Skills Weaving - Blog 3: What is academic career development? 


Previously, both in our Blog and Webinar, we highlighted the benefits of a career development plan and offered an approach to structure it. We also discussed the importance of setting clear career goals; the ones to which you feel committed and are motivated to achieve. This raised an important topic that we would like to address in this week’s Blog: What is an academic career and what do we, with Skills Weaving, mean by academic career development? To conclude, we will have a look at academic career perspectives and show how Skills Weaving can aid in navigating your way towards a satisfying career. 


What is an academic career? 

With Skills Weaving, we consider academic careers primarily as the progression from PhD student to a permanent position in academia. This includes successfully obtaining the PhD and performing postdoctoral research as a route towards obtaining tenure as a lecturer or professor. However, academic careers encompass so much more than these traditional roles. Think of technical staff that runs research facilities and infrastructures; project managers that coordinate research consortia; administrative staff that promotes HR development and equal opportunities; supportive staff that drives innovation, knowledge transfer, and entrepreneurship; and many many other roles. 

In addition to this restricted view of the academic career, we also use a broader definition that includes a range of positions beyond academia which may require a PhD. This broader perspective includes entrepreneurs who found their own business; employees in industry; policymakers working for government; advisors in consultancy; and many others. 


What is career development for academics? 

Career development for academics is the progression from your current position towards your (next) career goal. This includes both the formal progression from one job to the other, as well as the day-to-day personal and professional growth that allows you to secure your next position. Skills Weaving focuses on the relevance of continuous professional growth as the main driver of successful career advancement. From this perspective, career development for academics can be seen as any action that can be taken to improve your chances for a successful career in academia and beyond. 


Career perspectives for academics 

We certainly do not want to be naïve regarding career perspectives in academia. As a PhD student or postdoctoral researcher, the easiest way of getting a realistic impression of your career perspective is to have a look around your department and determine the percentage of academic staff with permanent positions (professors and other staff) and those with temporary contracts (PhD and postdoctoral staff). If you then also correct for the different turnover rate (a fixed position can span 20-30 years, while temporary contracts often only last 2-4 years), the percentage of tenured staff quickly drops towards single digits. 

This does not mean that there is no career perspective in academia. It just shows that the competition will be strong and that the margin for error is low. The good news is that, as described above, there are many careers to be found beyond academia. Actually, most academics eventually find a satisfying job outside of academia and would never turn back. 


So what’s next? 

Skills Weaving provides insights, strategies, and tools to support your career development for academics. We are convinced that one of the most important aspects of successful career advancement is early awareness, both about your ambitions and potential career challenges, as well as about your personal strengths and the opportunities for improvement. This allows to pro-actively invest in your personal growth so that you can efficiently advance your career. Moreover, it provides you with a balanced skillset that allows smoother transitions to other (non-academic) career trajectories, as well as increased professional versatility. 


Take your career development seriously and get started today by taking the Skills Weaving – Academic Skills Assessment and designing your personal career development plan


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