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Skills To Develop To Go From Associate To Full Professor

Skills to develop to go from associate to full professor

Mid-career is often a bit of a slog: you are continuing what you did as an assistant professor and what got you tenure, and you are taking on more responsibilities and building your profile to ultimately become a full professor.

Often, we ride the wave of mid-career without really pausing and reflecting on where we want to go, and which new skills we need to learn.

For myself, I’ve been taking a step back over the past months to reflect on the skills I would like to learn (also based on learning paths that my two institutions have been providing me with), and how these new skills can support me in my career growth.

I’ve identified the following skills to focus on:

  1. Strategic Research Agenda Development: At this moment, I am focusing on building a core competency for my research group, to align my research agenda with my academic mission.
  2. Publication Record in High-Impact Journals: Being able to continue to publish research while having more tasks is challenging, and my role as an author is changing from first (and sometimes sole) author to coauthor of my team members.
  3. Grant Portfolio Diversification: I have leaned on a few main sources of funding in the past, and am working towards diversifying the types of grants I am applying for.
  4. Leadership in Interdisciplinary Research Initiatives: As I am growing my team, I am bringing in more grants to support my team. Over the past years I have gone from smaller, specific grants, to broader grants in consortia. The next step would be to go towards coordinating consortia.
  5. Establishment of a National/International Reputation: I am moving towards hopefully getting more invitations to keynote lectures at conferences and academic events, as well as getting more involved in the leadership of international organizations.
  6. Effective Graduate Student and Postdoc Mentoring: At this point, I am growing my team, and am working on picking up more skills to lead teams and work with individuals – who, as the name says itself, each have their different needs.
  7. Significant Contribution to Departmental/Institutional Leadership: Admittedly, I dread the idea of having to get more involved in administrative matters, but I am trying to think of particular strategic plans and committees that align closely with my academic mission and core values to make a positive impact in my institution.
  8. Sustained Record of Service and Professional Engagement: With increased professional visibility comes more service: serving as editor of journals and in technical committees. My role is currently moving from being a committee member, to a committee leader, to becoming more involved in the leadership of international organizations directly.
  9. Innovation in Teaching and Curriculum Development: I am committed to continue learning how to serve the new generation of students with updated teaching techniques, while not forgetting to teach from the heart. I have done research on doctoral education in the past, and I am thinking about whether I should go for funding for this research as well.
  10. Establishment of a Research Legacy: As associate professors progress towards full professorship, they should focus on leaving a lasting legacy in their field. This may involve mentoring a new generation of scholars, influencing policy or industry practices, or making seminal contributions to knowledge that have a profound and enduring impact. I am still trying to think about what I want my legacy to become.

What do you think? Which skills do you think are crucial to learn in the mid-career stage?

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