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How to be an Academic Superhero

Establishing and Sustaining a Successful Career in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities

Iain Hay

In universities across the world, academics struggle to establish and sustain their careers while satisfying intensifying institutional demands. Drawing from the author’s decades of observation and experience in academia, this exceptional book responds to the challenges of fostering and sustaining a successful academic career.
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Chapter 2: Get qualified

Establishing and Sustaining a Successful Career in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities

Iain Hay


early and as swiftly as possible. Some people seem to do all they can to prevent this, turning their thesis into an unachievable conquest, posing monstrously large, if not unanswerable, research questions, setting out enormous data collection procedures, exploring limitless new and ‘relevant’ literatures, or finding endless ways to procrastinate.1 These all extend indefinitely the delicious days of being a graduate student, but also push back and diminish your chances of a successful academic career. Note well that prospective employers may question an apparently inexplicably drawn-out doctoral programme, concerned about your scholarly commitment and capability. So remember, your PhD is not your life’s work. It is not intended to be your magnum opus. It is simply about demonstrating your tenacity and capacity to conduct significant independent research successfully. Part of that is satisfying the requirements of the degree in a timely fashion.

Part-time study presents challenges to speedy completion. It is characteristically marked by time-consuming tensions between the urgent everyday requirements of work or other responsibilities (e.g., caring for children – discussed in Chapter 35) and the silent insistence of a calendar marking the relentless passage of time through your doctorate. Even if you are aware of these pressures and their consequences, the financial costs of a doctoral education often means that part-time employment or some other source of income is required to pay for food, tuition, transport and clothing. If you can, find scholarships that will cover some of those costs. Not only will these ease your financial...

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