The first step

September 5, 1997

This academic life is fraught with difficulty - jobs are scarce, insecure and increasingly clogged up with teaching and administrative duties that prevent our brightest minds from pursuing their first love - research

Dai Williams works at EOS Career Services in Woking, which provides private career counselling. He says that in terms of academic career development, it is up to the individual to plan ahead, as institutional staff development strategies vary so much.

For example, while some departments have responded to the research assessment exercise by employing a combination of pure researchers and "drones" to do the teaching, others have encouraged all staff to do research.

Mr Williams says that academics need to adopt a new career strategy, emphasising the following points: * plan a rolling career over five years (two appointments) ahead

* investigate another career as a fall back

* monitor the job market relevant to both plan A and plan B

* maintain and develop relevant contacts

"It is dangerous to put all your eggs in one career basket," warns Mr Williams, adding that it is also crucial to develop a general skills portfolio. This should show, for example, basic economic or admin skills, any management experience, and networking ability.

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