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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 9: Get known and networked

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

Iain Hay



To become an academic superhero, it pays to identify (with) the ‘eagles’ in your field (i.e., those who are soaring intellectually) and flock with them, not the turkeys. Gray and Drew (2012, p. 9) assert that most academic fields are dominated and shaped by fewer than 100 powerful people. In some areas, the number may actually be much fewer. Gray and Drew (2012) recommend that you work out who (many of) these people are, and ensure they know who you are – for the right reasons! But just how do you position yourself as the bright new star that those in the existing constellation want to be associated with?

Not surprisingly, a good place to start is by establishing and securing personal bonds with scholars in your specific field. This is probably most easily and naturally achieved with peers you meet as part of doctoral training, postdoctoral appointments, and at the formal and more informal (e.g., social events, dinners, field trips) components of conferences. Without even being aware of it you will develop a group of like-minded colleagues whose work and interests you understand, and they yours. Personal relationships with colleagues can be enormously helpful in making sometimes harsh and competitive academic environments friendlier and much more conducive to a satisfying long-term career (see, for example, Crone, 2010, p. 67).

After your PhD or postdoctoral experience you may move from one country, state, or province to another. If you find yourself in this position you...

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