Her research focuses on stress, coping and time-orientation in entrepreneurs and integrating entrepreneurship education into STEM domains.
I was recently asked by a colleague to help edit her application for a Professorial role.
As a recently minted PhD, and academic Level B (i.e. the bottom of the academic food chain), I was honoured. The process of reviewing her application gave me some insight into academic promotion, which I want to share with you below. Namely, the importance of record-keeping and a gift of a simple spreadsheet to help you capture your data now, so it will be on hand for when you need it in the future.
Reading my colleague’s application, I felt exhausted. Not from the editing process (which was minimal – she is a brilliant writer), but from living vicariously through the vast number of publications, supervision roles, teaching activities, grants, and engagements that were laid out in her documents.
I looked up more than once from my screen and wondered how she’d had time to sleep since completing her PhD.
Her list of achievements was a wake-up call. Each one announced to me what it takes to advance through the ranks of the academy. When I asked my colleague how she’d managed to cram all these resume-worthy entries into her career, she nonchalantly replied, ‘That’s not everything. I’ve lost track of a lot of it’.
So, what was in her documents was just what she’d been able to recall from memory!
I find the idea of forgetting my academic accomplishments a rather curious proposition, given that I’m in my academic infancy and every minor achievement feels like it will be imprinted into my memory forever.
I also realised that the shine on my PhD will soon fade. I’d been hired based on my future potential, but further advancement would be based on historical performance. This mental shift in time-perspectives reinforced to me that I needed to start getting some solid runs on the board. Quickly.
How was I going to continue to grow? How was I going to remain current? How was I going to ward off the panic attack that was rising in my chest?!
What I also realised was that my much celebrated (by me) and infrequent publications, which are the only things I’ve historically recorded metrics for, are only a small fraction of the body of evidence I’ll one day need to recall when compiling an academic CV and addressing key selection criteria.
After my colleague’s application was submitted, I re-read it and noted all the areas of academic life that I needed to start tracking. For example, number of students supervised, innovations in teaching units, industry engagement, professional memberships, and collaborations with scholars from overseas universities.
Subsequently, I created a template (an ‘Academic Log’) for tracking areas of academic achievement. I enthusiastically encourage you to download a copy of this Academic Log (27Kb spreadsheet) for yourself (assuming we aren’t going for the same promotion in ten years – lol). However, I warn you that you might also feel a tad exhausted after viewing all the tabs – each representing an area that needs to be rounded out as your career unfurls.
Even though it’s only the first four months in my first post-PhD life, I realise I’ve got several items to add to my Academic Log.
Come next year, with its fresh set of tasks, I’ll likely have forgotten about those tweaks I made to my unit, that fellowship I applied for (still crossing my fingers that I’ll hear back), and the Honours’ student projects I’ve wrapped up supervision for this year. It struck me that maybe my spreadsheet will organically fill up based on my (sometimes self-defeating) predisposition for saying ‘yes’ to every project that passes through my Inbox.
But, just in case it doesn’t, I’ve started filling my spreadsheet with aspirational achievements. Things I want my spreadsheet to one day contain, like a visiting scholar appointment in France, or a teaching award that I want to apply for in three years’ time. I’ve entered these aspirational achievements in light grey text in my log and included the month and year that I want to achieve them by. Lastly, I’ve set a calendar reminder for a monthly check-in to ensure the whir of academic life doesn’t prevent me from updating my record.
Although I fear my resume will ever be quite as accomplished as my colleague’s, at least I’ll know it wasn’t my memory that cost me a job.
When is a good time to start documenting your accomplishments? Today!
Note: If you’re reading this, I’ve added this article to my ‘Popular Media’ tab!