Researchers hoping to land their first lecturing positions now have a guide that sets out the steps they need to take to advance.
A report published by the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services says that researchers need to develop personal and research independence and invest in their academic skills if they want to stand out from the crowd and move up the career ladder to gain a lectureship.
Researchers hoping for promotion to lecturer can demonstrate an independent research profile through a publication record of consistent output with evidence of increasing impact, according to the report, Getting the First Lecturing Job. Evidence of securing, or the potential to secure, funding through competition is also important.
Although teaching is a key skill, having a teaching qualification before appointment is not expected of would-be lecturers, adds the report, which was published in December.
For the report, the association gathered information about the attributes expected in lectureship candidates from a survey of 172 academics from 22 universities. It also drew on insights from the AGCAS Research Staff Task Group, whose members are research careers guidance professionals at universities.
“There is the very real challenge facing research students and early career researchers in both entering and progressing within a career in academia. The reality is that many more members of these communities will wish to enter and progress on to this career path than there are opportunities available,” says the report.
To stand the best chance of success, the report calls for researchers to reflect on their experience and skills, and to think about where they would like to be in their career in five to 10 years. “It is never too early to move forward,” it says.
But it cautions that academics with more than 10 years of experience at postdoctoral level who intend to apply for lectureship positions – especially those who have worked in the same lab for that period – should “take a realistic view” of their career to date. They should consider “alternative options” because there may be a view that they have spent too long as a postdoc to pursue an independent research career.
Academic careers “demand” that individuals foster two types of independence: research and personal, the report explains. Research independence requires “creative and groundbreaking research plans, publication records and funding acquisition”, whereas personal independence includes “taking personal responsibility for career planning and development”, it says.
The path to research independence involves exploring funding opportunities such as fellowships, and seeking career opportunities that offer development in new techniques. “Consider the pros and cons of moving to different institutions in order to develop experience,” the report advises.
As for fostering personal independence, this can require individual initiative as not all universities have helpful facilities and support mechanisms in place for this. Researchers should get to know the range and the requirements of academic jobs available in different types of institution in the UK and abroad and make “informed choices” about their options. Researchers should critically appraise potential jobs for their ability to create good career foundations, the report says.
Would-be lecturers should also take career development advice from their principal investigators during supervisory meetings. “These discussions can be challenging, and you may hear some adverse comments on possible career success, but they can also act as a spur to take action,” the report says.
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