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Agency and Networking

in Researcher Career Development

ERASMUS + Researcher Identity Development


Career Paths

Sector: public

Charles worked in a professional role in North America before starting a PhD in a local university to ensure proximity to his elderly parents and partner. He aimed to secure a research-teaching position after completing his PhD. He liked the idea of being hired for his research interests and potential contribution to the field. He began participating in the Canadian research in his fourth year of the degree and graduated in 2008 in his mid-30s.

What struck us about Charles’ story was 

  • Influence of his parents’ health (personal)

  • Challenges of publishing during degree and dramatic difference in institutional climate and expectations in researcher post (work experience)

  • Starting job-seeking late and re-thinking career intentions after disappointing research contract (career thinking) 

Daniel worked as a professional (science background) in Latin America, before doing a Master’s in North America (English as other language) and then moved to the UK with his partner and child for a PhD (social sciences). He wanted to develop the expertise he saw as lacking in his field in order to advance his professional career, imagining being a consultant taking jobs internationally. He joined the UK study at the end of PhD Year 1 and completed the degree when he was 38.

What struck us about Daniel’s story was

  • Child’s development/opportunities and re-locations of culture and language (personal)

  • Impact of supervisory relationship on intellectual work; financial issues and impact of paid work during PhD (PhD experience)

  • Working towards career goals during PhD and PhD intellectual development evident in professional work (career thinking)


Woman Tutoring Child

What struck us about Hannah’s story was

  • Family considerations and her partner’s health (personal)

  • Financial burden of doing a PhD and not being able to do the work she desired (work experience);

  • Seeking the job she desired and changing job to match her expectations (career thinking)

Hannah was a health care professional before starting her PhD which was funded by grants from a Research Council and the university, and employment income. She joined the UK study whilst writing up her thesis in her final year of doctoral study; she graduated that same year aged 40. Hannah envisaged pursuing a ‘hybrid’ career in which she could maintain her practice and do research. She had a partner and three children.

Nina gained a Bachelors and a Master’s degree prior to undertaking doctoral study funded by a Research Council grant. She joined the UK study in 2008 whilst in the second year of her doctoral studies. At that point she was undecided about her future career. Her immediate family were in the UK whilst her partner was a national of another country, with a job based in Europe and wider family living across Europe and South America. Nina graduated with her PhD aged 27.

What struck us about Nina’s story was

  • Co-locating with her partner and striving for a work-life balance (personal)

  • Managing as a teacher  and understanding institutional differences (work experience)

  • Openness to various post-PhD careers and advancing her career options (career thinking)


Woman's Portrait

What struck us about Sam’s story was:

• Long-distance relationship; mental health (personal)

• Dissatisfaction with PhD work (work experience)

• Uncertainty as to long-term career goals (career thinking)

Sam, a North American in his late 20s, was working in the private sector following a master’s degree when he began the PhD. Sam decided to do a PhD in order to pursue intellectual interests and increase his knowledge of the field. When Sam joined this study, he was in the fourth year of his PhD. He took a researcher position at a non-profit organization following graduation, and remained uncertain about his ultimate career goals, but considered finding work near his long-distance partner.

Shannon was a professional promoting social justice issues in North America. A colleague encouraged her to apply for a scholarship in Europe since it would develop her expertise. The scholarship was awarded, so she left her close-knit family intent on doing professional work in the same vein when she graduated. She joined the UK study in her third year and was 25 when she graduated.

What struck us about Shannon’s story was

  • Work-life balance and impact of re-locating (personal)

  • Managing work in post-PhD work and developing new skills (work experience)

  • Wanted professional role but postponed career thinking until finished degree and work environment untenable in first post-PhD position, so sought other position (career thinking)

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Researcher Identity Development (2020).

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