We asked Alex C. Michalos, Emeritus Professor in Political Science from the University of Northern British Columbia, to share advice he would give to scholars standing at the beginning of their careers. Throughout his long, accomplished career he has won many awards, has published 27 books and 118 refereed articles, and founded or co-founded seven scholarly journals including the most frequently cited journal in the world devoted to business ethics, Journal of Business Ethics. He is also the Editor of the 12-volume Encyclopedia of Quality of Life and Well-Being Research.
As researchers I suppose most of us are pretty good at remembering the early days, who helped us, what models we used, what aphorisms we kept before us, and what worked or didn’t along the way. I imagine that the farther we get from our beginnings, the more inaccurate we get at reporting what happened. When asked to offer my own suggestions on how to navigate the beginning of your scholarly career, these six tips strike me as the most important.
- Write reviews of published books for journals, book manuscripts for publishers, and articles submitted to journals for publication. Each of these three kinds of reviews presents somewhat different requirements. The first is usually easy to arrange. Just volunteer to write book reviews for journal editors. The second two types require some contacts or visibility to be invited. Young scholars should go to professional meetings, mingle and mix, make the contacts that can lead to invitations.
- It’s important to continue to seek advice from friends and editors. Young scholars should circulate their manuscripts among friends who will give friendly reviews. Young scholars should help each other. We all have different experiences trying to get published and learning the ropes. The more friends you make, the more diverse your circle of critics becomes and the better advice you get from readers, publishers and editors.
- Write short discussion notes and letters to editors. Get experience crafting short pieces and getting feedback.
- Read the reviews of others to get a clearer picture on which reviews are helpful and which are not. A good review can provoke further research and ideas. Readers notice who writes good reviews. When you review well you will find yourself at the forefront of science with people seeking you out to review new and exciting research.
- Understand that your critics are not always right or wrong. You have to make your own judgment call about when to fix something and when to stay true to your ideas. For my award winning, five-volume North American Social Report, I was turned down by 57 publishers. I knew what I wanted to write and the story I had to tell, and with perseverance kept searching until I found the right publisher that recognized this.
- Don’t be discouraged with harsh reviews. Sometimes harsh reviews have something useful to say even if a writer’s feedback comes across as cruel, wittingly or not. Don’t worry about it. Just suck it up and press on. The Nobel laureate Herbert Simon said he always hated getting negative comments in reviews of his work, no matter from whom, regardless of how famous he became.
We hope these tips help guide you in the beginning of a long and prosperous career. If you have more to add, feel free to let us know the lessons you would share with other researchers in the comments section below.