Mistakes are an inevitable part of life. In fact, they are an integral part of life. Without mistakes, we’d never learn anything. Those in an academic setting tend to hold themselves to a higher standard and well, that’s a mistake.
The learning process relies on mistakes being made before progress and knowledge can take hold. For researchers, the trial and error of their career journey inform their overall academic career. Young researchers tend to take mistakes to heart without realizing just how necessary it is to mess up sometimes.
There are 5 common mistakes early career researchers make. What are they and how do they shape a career in research?
Why It’s Common to Make Mistakes Early in Your Academic Career
Have you ever been in a hurry to get somewhere but wind up making a series of silly mistakes - dropping your keys, forgetting you need to fill your gas tank, etc. - that only makes you later? Your eagerness to get there actually prevents you from arriving on time.
For those just starting their research career, eagerness and inexperience are a recipe for mistakes. As they say, with age comes wisdom. It’s important for ECRs to remember that the mentors they seek to emulate were once early in their careers, too. Mistakes happened to them, too. If the next generation is lucky, their mentors will share the mistakes they once made to prevent the younger researcher from making the same errors.
Of course, that only works if the mentee is open to the idea that they don’t know everything, at least not yet. Many young researchers make the mistake of thinking they have nothing to learn, thus making more mistakes along the way due to arrogance.
Things You Can’t Rush or Change: Experience, Knowledge Acquisition, and Luck
The research field is no place for impatience. Results won’t come easily or swiftly. There may be many times a researcher wants to throw in the towel and end the project. But persistence will be rewarded with publication and accolades if you stay the course.
5 Common Mistakes ECRs Make and How to Avoid Them
Researchers early in their careers make the mistake of thinking they already have the knowledge and experience. However, both of those only come with time. In the meantime, here are five avoidable mistakes that you don’t have to become victim of:
- Neglecting writing skills
Research papers don’t write themselves. After compiling data and statistics, the findings must be presented in a way that both scholars and non-scholars can understand. Additionally, academic writing is more structured and strict than other types of writing. Neglecting your writing skills can delay the publication of your research paper, thus stalling movement in your career.
- Failure to document datasets
At some point in the future, researchers may want to reexamine prior findings. But it will likely be impossible to remember the exact steps or details. Thoroughly label your data and analysis as if a stranger will read it. Your future self will thank you for your attention to detail.
- Waiting too long to publish
Academics are acutely familiar with the “publish or perish” trope that engulfs the research field. There’s a fine line researchers must navigate by rushing to publish with incomplete data and waiting too long to publish once the research is complete. If you’re confident in your findings, publish as soon as possible. Speaking of confidence…
- Losing confidence
At some point in your early (and even late) career, you’re going to botch some part of your research. Perhaps losing a sample, miscalculating data, or having an experiment outright fail. But how you react to that failure will influence your future. Do you crumble under the pressure or take your mistakes and learn from them? A blow to your confidence doesn’t have to mean the end of your career.
- Making your career your whole life
There’s life outside the laboratory or office, but it will pass you by if you don’t take caution. Young researchers may believe spending most of their time in the lab/office will boost their careers. But instead, it’s more likely to lead to early burnout.
Build a Network to Enhance Your Research Knowledge
Everyone in the research field can benefit from having many networking connections. This is especially true for early career researchers. Impactio is America’s premier platform for scholars and researchers to build their networks.