British Association for American Studies


60 Second Roundup: BAAS Executive Advice for ECRs

Over the last few weeks we have published a series of 60 Second interviews with the BAAS Executive Committee. They gave such brilliant answers that we decided to collect their advice for ECRs in one place.

What advice would you give to early career academics?

Try to put family, friends, having a life, first. (Sue Currell)

Don’t work too hard… (Rachel Mclennan)

Work hard, have confidence, do every job well. BUT have fun, travel lots, and don’t take academia too seriously. (Sylvia Ellis)

Stamina and, when things go wrong, the ability to ‘reset’ your frame of mind will stand you in good stead in academia. Don’t be afraid to speak up and out! (Jenny Terry)

Go to conferences to have fun and make friends, not to “network”. Conversations with your peers over drinks will yield much more, both professionally and personally, than targeted strikes on big name academics, who are likely to forget you within seconds. (Nick Witham)

Make sure you allow yourself time for things outside of your work: hobbies, friends, even watching television. Sometimes these feel like wasting time, but it’s important to give yourself space for these things because it helps you think in the long run. Also – apply for every grant or prize going, even if you think you haven’t got a chance, and try not to be too disheartened if you don’t get them. The few moments of success do make up for the piles of rejections. (Katie McGettigan)

Read everything; go to all you can regardless of whether or not it will further your pet project; ask questions and listen to the questions others ask and wonder what motivated them; listen to the answers. (Bridget Bennett)

Be patient and follow your interests. Don’t get wound up by churning out the publications. Find topics that interest and stimulate you, and pursue them until they bore you; then find something else. Enjoy the fact that you get to read about and pontificate on subjects that interest you! Most importantly, don’t overwork yourself: keep weekends (and if possible evenings) free for fun and games. It is vitally important to have a life away from work. (Joe Street)

a) Get somebody who has got a job relatively recently to look over your job application template. It sounds obvious, but in my experience, it clearly doesn’t happen all the time…

b) Write down any questions you are asked in your interview as soon as possible after the interview takes place. They’ll be indispensable when your next interview comes around.

c) Persevere! (Sinéad Moynihan)

Unfortunately, ECR is often understood to be shorthand for unemployed academic. That’s (obviously) rubbish and can be really reductive, since it divides ECRs up rather than focuses on what common experiences they might have. What ECR actually means is that you’re way more energetic and enthusiastic than many academics you’ll encounter (that will sometimes include other ECRs). Being an ECR, like pretty much any stage in academia, I guess, invites you to live with a personality paradox. You need a pretty big ego (to keep doing your work even though you’re busy because you know it’s good, to handle rejection, to deal with people asking if you’ve found a job yet, to deal with stuffy professors being silly and condescending) and you also need to balance this with being humble enough to ask for help (and accept it) at any and all junctures, as well as being really organised, all the time. Seriously though: ask for help, remember you’re not alone. (Zalfa Feghali)

Stay alert to possibilities; think round corners; take advice. (Martin Haliwell)