Following the path to becoming a scientist is, by many accounts, a hard, but rewarding road to choose. As a student, you are subject to high-pressure courses, extra years of education, and a much more expensive financial hit to your wallet. As a scholar, you then have dozens of roles you are responsible for, from instructional expectations to publishing requirements to be considered a reputable scholar and build your reputation.
The many responsibilities of an academic scholar, from a distance, can make people question why one would purposely go into that role, but as a scientist, you know that the rewards are greater than the pressures when you do something you love. This is hard to remember the first few years after graduation, when you may be struggling to keep your head above water. But these years are important to your future, as you make choices that will build your reputation and help you to make an impact. Because of this, it’s necessary that you learn how to improve your productivity and efficiency and tie everything you do today with how it will affect your career prospects later.
The Lifecycle of a Researcher’s Career
As a general rule, the role of an academic researcher follows a common path that starts with research, moves into education, and ends in administrative activities. There’s a progression that most scholars follow, where their career’s lifecycle begins with a bang of publications and then declines over time.
Studies have shown that most researchers spend their early career years composing and publishing as many scholarly articles as possible, but after the first six years, these numbers begin to reduce. This is attributed in part to the switch from building a scholarly reputation to working on a tenure and promotion path that requires more of a focus on instructional and institutional expectations.
As we age, we turn our attention to serious considerations of our retirement years and planning for them. Because of this, we begin to allocate less time to things we’re passionate about and more time to activities that will aid us in our Golden Years, taking on fewer responsibilities that require sacrificing personal roles.
Why Your First Few Years Are Crucial
The decisions you make over the first few years of your academic lifecycle set the stage for the rest of your career. How well you perform, the articles you publish, and the behavior you set forth to others determines the foundation of your overall reputation and impact.
The majority of this reputation in your early years relies on your productivity in publishing. If your goal is to find better career positions, this needs to be a factor you focus on as soon as possible. Many evaluators look at how many publications you have under your belt as the very first criterion they see when they are looking at applicants for coveted positions or tenure paths. Part of this is the citation count, but this number doesn’t take into consideration quality, impact on society, and how your work was used in social or professional avenues. If you have a vast number of publications to your name and they can be used to showcase your professionalism, improve your scholarly reputation, and prove your productivity, you are more likely to obtain those impressive career paths that will make your career easier for you as you go through the researcher’s lifecycle.