Making the Transition

what-do-research-staff-do-nextThe stories on the Employee Beyond Academia page show that many researchers are making successful transitions into other career. Here are some of the key messages they shared in Vitae’s What Do Research Staff Do Next? study:

  • Don’t see a move out of HE research as a career failure – it’s a sidestep, not a failure
  • Put yourself first and take action – work out what you really want and start creating time to prepare for your next move
  • Consider whether you want to maintain a dual identity – it’s possible to maintain some research activity through ongoing projects, collaborations, or teaching
  • Apply your research competencies in investigating options and opportunities – do not prejudge your opportunities; question your preconceptions and prejudices
  • Prepare to find the transition period challenging – have faith in your researcher competences to help you get through the challenges

“It was ironic that I had to take a short-term position in order to break into a new career, when this was one of things I found off-putting in research. However, the gamble worked; I love my new career.”

Self-awareness Understand what motivates you to stay in, or leave, HR research. Look at both positive factors, e.g. interests/passions, and negative ones, e.g. expectations of others, lack of opportunities.
Self-care Find space to put yourself first, not your research. Be prepared for a lengthy transition process. Develop emotional and practical support networks.
Thinking ahead Assess your prospects in HE research – be realistic. Have courage to change direction. Make a decision to research your next move before it becomes urgent – and then make career review a regular habit.
Focus on transferable competencies Don’t underestimate your transferable competencies. Assess them objectively: get help from mentors, friends, family, etc. Look at any gaps and take advantage of local provision (courses, careers services) and online provision to develop any important gaps.
Broaden experience Get involved in work-related experiences beyond your research to explore what you might enjoy doing, and to develop and help evidence your capabilities to employers.
Research and assess opportunities Be open-minded. Talk to a range of people and research different types of employment that could fit your values and competencies. Get insights into different employers. Consider whether you need to take a step down to get where you want to be in the longer term.
Use networks Personal and professional networks are a huge resource for information, ideas, practical help and emotional support. Talk to former research staff who have made successful transitions.
Self-belief Have confidence in what you offer employers. Be patient and persevering. Don’t rush into an unsuitable job.
Getting and accepting job offer Get professional and informal help to ensure you make strong applications and interview well. Know enough about the new work environment to feel confident you can be happy there.
Culture shock Anticipate the need to adapt to a different type of role, typically with less autonomy, multiple activities and different pace of work. Draw on your existing competencies and attitudes to adjust successfully.
Identity change Recognise that losing your academic identity could be difficult. Focus on the positives in your new role. Understand the pros and cons of keeping your links with academic research.

Next Steps