Be prepared — 21 ways to get ready for your new job in academia

If you’re reading this because you’re just about to start a new academic job, congratulations!

After spotting an opportunity, doing your research, sprucing your CV, nailing your application and acing your interviews we hope you’ve had a chance to celebrate your success.

But as the start date looms your feelings may be fluctuating. Alongside excitement at the new challenge can come anxiety at the unknown hurdles stretching out ahead of you.

It’s a good idea to make proactive preparations now, in order to make a start worthy of the way you mean to go on.

So what’s the best way to set the tone, pace and achievements of your time in this role?

Here at Global Academy Jobs we’ve been researching this question on your behalf. Read on for your 21-point checklist:

Before you start

1. Prioritise the completion of outstanding projects before you start your new job. This will maintain your external presence during the period in which you’re less visibly productive because you’re getting to grips with your new responsibilities. It will also release you to launch faster and deeper into your new role.

2. If you’re relocating internationally, clarify with your employer who is responsible for arranging your visa. Find out whether the country you are moving to requires a passport valid for a certain period after your date of entry.

3. Book a break. See old friends, spend time with your family, explore beautiful places and sleep. By investing in your relationships and energy levels in this way you’ll refuel for what is likely to be a gruelling few months.

4. Get ahead. Identify what paperwork, admin and preparatory reading can be done now to free you to make the most of your first days in post.

Your first 30 days

5. Make life as straightforward as you can for the first week. You’re likely to be exhausted at the end of each day, so clear your diary and keep other commitments to a minimum.

6. Get to know the administrative staff in your department. Nurture a good relationship with them from the outset. Their expertise can prove invaluable in ensuring that wrangles with the printer/payroll/parking spaces don’t consume your first few days.

7. Say yes to lunch invitations. Even if it’s daunting, aim to have lunch with as many colleagues as you can. Make a point of building supportive, collegial relationships early on while the window of goodwill is open.

8. Be empowered to say no. From day one you’re likely to be presented with almost endless opportunities to get involved with different projects, platforms or people. Focus on clarifying exactly what’s expected of you and plan how to deliver that before over-committing.

9. Manage your time carefully. In the maelstrom of meetings, new faces and strange institutional quirks it’s important to establish the right patterns from the start. Read up on these tried and tested time management techniques.

10. Check your university staff webpage. However absorbed you are in adjusting to your new role, a wide range of people including press, publishers and policy-makers may be searching for you or for people in your field, so make sure what they find is accurate and up to date.

11. Look after your physical wellbeing. Your new role is probably both energising and draining. Adrenalin and caffeine will only get you so far. So include good food, exercise and rest in your day (and check out this advice).

Your first six months

12. Set a grant-writing plan. Remember to schedule in key deadlines, reviews and time with your university’s grant experts. Securing funding takes energy, skill, guts and luck: brush up on effective ways to nail a grant application here.

13. Lay the groundwork for successful collaboration. Begin well with clear communication, defined goals and plenty of tact and grace.

14. Join special interest groups or networks. BERA (British Educational Research Association), for example, has over 30 such networks to choose from here.

15. Record everything you do. Whether it’s speaking, publishing, reviews, events or memberships, keep track of the details and maintain your CV. Even if it seems a low priority, thorough documenting now saves painstaking trawls in the future.

16. Curate your online profile. While getting to grips with your new community remember to engage with wider digital networks, and make sure your social media presence is working for you.

17. Tackle self-doubt before it cripples you. Career success can worsen a negative internal narrative that denies the validity of your achievement and erodes your confidence. Identify and address impostor syndrome by following these tips.

18. Find a mentor in your new institution. Their knowledge of the unique history, politics and context of your new environment will be an invaluable guide in the early days. At the same time, stay in touch with an external mentor to benefit from their objectivity and perspective.

19. Be strategic. If you’re an early career researcher, give thought to what you’d like your next position to be, and look for ways to bridge the gap between where you are now and what you’re aiming at. When invited to take something on, ask yourself whether it will lead you closer or further away from your goal.

20. Be realistic. If you’re taking on a professorship, bear in mind that the skill you’ve been developing for so long – research – is now just one of many you’ll need. Seek support from specialist university staff rather than feeling you have to do it all yourself. Work closely, for example, with grant experts to secure funding for your work or with media staff to publicise it.

21. Press pause to celebrate. Once in a while, stop what you’re doing and look around at the stimulating new academic community in which you’ve earned yourself a place – and enjoy it.

Further reading[:]

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Jo Mitchell is an experienced writer and editor. After studying Modern Languages at the University of Oxford she worked in fundraising at Oxfam GB and Viva, where she specialised in writing communications for major donors. She now provides freelance editing and copywriting services at Nightingale Ink in the firm belief that sometimes words can sing.

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