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  • Writer's pictureConnor Haggarty

Doing academia differently

Hello world.

I have always meant to get around to starting a blog, but I could not decide on a topic that everyone would want to read. I do not expect a blog about me starting to change the way I am approaching academia is the most exciting topic but here we are.

Having spent the majority of my academic life in the UK it is clear that there is a very "british" way of presenting yourself in academia, I then move to Sweden where the "rule of jante" says that you're not to talk about your accomplishments and everyone is equal, I mean one of these rules is literally "Don't think you're good at anything".

To fly under the radar is an easy way to settle in academia but that is not something I have wanted for myself.

One example of these differences, a British vs European (maybe the rest of the word) debate I have seen on twitter recently. Should your CV have a photo? should there be colour? should it be eyecatching? this is not done in the UK (well not in my experience). I was always told your CV should be basic black and white with your accomplishments listed and no frivolity. I personally, have been more successful and have been offered more jobs since adding a bit of colour and my photo to my CV than I ever did before so I say go for it... You will see under my CV tab that I opted for colour and a photo.

Another thing I have begun to realise is that in academia, you cannot just sit and wait for things to come to you, you need to be proactive and go after what you want. The best adivce I heard recently was;

If you want to work with someone, message them, do not wait for them to post a job opening before making yourself known" (Leah Mayo 2021)

This is not something I had ever even considered, I have gone through my PhD and subsequent years idolising researchers who seemed out of my reach as collaborators at universities I considered out of my league. But the expectations I had for "putting myself out there" has not been the same as the reality, In fact the above piece of advice shared over a few glasses of wine and jerk chicken has inevitably changed my whole outlook. Just a few weeks ago, in the same week, I had conversations with two renowned researchers one who offered to write a grant with me and the other who offered me a job on the spot after a 30mintue conversation about our mutual interests.

This year has been challenging, the pandemic has been detrimental to a number of research fields but at the same time it has been a blessing in disguise for me. Yes I have disliked living in a small Swedish city with very little to do or see, but this opportunity has allowed me to start collaborations and conversations with people from all over the world through the many online conferences and meetings that have been held (it had been 3 years since my last conference before this). Also I have been lucky enough to work with a group of talented individuals in a research dominanted department. If it weren't for my desire to go and explore a different academic setting in a different country I would not have ended up working with some of the most inspirational and motivational researchers. I would not be in the positon I am in now, and I would not be about to start what is likely to be the best stage of my career so far.

I think more and more now, there is merit in being outgoing and public in academia, there is a big push for public engagement and I found that one of the most interesting pieces of science I have written recently was not heavy on scientific jargon but instead an instructional description of the methods I use in research. I have in the last year, tried to become more attuned to using Twitter to promote myself and my research, I still get a little excited anytime I get a follow/like/retweet from someone I admire. This is a great way to engage with people in and outside your field, and this is one of the main ways I have picked up on new and exciting research findings.

In a few weeks I will be announcing the next stage in my research journey. This would not have happened if I had stayed in my comfort zone and I do not take for granted all the opportunities I have been granted over the last year.

In true me style, I am planning to get the perfect "announcement photo" for my new job when I visit the lab at the end of November so you will have to wait until then for more details.

My future posts will not be so heavy but if you made it this far, congratulations!


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