The increasingly precarious nature of career paths in Higher Education, particularly Modern Languages, means that many early-career academics find themselves adrift from the support of experienced colleagues, former supervisors, and departmental mentors who have the ability to provide the guidance and feedback so essential for developing a professional profile and navigating the myriad new professional experiences which characterize the initial years of this career.
UCML’s ECA Support Network (ECASN) seeks to alleviate these obstacles through academic mentoring. Its intention is to connect researchers at the start of their career who have standalone projects on which they need advice with more experienced peers and colleagues who can provide constructive feedback: this includes article submissions, conference and seminar proposals and presentations, pitches for special issues of journals, plans for events and public engagement, book proposals, CV design, and bids for research-council fellowships/grants. In order to avoid conflicts of interest, live job applications cannot be an object of discussion, but there will be scope for general advice based on past job applications with the view to making future improvements.
Mentees will self-identify as early-career linguists – likely to be late-stage postgraduates, postdoctoral researchers, teaching fellows, and new lecturers – and particularly those without access to departmental support or affiliation.
The Network welcomes the altruistic input of experienced colleagues from across the disciplines represented by UCML. Prospective mentees and mentors from non-traditional academic backgrounds and minority groups are particularly encouraged to get involved.
The network operates as follows –
Two mentoring modes are possible:
1. Individual requests
Mentors offering support:
Colleagues with approximately 5 years of experience post-viva are encouraged to send their details to the list moderator (Dr Hannah Scott – firstname.lastname@example.org) to be added to a closed database of mentors. Mentors may be colleagues with a current institution affiliation and on a stable academic career trajectory, and are also welcome from those who are navigating multiple temporary contracts – the lengthening period of post-PhD precarity means that this group now comprises many academics with multiple articles, successful grant applications, edited collections, and published books but lacking permanent appointments, and their experience is equally valuable.
The details to send should include:
- a brief summary of fields of research and teaching experience;
- major publications;
- any successful grant applications (e.g. AHRC/British Academy/Leverhulme/Wellcome);
- any experience of public engagement and impact activities;
- any areas for which that they particularly wish/do not wish to provide support;
- a contact email address.
When a call for support from a prospective mentee is received by the list moderator (e.g. help fine-tuning a first conference paper), the moderator will contact all suitably-experienced mentors (via email in blind carbon-copy) to ask for availability. Details of mentors will never be handed to prospective mentees directly. Anyone who would like to take up this call can reply to the list moderator to accept the project, and then contact the mentee directly. Note that this is not intended to develop into a longer-term mentoring relationship with the mentee – it is a one-off request for a standalone issue. The mentor may choose how often and when they wish to offer their time and support.
Those seeking support:
Early-career academics should direct their request for support to the list moderator (Dr Hannah Scott – email@example.com) – for example, I would like help fine-tuning my first conference paper, on environmental humanities and post-colonial French literature. This should be accompanied by a brief academic biography (focusing on the field of research and experience so far).
The list moderator will then identify any mentors on the database with relevant experience and email them to check their availability. If a match is found, the available mentor will then contact the mentee directly via email to provide support. Please note that this is not intended to build into a longer-term mentoring relationship with the mentor – it aims to tackle a one-off request for a standalone issue. Longer-term support can be sought through an application for the Year-long Mentoring Partnerships (see below).
2. Year-long Mentoring Partnerships:
As well as support with standalone enquiries, the Network also seeks to establish a limited number of mentoring partnerships which will last for the longer period of one year. These partnerships will result from an annual call for applications (details to follow), and are intended for early-career academics within approximately 5 years post-viva who:
- do not currently holding an academic position;
- are on an academic contract amounting to less than approximately ¾ of full-time employment in a year (e.g. less than 8-9 months at 1FTE or 11-12 months at 0.6FTE);
- are working in academia but have no access to mentoring or support from within their institution.
These partnerships will support the overall career development of the selected mentees through advice on matters such as honing future research plans, developing the content of an academic CV, managing teaching loads to enable research time, and shaping funding applications, as well as more practical support/feedback on the areas covered by this support network more generally. This partnership is likely to take the shape of monthly meetings – probably online or by telephone – in line with a plan of action agreed between the mentee and the mentor.