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Optimising your academic career: Advice for early career scholars

Beginning a new career as an academic is a daunting task. Carol Mutch’s latest book aims to demystify the process by providing new and intending academics with an insight in what to expect. The book is based around the real-life concerns and questions that were raised by the early career academics she worked with in her innovative Emerging Scholars Forum. Her advice is based on over 30 years in New Zealand’s tertiary sector in a range of teaching and leadership positions. It is supplemented by words of wisdom from early career academics and their more experienced colleagues from a range of tertiary institutions and disciplines. While it is clearly grounded in the New Zealand context, it will resonate with new academics further afield—indeed, some of the peer contributors are from universities in Australia and the UK.

The book answers many of the questions you would expect, such as, how do you secure an academic position, how do you find a mentor, how do you develop your teaching, and how do you prepare a research plan? The answers include many practical examples, tips, and questions to consider. The three main aspects of an academic’s job description—teaching, research and service—are covered in depth and often in ways that challenge misconceptions. The book concludes with a chapter on managing the many conflicting demands of being an academic and then provides suggestions for setting up an Emerging Scholars Forum. Mutch reiterates that life as an academic has its challenges but it also has its advantages and responsibilities. She reminds her readers that as an academic you can use your position to make difference to those around you and to wider society. As one of the early career academics says in the book, “Academic life is a privilege—enjoy it and value it.”

Carol Mutch is an associate professor and head of school in the School of Critical Studies in Education, in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Auckland. She is the author of many books, book chapters and articles on educational research, evaluation, policy and practice. Most recently, she has focused her research and writing on the role of schools in disaster response and recovery following the Canterbury earthquakes. She has been the recipient of awards for her research, teaching and wider contributions to education.