The aim of an early career network (ECN) is to foster the interaction, capacity, and growth of early career professionals (e.g. researchers, practitioners, policy makers). I am the current secretary of the International Society for Physical Activity and Health (ISPAH) ECN, which has facilitated me with building connections, sharing knowledge, and allowed me to develop capacity and key skills as a researcher.
Facilitating connections and sharing of knowledge
Being a member of an ECN has shown me that there is a network of professionals globally who are willing to connect and share knowledge and experiences. These connections are often facilitated by activities at congress meetings (e.g. workshop, speed networking), mentoring pathways, and access to monthly newsletters. In addition, the network has allowed me to connect with others who are at a similar career stage, providing a useful forum to discuss common challenges and how to overcome them.
Developing capacity and key skills
Being part of an ECN has also allowed me to develop and strengthen my skills as a researcher. ECN workshops and webinars have allowed me to learn from other early-, mid-, and senior career professionals around topics that are relevant at an early career stage. Topics such as grant/funding application, choosing the right career path and knowledge translation are some of the topics that are often covered. In the case of ISPAH, ECN members have also got the opportunity to apply for funding to upskill in knowledge translation.
Added value of becoming a committee member
Like many people, I engaged in the network as a normal member for a few years before jumping on board as a committee member. This has meant committing some of my time to the ECN but in turn has provided added value with regards to personal and professional development. Delivering various activities has meant working in collaboration with other early career professionals to generate ideas, plan speakers, schedules, resources, and learn how to effectively promote work. Furthermore, I have got to experience acting in different roles (e.g. host, speaker, moderator) and engage with other fantastic professionals as we deliver various activities. As a committee we have also worked collaboratively in order to publish research that is relevant for early career professionals. The skills gained through my work on the ECN committee have been extremely useful for other areas of my work, with the Irish Physical Activity Research Collaboration (i-parc.ie) and will continue to do so in the future.
To finish, I would highly recommend any early career professional to join an ECN, even as a normal member because the experience can be highly rewarding. If you are interested in joining an ECN some suggestions are to:
- Look towards societies or communities that are linked with your research area.
- Check if they have an ECN already established and join as a normal member. This is a good way to begin engaging with other professionals and keep up to date on events, webinars etc.
- If you find that you want to become more engaged, feel free to contact the ECN committee to ask how this is possible. From experience, all those involved with an ECN are happy to help.
- If there is no ECN available but you feel it would be beneficial for you and others, feel free to contact the main society or community board to suggest establishing one. Although it can take time, with the help of other eager individuals, a network that helps share knowledge and experiences between early career professionals could be established.
If you are interested in the International Society for Physical Activity ECN, please feel free to contact me on Joey.Murphy@ul.ie or check https://www.ispah.org/our-networks/early-career-network/.
Dr. Joseph (Joey) Murphy is the Research Manager for the Irish Physical Activity Research Collaboration (I-PARC). This research brings together researchers, practitioners and policy makers in Ireland to identify effective interventions and implementation methods for increasing population levels of physical activity. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org twitter: @JoeyJMurphy Researchgate
Direito, A., Murphy, J.J., Mclaughlin, M., Mair, J., Mackenzie, K., Kamada, M., Sutherland, R., Montgomery, S. and Shilton, T., 2019. Early Career Professionals’(Researchers, Practitioners, and Policymakers) Role in Advocating, Disseminating, and Implementing the Global Action Plan on Physical Activity: ISPAH Early Career Network View. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 16(11), pp.940-944. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1123/jpah.2019-0450