The academic career environment is truly a world of its own. Academic institutions have entrenched traditions. Due to historical conditions and new post-apartheid challenges, universities in South Africa have a need for effectively recruiting and retaining a new generation of academics and researchers of excellence.

Here are some of the problems voiced by academics:

‘It is publish or perish, but I lecture full-time!’

‘I am terrified of failing as a lecturer.’

‘I’ve lost the zest for my research.’

‘I’m demotivated about the work on my thesis.’

‘I don’t know how to help the students with their personal problems.’

‘Why are we wasting so much time with endless meetings?’

‘What can I do when my contract ends? There is no position for me.’

‘I’m not sure if I am an academic … What does it actually mean?’

I have developed an accelerated career development programme that meets the specific needs of emerging and novice academics and researchers. It has been implemented with good results for five consecutive years by the Department of Research Capacity Development at NMMU.

Denise Schael, Researcher Coastal Wetlands:
‘Your workshop is inspiring and a great learning experience.’

Zoliswa Twani, Lecturer MMus and HOD:
‘The sessions with you were an eye-opener for me regarding the importance of one’s educational experience. I thoroughly learned a lot from your coaching. I particularly enjoyed the activity of mapping one’s educational history and to see how all culminated into a rich career development path. The sessions empowered me with the knowledge that whatever one learns in life is not a mistake but a route that can add to a comprehensive whole and take one to a higher dimension academically. I appreciate the support and assistance of the whole group.’

Lea Ndimurwimo, Lecturer LLM:
‘Thank you for inspiring workshop sessions. Personally I have benefitted as an academic from your coaching. I am confident to work through my 3 year plan and beyond, as we discussed fully during the workshops. I would like to thank my colleagues for their input relating to academic report writing and how to take the scientific output further.’

Adelina Mbinjama, Assoc. Lecturer, PR & Communication:
‘I definitely benefitted as young academic from your coaching. I feel that I can work through my EDS for this year with the 3 year plan framework that we worked on. My EDS is practically put together.

The feedback from you and the experienced colleagues assisted me in shaping and strengthening my vision and goals. Thank you for a great start to the year.’

Read more in the article: ‘Career Sculpting’: an Innovative Approach to Academic Development, co authored with Belinda du Plooy, Journal for Development and Leadership, Vol. 1, N. 2, December 2012