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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 35: Manage disruptions, interruptions and transitions successfully

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

Iain Hay


There is an ‘ideal’ model of an academic career in the arts, social sciences and humanities. This typically imagines a healthy, able, youthful, footloose and well-resourced individual, unencumbered by binding family and friendship networks who can proceed full-time through a doctoral degree before moving to a university position, or possibly several, where they (usually he) work more or less uninterrupted to rise through academic ranks. A good deal of individual and institutional thinking continues to rest on this model that effectively ignores our very human-ness with all its complexities, positioning matters like pregnancy, childrearing, bereavement, or mental illness, for example, as ‘disruptions’ (see, for example, Khoo, 2013; McElrath, 1992). The model also takes little account of the personal and professional challenges associated with moving from one position to another and fails to attend to the concerns of scholars looking to transition successfully out of the university at the end of their career. This chapter does not promise to deal comprehensively with these important matters – each warrants a book in its own right. Instead, the aims here are to signal some of these so-called disruptions, interruptions and transitions and to suggest a few keys to their successful management.1 Bear in mind that you do not need to handle the matters discussed here alone. Colleagues, friends and family will be able to offer advice and support, as should your adviser, manager or mentors (see Chapter 4).

Academic careers increasingly involve reluctant (e.g., as the result of...

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