Dr Bronwyn Eager works as a Lecturer, Entrepreneurship at Swinburne Business School, Swinburne University of Technology.
Her research focuses on stress, coping and time-orientation in entrepreneurs and integrating entrepreneurship education into STEM domains.
She tweets as @bronwyn_eager, and is always up for a coffee and interesting conversations. Her ORCID is 0000-0003-4512-1263.
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!
My HoD during my first academic job encouraged me to keep a ‘living’ CV and I have always encouraged (gently bullied) colleagues and students with the same advice. Great to see a post on this. Certainly makes promotion applications much easier 🙂
Glad it’s of use! I’ve also been treating it as a living document, so in the version I’m using I’ve recently added some columns. It you design any tweaks, let me know 🙂
Incredible! Thank you for the wonderful resource. As an early career academic, this will do wonders in keeping track of everything I do. Thanks
Since the post was published I’ve had lots of PhD students commenting that it’s also useful for them. Seems like it’s never too early to start good record keeping 🙂
That looks very useful Bronwyn – thanks for sharing.
Thanks Tracey 🙂
Please pass it onto anyone you think might benefit from it.
Hi Dr Eager, thank you for sharing such an incredibly useful resource. I am a PhD student hoping to follow a career in research, so for me, your article provides wonderfully practical, and valuable advice. Understanding how researchers are evaluated, and what researchers use to demonstrate their quality is particularly helpful for somebody at the beginning of their research journey (like me). Thank you again, your charitable sharing of knowledge will certainly help me plan for the future, and it encourages me to adopt a similar generous approach with others.
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Always happy to share! Please pass it onto to anyone you think it might help.
I’m glad the log hasn’t scared you off a career in academia 🙂
Best of luck with your PhD!
Thank you so much for this! After years of only updating my CV when I actually had to apply for something I have started keeping a “Things to add to my CV” list in the back of my planner. That way I can jot things down as they happen, and then add them to the CV when I am at my computer. I was planning to create a new Scrivener project for my CV where I would add all the relevant things, and then pick and choose what to include for each application. Kinda like a dynamic CV, and much better than a Word doc. Your spreadsheet might be a good companion!
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No problem 🙂
I’m a big fan of Scrivener and would be really interested in seeing how you use it for creating your CV.
Thank you for sharing this!
Many thanks Brownwyn – this is on my New Year resolution list – and with this handy template I might just make a start.
Kind regards for your generosity, Kate
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[…] cool tool (courtesy of Dr Brownwyn Eager, via Research Whisperer) for doing so described/linked to here. See also this great (UK-based) guide with lots more tips for becoming promotion-ready, including […]
[…] ⬇️ Download and start an ‘Academic Log‘ to record all your academic outputs e.g. presentations, memberships, qualifications, publications, and media (trust me, your future self will thank you for keeping records). For more info on how this is useful, see a post about it I wrote for the Research Whisperer blog post. […]