As a PhD candidate, I have heard quite a lot about career development in academia. Every PhD candidate is always asking questions about how to get a job, how to get funding, how to get published, and our institutions, mentors and supervisors are always helping us think carefully through these types of questions. And these are indeed extremely important questions because in today's job market academic positions are hard to come by, due to the large pool of applicants and the competitive nature of the entire enterprise. Most universities have programs that deal specifically with career development which aim to assist graduate students in a variety of things, such as applications for funding, building a strong CV, how to give a better conference paper, how to be a better teaching assistant, how to write a solid teaching philosophy, etc.
It just so happens that the best advice on career development that I have heard comes from a specialist in my own field (Papyrology), who is also a mentor and friend. Dr. Malcolm Choat, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Ancient History at Macquarie University, recently led a workshop at Macquarie where he addressed strategies for developing fellowship applications and planning an early career. His talk is available on YouTube and I have posted it below for your convenience. He talks about the specifics of publishing, collaborating and networking, administrative jobs, conferences, research output and professional outcome. For example, Choat says that every time someone says something good about your work, write it down, since it is much easier to demonstrate that other scholars are saying good things about your work than to convince a funding committee yourself that your work is important. Another line of great advice is this: "Don't say yes to everything, but say yes to important things." That is, say "yes" to the things that will help you and your career, such as an invitation to speak on a conference panel that deals with your research project, but don't say "yes" to projects that are irrelevant to your work or uninteresting to you. As for publishing, Choat recommends having 3 to 4 articles published before applying for a post-doc position. And don't choose just any ole' journal. Choose international journals that are ranked highly in the field, and journals that are harder to get into. He talks about the importance of networking and building relationships with peers, as it may lead to important collaborative opportunities someday. While some discourage the use of blogs, Choat says that they afford an effective platform for discussing one's own work and for garnering international attention. He gives an example of a young Coptologist who runs an important blog that many scholars read, and I am guessing he is referring to Alin Suciu's excellent blog.
I encourage all of my colleagues and friends, and anyone else who is working on a PhD (in any field) and considering an academic career, to watch the video below. There are also some really fun anecdotes about Choat's early carer and references to some papyri, Coptic, monks and monasticism, and the International Congress of Papyrology. The video captures bits of Choat's humor as well, which is never dull!