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The challenges and needs of early career professionals: An overview of SSP's survey

The challenges and needs of early career professionals: An overview of SSP's survey

The academic world is highly competitive, and early career professionals face various challenges while trying to carve a successful career path for themselves. These professionals are the future of academia; therefore, it is important that members of the industry understand their requirements and problems and help them overcome those.

Taking steps in this direction, the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP) – a nonprofit organization that promotes and advances communication among all sectors of the scholarly publication community – conducted a survey for professionals in scholarly publishing who have less than ten years of experience. The main intent behind the survey was to provide a platform for early career professionals to voice their concerns and share with the community what they need to grow professionally.

The Early Career Subcommittee, a subset of the SSP’s Professional Development Committee, rolled out a 34-question survey to which 507 participants responded. The average age of the respondents was 30 years and as many as 40% had an experience ranging from 2-5 years. The survey questions focused on areas relating to industry experience, professional development, and organizational benefits. The results were shared at SSP’s 38th Annual Meeting in Vancouver in June, 2016, under the title “Sharing the Future Voices…” Some of the most significant findings are:

1. 46% of EPCs reported that their most formidable challenge was “finding the right role.” The other two top-ranking concerns were “finding the right career path” as stated by 42% and “finding the right organization,” which was highlighted by 33% of the respondents. These apprehensions were common across disciplines, indicating the lack of career guidance and resources offering career-related information.

2.  Do ECPs have clear ideas about the kind of position they want? According to the survey, 40% found a position of interest either by coincidence or because the job search engine displayed openings that matched their skillset. Only 26.2% of EPCs said that they always had an interest in a publishing related career.     

3. Although social media and online platforms offer a lot of industry related information, surprisingly, these were not the ECPs’ primary information resources. 78% of the respondents mentioned that they turned to their colleagues and peers for resources and information. Of the social media channels that they reported using, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook ranked among the top three.       

4. The ECPs found webinars among the most useful ways of learning and keeping in touch with the industry happenings. 69% of ECPs have reportedly attended at least one industry related webinar, and 72% said that their employers funded for their industry meetings and other networking events, which is heartening. However, on the other hand, more employers should provide training for employees who are in the early phase of their career.

5. While management training and training related to networking are vital to career progression, only 32% of employers offered “ongoing training about industry trends;” one in five employers offered management training; and only 6% offered networking training according to the respondents.

Early career professionals have a lot to cope up with and do not receive enough support from their employers and mentors. Matt Cooper, co-chair of the SSP's Early Career Task Force, says, “In the day-to-day workplace of an early career professional in scholarly communication, the broader development and education of these individuals can often be overlooked.” To ensure a brighter future of scholarly publishing and scholarly communication, more focus should be placed on making the next generation of scholars more equipped to progress in their careers with minimal challenges. 

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