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Career Development Hot Tips & Hot Hints

27 April 2016
  • Career Development

A presentation given by Professors Jane Phillips* and Phil Hogg# at the Sydney Catalyst Postgraduate and Early Career Research Symposiums Wednesday 27 April 2016.



  • 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, that you understand the big picture. As a Post doc 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, for the lab?
  • 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 is not a 9 to 5 job. Consider how much you want research to be a part of your life. Those that are successful are good with managing their time and prepared to go the extra distance.
  • Ensure you have a group of mentors around you.
  • Seek the support of your mentor to help you access opportunities. Make your interests know so you can avail yourself of all sorts of opportunities, i.e. to gain workplace experience, to present research and to visit labs/centres where they have contacts/established networks etc.
  • Make contactwith the top 4 -6 labs or research centres 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.
  • If your supervisor or mentor has a contact in the lab/research centre 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 centres current portfolio of work.
  • Visit the lab/research centre. Visiting the lab will help you to 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 you are in 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 panel members: 

*Prof Jane Phillips is a professor of nursing and Director of Director of the  Centre for Cardiovascular and Chronic Care at UTS. 

#Prof Phil Hogg is a biochemist, the Sydney Catalyst Chair of Translational Cancer Research and Director of the ACRFCentenary Cancer Research Centre.


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