Just play the game, you’ll figure out the rules as you go along

Guest post by Dr Emily Beaumont, an early career academic at Plymouth University, UK.  You can find her also at emilybeaumont.wordpress.com or @EmilyFBeaumont (Twitter)

Anybody who has had the above statement (in the title of this post) thrown at them before a card game will know that despite the enjoyment of playing the game, they will have to spend a significant amount of time figuring out and understanding the rules.

This is my fourth year of working in academia as an early career academic. I’ve enjoyed every minute (well nearly every minute) of my experience so far yet I still feel I’m trying to figure out the rules of a well-established game. There are rules you learn early on such as ‘Don’t underestimate the value of the administrative staff’, ‘Don’t let your research slip as you become overwhelmed with teaching’ and ‘Don’t immediately say yes to taking over somebody’s place on a committee’. I didn’t know about this later rule until it was too late: I currently sit on six committees. Then there are those rules which creep in and surprise you, just as you think you’ve grasped them all; ‘Keep every email’, ‘Always take your external examiner out to a decent restaurant’ and ‘Network, network, network!’

Yet despite losing a round here and there to inexperience, when you’re playing a game you’re ultimately still smiling and having fun. Which in academia can’t be bad and in due course aids collegiality. However as I continue on my early career academic journey I take advice from no other than Albert Einstein:

‘You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.’

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