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Careers Café

Where will your career go in 2012?


Welcome back. All of us here at the Careers Café hope that you had a joyful and relaxing holiday season. We’re gearing up to provide more advice and support for your career in 2012.

One of the things that is so attractive about an academic career is the job security. If you secure a tenure-track position and then get tenure, you could be with the same employer for 20 or 30 years. The idea of never having to look for a job again is remarkably attractive.

However, your job won’t stay the same for all those years. Opportunities will arise to take your academic career in different directions. Research opportunities. Administrative opportunities. Teaching opportunities.

While the thought of applying for another job is almost unthinkable now, there may come a time when you want to change institution or even leave academia for another type of career (permanently or temporarily).

Outside academe, it has become normal for people to change jobs every 2 to 5 years. That may be a promotion or lateral move within the same organization, or it might be moving to a new position in a different company.

You need career advice throughout your career

When you are unemployed or just starting a job your need for career advice and support is fairly strong. You spend a lot of time thinking about your career and making decisions. You devote considerable resources to looking for a job, and then getting settled into that new position.

Once you are in a job, your career planning will be less intense but it shouldn’t disappear entirely. You don’t want to just be reactive. You want to plan your own professional development, and make conscious decisions about your next career steps.

You make those conscious decisions in conditions not of your own choosing. Knowing your own goals helps you choose between the options actually available at a given moment. You will compromise, but you want to be in control of what you compromise.

Questions to ponder

In this season of looking ahead, you might want to consider how you will actively manage your career this year.

  • What are your career goals?
  • What can you do this year to become a good candidate for the kind of job you would like?
  • Are there any skills you want to develop?
  • Are there any options you want to learn more about?
  • Are there aspects of your job that you’d like to give more attention to?
  • Are there particular tasks you’d really like to do? Any you’d really like to stop doing if you could?

Here at the Careers Café, we’d like to help you make decisions about your career. The more we know about what you want to know about, the easier it is for us to provide the information you need.

Please tell us about specific topics or questions in the comments and one of us will try to write about it during 2012.

Jo VanEvery is a career coach who specializes in helping academics. Find her at
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  1. Josh / January 9, 2012 at 18:52

    I’d like to see a posting discussing how a new assistant professor in math/science/engineering decides the research topics they will start their academic career with. After ump-teen years of studying things other people have told me to study, how do I clear my head and set my own research path? And what about the variable of funding? I’d love to hear a few words on this topic. Thanks!