From the Dean's Desk: Creating a clearer career path for young researchers

The career path of a young researchers is often paved with unclear expectations and uncertain future prospects. We can't revolutionise the system, but we can definitely do more by transitioning from tacit to common knowledge about career opportunities for young researchers. That’s what we’re working on.

How can we create clearer career paths for our young researchers? This is something I think a lot about, and we've discussed it in the faculty's liaison committee, in the academic council and in the faculty management team over the past few months. Efforts related to this were initiated by Hans Erik Bødtker, the former vice-dean for research.

To begin with, we’re going to focus on postdocs and assistant professors. The Department of Clinical Medicine has already gotten started on the other career stages. We have created a so-called career development package, which will be launched in a few weeks. We've spent a lot of time figuring out how we can make the career paths for young researchers more transparent and how to best launch the package, so in this column, I'd like to share my thoughts and discuss some of the initiatives we have planned.

As a newly employed researcher, you will be invited to a meeting to align expectations with your immediate supervisor. The purpose of the meeting is to align the requirements of the position with your own career wishes. During the meeting you can discuss opportunities, limitations and future prospects.

Within the first year of your employment, your immediate supervisor will invite you to a career development dialogue. During the dialogue, you will receive feedback and guidance that can help you make decisions about your future research career. While the staff development dialogue (SDD) focuses on well-being and problem solving, the career development dialogue focuses on preparing you for your next job – either within or outside academia.

We have developed a template for a career development plan that can be used as part of the career development dialogue. The idea is that you can use the template to learn more about your own career goals and where you need to take action to reach them. We’ve also prepared some examples of development goals for postdocs.

Finally, all five departments have appointed career ambassadors, who can provide you with impartial career guidance and with whom you can have a confidential conversation about your career prospects and what you can do to improve them. I’m particularly happy about this initiative. As a matter of course, your immediate supervisor will often have a vested interest in influencing your position in a certain direction, and this means it can be difficult to talk about how you can move forward.

My ultimate goal is to make it easier for young researchers to find out how they can advance their career. We need to transition from tacit to common knowledge about career paths.

I know this initiative won’t solve every problem, but we are trying to forge a path towards more clarity and more support for career development. 

When we launch the career development package in a few weeks, it will therefore be open to adjustments, new initiatives and further development.