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The scholarly world is highly competitive, and early career professionals face a lot of challenges while trying to carve out a successful career path for themselves.
Most of these challenges start with fellowship and collaboration issues. Once you go solo, competition increases – even between the best of companions or former senior supervisors – bringing a sense of solitude or even poor self-confidence.
Another type of challenge is defining what is coming next regarding your work. Most young PhD researchers struggle when defining focus or direction in their research, leading to a lack of motivation and fear of failure.
What is an early career researcher?
The term early stage, or early career researcher (ECR) refers to professionals in their first four years of research activity, including the period of research training. ECR is determined based on the length of time since the individual completed their PhD.
- A maximum of four years’ academic research experience following the completion of their PhD
- Be of equivalent professional standing
Strategies for Early Career Researchers
Early career researchers face many challenges with funding, publishing and career progression. In general, we know that ECRs are rated mostly by the number of first-author publications and the tier of journals where their published articles appear.
ECRs face a lot of pressure, including to get their research published – as it’s said in academia jargon, “Publish or Perish” – to find the next career position, and balancing their professional and personal lives. To manage all these issues, it is important to take breaks from work, relax the mind, and find some time to pursue your own interests.
If you are struggling with all the new responsibilities you are now facing, consider Elsevier’s text editing services to get some of the burden off your shoulders. By having your manuscripts edited, translated, and/or revised by trained professionals, you will have more time to make important decisions regarding your future career.
But not everything is gloomy. Starting an academic career is also fascinating and full of opportunities, once you can overcome some of the most common worries (listed below) with positivity:
- Coping with change: The transition process and letting go of the “old me” can be unexpected and challenging. Knowing that others go through a similar process can be quite comforting, so keep in touch with friends and senior experts to ask for advice or simply share your experience.
- Post-PhD “what now?”: Sometimes, instead of the anticipated elation at finally completing your dissertation, there is a feeling of emptiness. Often, early researchers struggle to find anything that will offer similar intensity and a sense of purpose. Some people decide to undertake a temporary job – out of academia – or go off on a journey to feel inspired and clear their minds. Whatever solution, it is a good idea to put life in perspective to help refocus on a fulfilling research theme that can feed your career for some time.
- Lack of access to resources: Very often ECRs find themselves disconnected from sources of support (networking, professional development or career advice) at a time when they need them the most. Recreating those networks without any official institutional affiliation can be quite difficult. Try to keep close to people who have gone through the same situations to learn how to overcome them.
- Lack of support from supervisors: While the official relationship may be over, some ECRs will be keen to maintain the informal connection with their supervisors. However, otherwise this is not very common. By becoming an independent researcher, you also become competition.
- Time management: For academia beginners, time management might be quite challenging. Self-discipline is essential, not only in setting your own timetables but also managing family and work time. Remember, if you feel you are not quite coping with all there is in this job, try outsourcing some of it – with Elsevier, it is easy to get your manuscript’s quality ready for a journal submission while you can focus on other things.
- Sustaining writing productivity: The ability to produce academic publications can make or break a researcher’s career. At the same time, this is possibly one of the most challenging aspects of being an academic. Quality reports and presentations are key features for successful submissions in highly esteemed publications, bringing about more chances of financial stability.
- Career issues: The path to post-PhD employment is rarely linear and can involve blind alleys, sideways moves, and a lot of twists and turns, leaving people confused about what their next steps should be. Try to keep focused on your immediate work, but always keep in mind how it can evolve in the future.
Advice for Early Career Researchers
Spending time in the lab is important, but it is also important to network and collaborate. Try to attend conferences and other networking events, as they are the best source for helping you pave your future career. Having a substantial literature survey is also of extreme importance; especially in your first years!
Remember to always find courage and perseverance in yourself; determination is one of the most essential features for a researcher. Positive thinking will help you to overcome the first years but, if you want a long-lasting scholarly career, the most important thing is to be committed to your own work. Without commitment, it will be difficult to stand out in the dog-eat-dog world of academia.
Another tip for standing out among researchers is to find a research gap, that is, to choose a research topic that has not been addressed yet. As difficult as this might sound, there are certain clues that lead you to a research gap, you just need to know how to read them.
At Elsevier Author Services, we are aware of the importance that each project has for its author. In Elsevier, early researchers can find a reliable companion to help them build a successful career in a time when they need support and confidence the most.
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Writing and publishing manuscripts being a crucial part of your endeavors.
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