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Hot Tips for Career Development

Article Type
News Articles
19 February 2019

Professors Jane Phillips and Phil Hogg share their wisdom on how to work towards a successful research career.

  • Understand the policy context. Ensure you understand how the research will change policy, guidelines, recommendations or clinical practice to improve outcomes for people living with cancer and their families. Funding is tight so how does your research align with national and state priorities? Think about how you tap into that.
  • Show scientific insight and that you understand the big picture. As a postdoc in particular, do you have a sense of what the big questions in your field are, what the unmet needs are and how what you are doing or what you want to do is contributing to those questions or finding an answer to them? Technical skills are important but in the end what sets you apart from your peers is your scientific insight. Do you think like a true scientist?
  • Are you well read? Being well read will help you develop the scientific insight needed to understand the big picture.
  • Can you demonstrate you will be a good ambassador for the research you are undertaking?
  • Develop a coherent track record. Can you demonstrate that you are developing a solid foundation in your research? Have you submitted publications, applied for grants or scholarships - evidence that you have or are starting to identify your area of interest.
  • Be collaborative. Demonstrate you have the capacity to collaborate because great discoveries and great progress happen as a result of phenomenal teams. Every person in a team counts to the unit/centre's overall success so learn to manage perceptions and expectations.
  • Be realistic and be prepared. Research requires flexibility. Consider how much you want research to be a part of your life and how to maintain a work/life balance. Those that are successful are good with managing their time and are prepared to go the extra distance.
  • Ensure you have a supportive group of mentors around you.
  • Seek the support of a mentor to help you access opportunities. Make your interests known so that opportuinies present themselves. E.g. to gain workplace experience, to present research and to visit labs/centres where they have contacts/established networks etc.
  • Make contact with the top 4 - 6 labs or research groups where you'd like to work when you are one year out from submitting your PhD. Don't put all your eggs in one basket.
  • Personalise each and every contact you make and do your homework. No generic emails please! Show you have looked at the supervisor's research and that you understand the research of the lab/centre. State why you want to work with them and make a good case for why you want to work there.
  • Utilise your networks. If your supervisor or mentor has a contact in the lab/research group where you are interested in working, consider asking them to precede your contact with the lab or facilitate an introduction.
  • Consider how you fit in with the supervisor's or group's current portfolio of work.
  • Visit the lab/research group. Experiencing the environment first hand will help you work out if it is a good fit, to understand its dynamic, its environment/style of work as well as form the basis for a personal contact. Talk to people who work in the lab as well as people that have worked there and have since moved on.
  • Your success is in your own hands. Be as successful as you can in the current environment you are in. You don't have to travel overseeas to be successful. It is not an impediment to your career but it is a fantastic opportunity. If you can take advantage of an opportunity to work overseas you should. It is not a career ender if you don't. Be as productive as you can be in the current environment and the options will present themselves. Success at each point in your career can determine your options so focus on the success of the present.
  • Don't drift. If it's not working be proactive and make a change. Preserve your brand. Have a conversation really early with your supervisor/mentor.



Thank you to our senior Sydney Catalyst members: 

Professor Jane Phillips - Professor of Pallative Nursing at UTS Sydney. 

Professor Phil Hogg - NH&MRC Senior Principal Research Fellow; Chair in Translational Cancer Research NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre, The University of Sydney; Deputy Director, Centenary Institute; Deputy Director, Sydney Catalyst; Head, ACRF Centenary Cancer Research Centre

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