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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 4: Get mentors; get advice

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

Iain Hay


Sternberg (2013) asserts that ‘successful academics, early in their careers, look for several mentors, including from departments other than their own’. Having good advice – and heeding it – can be of immense value throughout your academic career. Sound guidance and psychosocial support can facilitate the future success of early career scholars, support more productive research careers and networking within the profession, as well as aiding in stress management (Debowski, 2012, pp. 36–7; Detsky and Baerlocher, 2007, p. 2134). Mentors can offer valuable assistance on matters as diverse as balancing family and work; setting short- and long-term goals; getting more out of your PhD adviser; dealing with departmental politics and conflict; understanding disciplinary cultures; communicating with journal editors; and negotiating employment. For such reasons more and more institutions are convening formal mentoring arrangements, aligning early career staff with more senior colleagues, thereby helping to sustain the personal and professional advantages that can accrue to both mentor and mentee markets (see Box 4.1). Typically, these programmes are intra-institutional but some embrace external, and even international participants depending on participants’ career stage, as well as their ambitions and scholarly trajectory. Find out if your institution runs a mentoring programme and consider getting involved in it. You need not find mentors from your own discipline area. Indeed, in some instances, someone from outside your field can offer a very helpful new perspective (see, for example, Crone, 2010, p. 64).

Over and above providing important emotional and psychological assistance,...

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