There has been a long-held assumption that academics are fully prepared once they have completed a doctoral qualification. In fact, this is merely a preliminary internship that shows they possess the basic capabilities to enter academe. The process of being an academic requires ongoing intensive skill building, the development of a robust identity and a carefully devised career strategy that reflects the institutional (and disciplinary) expectations.
ECAs face a challenging time as they learn to be effective teachers, researchers and engaged members of their university and discipline. They must also build an accurate understanding of the academy and how it operates. Many ECAs are left to learn these principles themselves, often with very unfortunate consequences. Universities can greatly benefit from a more careful approach to inducting and supporting their new talent so that they are set up for success. The recognition that successful academics require a suite of professional skills is an important advancement on our understanding of the role that they fulfill.
For many years Professor Debowski has explored these issues and worked with hundreds of ECAs to explore their concerns, offering guidance on the professional skills that underpin academic work and suitable strategies that will enable them to thrive. Her recent book, The New Academic: A Strategic Handbook, reflects these principles, encouraging ECAs to be self-aware, self-actualising and strategic in determining their time and priority allocation.
Many universities rely on stand-alone workshops to provide support. However, Professor Debowski’s work has shown there are enormous benefits in working with cohorts over a more sustained period of time. This encourages increased self-awareness, transfer of learning, opportunities for collaboration and enhanced self-confidence of the participants. Programs also encourage faculty and leadership engagement with their proteges, and provide evidence-based guidance on any institutional impediments that may be impacting on academic activities.
If you would like to review your current strategies, offer a residential program to talented staff, set up a mentoring program or discuss other customised options, please contact Shelda for a confidential discussion.