Learning from the Research Community – Part 2

Macquarie’s Strategic Research Framework for 2015-2024 (World-Leading Research; World-Changing Impact) aims to increase the productivity and competitiveness of Macquarie’s Higher Degree Research Candidates (HRDs) and Early Career Researchers (ECRs). The framework provides a long list of support strategies Macquarie is planning on pursuing, but we feel nothing beats learning from the “ones who made it”. At the Early Career Researcher Conference in the Faculty of Human Sciences in October last year, various researchers gathered to share their success stories and career advice. In the second part of this series, Lilia Mantai (PhD candidate, School of Education) shares some key lessons learned from this day.

I must admit, I felt like I did not belong there when I looked around the conference venue. I recognised one other PhD student and wondered if we were intruding. Are PhD candidates considered Early Career Researchers? Is it too early to think about life after the PhD? I found the answers as the day progressed and considered myself clever for turning up that day. This one day could not be more insightful and relevant to me today while I am tinkering away on my PhD and preparing for a career in research and academia. So I was eagerly taking notes that I would like to share with other HDRs and ECRs.

Feel free to print, pass on, and use as your mantras.

Career Planning, Work-Life Balance, Which Activities to Prioritise


  • Focus. Know what you want.
  • Aim high, e.g. go for best journals (worst they can do is say no).
  • Meet the Who’s Who in your area of research.
  • Don’t say no to opportunities that sound like “fun” (if you can fit them in).
  • Go for quality publications (but as a PhD student you want some, rather than zero, publications).
  • Plan ahead for your research and your personal life, e.g. plan for post-PhD, post-baby publication dip, etc.
  • Know thy milestones. Know thy requirements. For example, find out what it takes to become a lecturer, professor, or whatever you want to be, and plan for it.
  • You are essentially training as a professional writer, so write much and often.

Bottom line:  No one can tell you what to do. You have to make choices for yourself, the ones that fit your life, work style, circumstances, outlook on life, your gut feeling.

Collaboration, Mentoring and Supervision


  • Learn to be extrovert for academic purposes.
  • Surround yourself with supportive people.
  • Make friends, connect with others, find your peers.
  • Do not work with people you do not like, trust or feel uncomfortable with (try them first, work with them on a paper, then a grant).
  • Co-authorship is a sign of social skills.
  • Be honest to yourself and others about deadlines, workload, etc.
  • Act ethically and with integrity – be nice, it’s a small world out there.
  • Contact the BIG names and tell them about their research.
  • Ground rules of collaboration: communication, clarity, honesty.
  • Get a mentor (different from supervisor), preferably 20 years senior to you, to help you through the maze of academia, promotion, politics, etc.
  • Get more than one mentor. Think “mentor mosaic”. Different mentors for different life and work situations.
  • Be your own supervisor: it’s your research, your legacy.

Bottom line: Collaboration is like a relationship: it’s a give-and-take; you have to take care of one another.



  • Check out the DECRA website for grants, etc.
  • Subscribe to grant newsletters
  • Join a team and apply for grants
  • Know the scheme of grant
  • A solid grant track record shows that you can write, you are competitive, and that you can manage grants.
  • Get and stay in touch with your Research Office – they know stuff!

Bottom line:  Build up a grant track record. You have to start somewhere, so start small, and have a long-term research plan.



  • Build and maintain a public profile (e.g. Academia, LinkedIn, ResearchGate)
  • If you are on the news, tell Macquarie’s Media and Communications team
  • Even better, tell them before you get on the news (they can make you famous!)
  • The media team provide media training, contact communications@mq.edu.au
  • Become an author on The Conversation and meet other MQ contributors
  • Become an AusSMC expert
  • Explore Science Media Savvy – a fantastic online DIY media training resource
  • Keep your track record up-to-date in MQ’s Research Online repository, contact researchonline@mq.edu.au.

Bottom line:  If you do good work, talk about it!

Here are some other suggested readings from the media team:

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