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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 16: Manage your career

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

Iain Hay


Throw yourself into your priorities, and don’t try, or expect, to achieve on all fronts at once. At each life stage, prioritise teaching or research or family or unpaid employment or publications. Don’t aim to balance them all each day, week or even year, but be assured that each can be adequately covered over the course of a lifetime. (Angela Thody, in Reisz, 2013)

There is a great deal to do if you are to be an academic superhero. In fact, the activities and work required could stretch on almost infinitely, filling every hour of every day. Quite simply, there is always more that can be done. There is always scope to improve teaching or to better engage with students. There is always an extra paper to write. There is always additional committee work. And then, on top of that, there are the extra administrative tasks being moved by universities to academic staff. There is always more, more, more …

There are at least three ways of responding. First, you can simply do less, less, less … putting your ‘head in the sand’, and farewelling a successful academic career. Second, you can try to do everything at once, working yourself into a frenzy of publication, reading, consulting, committee meetings, community service, very quickly foregoing other parts of your life such as exercise, family and fun. The result may be some form of ‘academic success’ in the short run, but the long-term outlook is an...

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