My top-3 career tips

Seventh of nine posts based on my webinar for Georgia State University's CIBER - Interview by Tamer Cavusgil

Rather than focusing on concrete job skills like most career tips that I see, I would like to take a slightly broader perspective. In the past I have used the AIB acronym for this: Ask for advice, Invest in your career, and Believe in yourself. You can read more about this in this blogpost: How to create a successful academic career: AIB - Ask, Invest & Believe. In this post, I would like to pick out three things that mainly related to the third element: Believe in yourself.

Do this job because you care

First, have a passion, do this job because you care and want to realise your own ideas. Many business school academics like to compare themselves with CEOs and consultants, even though they wouldn’t survive for a week in those jobs, I am certain I wouldn’t.

I think it is more productive to see yourself as an artist. Despite all its constraints, an academic career allows you more freedom than most other careers, so use that freedom. We are like artists in that we can realise our own ideas, dreams, and passions. But unlike artists we have job security and a salary that’s significantly above average.

Find your happy place

Second, find your happy place. Go for mentors and institutions because they are a good fit, not just because they are famous. Find institutions that fit with your own personal values and allow you to pursue your career passions, even if they are not the most prestigious institution you could work for. Academia can be a horrible place if you have the wrong supervisor or mentor or work in an institution where you are unhappy.

There are lots of universities out there, we don’t all have to aspire to work at Harvard, MIT, or LSE. However, you do need to be willing to craft your own career. My job at Middlesex since 2014 is in staff development and research mentorship. It is my dream job, but it didn’t exist when I applied.

Don't model yourself on others

Third, don’t model yourself on others. Every career is different and so are everyone's life circumstances. So, measure your "success" based on your own goals, values, and circumstances, not on a mythical person such as the "world's most successful academic".

You don’t know how they have achieved that status. It may have been brilliance or sheer hard work, but also just pure luck or a privileged background. Or they might have had to sacrifice a lot in their personal life to achieve what they have in their professional life.

What I would say to women and in fact all younger academics, is that having caring responsibilities is the norm, not the exception. So don’t look at people like me, without caring duties and with a very supportive partner, as a model of what you need to achieve. Carve out your own path, it is not about being better than others, it is about learning from one day to the next and being better at the end of your career than at the start.

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