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Agency and Networking

in Researcher Career Development

ERASMUS + Researcher Identity Development


Career Paths

Role: research professional


Woman at desk

What struck us about Elizabeth’s story was

  • How health issues and family considerations shaped her choices (personal)

  • Writing and intellectual contribution, and balancing job hunting, part-time and consultancy work (work experience)

  • Employability and seeking the work she desired (career thinking)

Elizabeth worked in a skilled service role before returning to part-time study for her first degree and then commenced a full-time PhD in a different subject area. She joined the UK study whilst in the third year of her doctorate; she graduated the following year when age 45. Elizabeth envisaged a career in a research role with no teaching commitments. After graduation she worked in part-time and consultancy roles as she sought a permanent appointment. She had two teenage children with her long-term partner and was concerned for her ageing parents. During the study she was diagnosed with a chronic illness and defined herself as living with disability


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.

SA, a UK national, had earned BSc and Master’s degrees prior to beginning the PhD in 2009 when she was 24. She chose doctoral work in order to advance in the field and pursue intellectual interests. SA joined this project in 2011, while focusing on the data collection and analysis phase of her research. She was part of a lab group, and taught master’s and undergraduate students. SA completed the PhD at 26 years old, and then began working as a post-doctoral researcher at a private company. She envisioned herself in a research position, but also wanted to settle down with her partner, and thus ended up expanding her job search beyond academia.

What struck us about SA’s story was: 

  • Changes in thinking over time about settling down and establishing a home base with partner (personal)

  • Choosing thesis by publication to advance initial goal of work in academia, and managing projects and publications as post-doctoral researcher in industry (work experience)

  • Change in career goals following the PhD, deciding that industry rather than academia would align with her life goals (career thinking) 

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Researcher Identity Development (2020).

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