Your Research Position, which prompts you to think about skills to develop and also provides some case studies on career journeys. It’s a good idea to keep a training and development log so that you can look back and see what you have achieved (it’s also useful to keep this in one place so that when it comes to making job applications you can easily see what and where you have developed. Look at the training courses offered by IAD and identify if there is anything that you can benefit from. Be aware that many of our training courses run each semester so if you cannot secure a place in this round or simply don’t have capacity at the time that the training is offered it is possible to attend at a later date. The IAD also has a dedicated blog for researchers within the University HERE. Keep an eye on this as posts are added regularly on a wide range of issues relevant to researchers. The blog also allows you to access recordings of previous career development workshops and events that have taken place if you wish to undertake some self- directed career research.

Talk to your PI and keep them in the loop regarding your career aims. You might find that a natural point to discuss career progression happens as part of the annual Personal Development Review or PDR (See the Code of Practice for the Management and Career Development of Research Staff for further details). For further information see the document ‘Career Conversations with your PI’. Your PI might be able to assist with providing access to useful networks or contacts. Trying to integrate into different networks is key for those planning on an academic career. When thinking about who and what can help you to develop your career and skills a good place to start your search are the Research Staff hub webpages. These pages signpost you to many relevant development areas to think about during your time at the University of Edinburgh.

Things to think about for a successful academic career:

Take a strategic approach to the experience that you need to build in order to progress your academic career. Focus on those areas that are a priority either because the sector / discipline demands them or because they are areas that are currently lacking in your skills set.

Develop your ability to acquire funding. What are the funding streams available within the University and those externally? Aim to write grant applications as this backs up your track record of attracting funding. The Edinburgh Research Office can provide more help and support regarding matters of funding and writing applications.

Attend conferences and events to improve your knowledge and to build your network of contacts for future research and collaboration purposes. Speaking at conferences can also help build your reputation within the field. Linked to conference attendance is the idea of interdisciplinary research and academic collaborations. Such collaborations can increase the impact of your research and broaden your networks at the same time.

Becoming involved in knowledge exchange and public engagement require you to communicate your research to different audiences, which expands your communication skills but is also viewed favourably in regard to progressing your academic career.

If your goal is to secure a lectureship then gaining teaching and supervisory experience is crucial. Speak to your PI and see what scope there is to get involved in these activities.

Aim to become involved in relevant networks or develop your own within the University. For example, becoming involved with a research staff society or departmental committee are ways to show that you are contributing to University life outside of your research (as well as helping you to further key skills such as communication, planning and organisation and time management).

Key resources:

Things to think about for successful transition outside academia:

Consider how your skills and experience as a researcher can be applied to other jobs or career sectors. You can use career websites such as www.prospects.ac.uk as a starting point.

Explore your interest in other areas through independent research and by discussion with colleagues, mentor and a Careers Consultant. To find out more about Career Consultations offered by IAD see webpages.

Aim to develop a network of contacts in your chosen area that can inform your awareness of the role and sector. Develop your network through attending events in person but also use online platforms such as LinkedIn. For more information on creating effective online profiles see the main Careers Service webpages.

During your time at Edinburgh University take advantage of the training opportunities that are offered to you. Think about the skills that will broaden your research but that can also be applied to other contexts. For more information see the IAD training brochure on the website.

Consider the possibility of starting your own business or setting yourself up as a consultant to industry based on your area of expertise (Edinburgh Innovations can support you with this process and also run training).

Key resources:


Eleanor Hennige is the IAD’s Research Staff Careers Consultant, supporting fixed-term research staff at the University with their career planning and options.  Eleanor runs our 1:1 career development consultations, she delivers our suite of career workshops and works with Schools/Research Staff Societies on career specific events and workshops.  Eleanor works on a part-time basis (5 mornings a week) and can be contacted at ResearchStaff.Careers@ed.ac.uk

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