Advice from an Expert: ‘Career planning for early career researchers’
Our conpher expert contributor is Dr Artemios Vogiatzis, a highly respected certified coach who has mentored and advised early-career researchers to tenured principal researchers in multiple disciplines.
Career planning for early career researchers
Researchers pose interesting questions and find new answers. In this course, they are willing to accept long times for their ideas to be reviewed by their peers. Research can be a hard and lonely journey; passion for the topic of research helps keep going through the difficult times.
Have you ever wondered “Why do I research?”
The answer varies from person to person but, in my experience, many people fail to ask this question when entering the field as early career researchers. Sooner or later in the career path, every researcher must know their goal: who they want to become and by when they want to reach it.
A common misconception is that there is only one goal: a tenured professor position at a University. This is far from the truth for so many reasons. First and foremost, different personalities enjoy different facets of research. Some people shine as research staff at national laboratories with no teaching and University administration duties. Others love to manage research rather than do research. Many researchers find their true calling as policymakers, influencing research funding priorities, or guiding governments to make informed decisions. Still, others feel more comfortable in industry R&D departments or as patent attorneys/examiners. Last but not least, there are early career researchers that want to found their own companies by commercializing the results of their research and contribute to the well-being of the society through an entrepreneurial path.
a common misconception is that there is only one goal
A researcher armed with this knowledge can, then, define a strategy on how to reach their goal and plan each next step to serve the identified goal. This can be, among others, improvement of hard skills, acquiring new knowledge, development of soft skills, or establishments of a network of contacts outside academia. Naturally, not all plans become a reality and goals must be reassessed as new information become available. For example, the ratio of tenured professor positions to the number of awarded Ph.D.’s is somewhere in the range of 10-15% for many countries, or even less than 1% in some of them.
Many things that we take for granted can change. The COVID-19 pandemic served as a good reminder of this. The goal is not fully identified until a researcher has the answers for two more questions: where do I want to live and what is the impact of my decision on my close ones?
An early career researcher (ECR) is not alone in this exploration. Senior researchers and established professors act as role models and mentors for specific career paths. Postdoc associations and peer-support groups provide platforms for exchanging ideas and experiences. Many Universities and other research-performing organizations offer or expand their counseling services toward ECR, while career development plans progressively become a norm in postdoc contracts. Trusted friends and family members can also help with their advice, while career coach professionals can provide an independent and unbiased viewpoint.
……… So, why do you research?
About Coach Art
Dr. Artemios Vogiatzis is passionate about coaching career changers. He was in the area of higher education and research for more than 20 years and three countries, where he enjoyed the training and mentoring of early career researchers. Since 2017, he switched to freelance work in the IT sector and career coaching. For more information, please visit Coach Art.