Any Top Tips you wish you had when starting your first research post? — R Voice

Any Top Tips you wish you had when starting your first research post?

Shruti Turner
Shruti Turner Member Posts: 401 ✭✭✭✭✭
edited June 2021 in Everything & Anything

I'm sure that most people remember their early days, embarking on a research career. Fresh from education or PhD and starting in the world of employed research...

If there was one thing you know now that you wish someone had told you back then, what would it be?


  • Raj sundaram
    Raj sundaram Member Posts: 322 ✭✭✭✭

    Things I wish I had known early on....

    Choose people and places wisely. Always think about reciprocity and power balances.

    Effort/time investment goes in hand with the environment.

    (Dont over-invest too soon...)

    The environment matters - makes all the difference, and plays a huge role. In addition to and beyond individual abilities/hardwork/proactiveness - all other virtues (or vices ;)), etc.

    And be ready, open and stay empowered to make a change. Never let the fear of sunk costs hold you from making the change necessary to get to the environment that supports, rewards and values you - as you add value to the environment!

    All professional relationships (actually all relationships) - between people, between people and institutions - should have some degree of reciprocity (if possible at parity). Always be mindful of this.

    Sounds obvious. But.....didnt know this, wish I did. comes first. :)

  • Shruti Turner
    Shruti Turner Member Posts: 401 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I love all your thoughts and suggestions @Raj sundaram. A combination of those important things look like the way for a healthy mentality and success in work. I have seen people get distracted by the status of a university or researcher to work with, without considering the environment or personal opportunities for them to be very disappointed.

    The reciprocity I find the most interesting in how you have written it. I think I have never seen it in this way before...being "bottom of the pile" what can be offered from individual to an established lab or institution....but you are totally right. I love it and will keep reminding myself of it and it's a) totally true, everyone has something to offer and b) it's a nice confidence booster and helps shift my perspective on myself

  • Shruti Turner
    Shruti Turner Member Posts: 401 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Yes! This one is super important. I'm already very paranoid about this one, I have been for a while. My PhD thesis itself was in at least 4 places when in progress, and still is now it's submitted just in case....

  • Raj sundaram
    Raj sundaram Member Posts: 322 ✭✭✭✭
    edited June 2021

    I think many Ph.D students and postdocs as well as early career researchers lose out by being conditioned to characterize themselves or being characterized as the "bottom of the pile" in the power equation.

    Honestly, I didnt say it from any newage perspective ("everyone is stardust, special and everyone contributes).

    Basically, the fact is that academia massively rests on Ph.Ds and postdocs. I know it sounds a bit like Marxism. But there is truth to it. The people working on the ground - "bottom of the pile" - make a massive - if not, the most important (sometimes - all of the ) contribution - to papers, data that goes in grant proposals, patents, etc.

    So, I think it is essential to remember this for oneself (as individual researchers, to remind themselves of their value) but also as bargaining chips in the power dynamics, which is currently (sadly) tilted toward institutions and senior hierarchies.

    All interpersonal relationships - especially in professional places (but also in personal lives, if we think about it) - in their essence are power dynamics or have a major component of power play. I dont think it is wise to ignore this.

    (Saying this as someone who was naive enough to not understand and apply this...with not so great consequences...🙂)

  • Shruti Turner
    Shruti Turner Member Posts: 401 ✭✭✭✭✭

    You are absolutely right about what you say in the power equation. I also know that if I was talking to anyone but myself, I would be sounding more like you! I am so glad you're here in this community to be a voice of reason outside of my head!