Professional development for early career researchers and aspiring academics

Academia is a competitive field, making professional development essential to ensure they remain relevant.

By U2B Staff 

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Early career researchers or students who wish to go into academia will find it useful to develop a broad range of skills that would help them thrive in their careers. Academia is a competitive field, making professional development essential to ensure they remain relevant. 

If you’re curious about what are some of the skills you should consider upskilling in, here are some worth considering: 


Grant writing

Love it or hate it, grant writing is part and parcel of an academic’s life that can take approximately one to two months to complete. 

Crafting the perfect grant proposal means increasing the chances of your research or project obtaining the support and funding it needs to take flight. This means a successful grant proposal must be carefully planned and written, rather than rushing through each section and finding your weeks of efforts coming to naught.

It can be nerve-wrecking for those who’ve had their proposals rejected in the past, but with some preparation and guidance, you can improve your chances in the future. Academics who want to update their skills and further their careers will find that learning how to write a grant proposal an important skill to have in their arsenal.

So whether you plan to pursue grant writing as a professional career or to use this skill in your career in academia, there are many courses you can take to brush up your skills in the area. Coursera, for instance, offers Grant Proposal, a course that provides guidance on developing a strong application that will allow reviewers to better evaluate the science and merit of an applicant’s proposal. 

“You will learn how to put your ideas into proper words, arrange a clear and concise paper and search [the] grant market for potential funder[s]. You will also learn how to react to negative feedback from reviewers and resubmit your proposal. The course focuses on useful project management tools and possible budget pitfalls,” said Coursera.


Presentation skills

Presentation skills are a crucial skill for anyone in academia and research. 

For instance, the University of Nottingham notes, “The influence of an effective presentation can never be underestimated and the development and refinement of this key communication skill is invaluable for researchers at all stages of their academic careers. The ability to deliver a quality presentation enables researchers to effectively disseminate their work, create impact and raise their academic profile.” 

Some universities offer workshops for students and early career researchers to help bolster their skills in the area. There are also online courses by platforms such as Coursera and LinkedIn Learning that also offer courses on the topic.

Data management 

World Data System, is an Interdisciplinary Body of the International Science Council, notes that the Scientific Committee of the ICSU World Data System believes that all early career researchers require a basic set of data-related skills. 

Researchers will need to think about issues such as how they will store their research data and how to minimise data loss during and after the research, especially when funders may ask grant applicants how they plan to manage their data.

These aren’t necessarily areas that students are taught about in university, which makes it essential for postgraduate students and early career researchers to upskill in this area. Luckily, there are a plethora of resources and courses available online. 

While there are many areas for aspiring researchers or early career researchers to upskill in, it’s never too early to prepare for a career in the field. With a wealth of resources at your fingertips, professional development can be manageable for any busy professional.