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I am an RA with an unorthodox path. During my PhD I had to move from a group to working alone with a different set of supervisors that didn't have much of a connection to my topic and after my PhD they couldn't help. I am now an RA but I mostly do teaching and no research. My teaching experience is good but I don't have that many publications. I tried to publish some things from my PhD but they are now a bit dated and I don't have any connections to get involved in other projects. I tried to network but it is very difficult. So far this year I wrote a couple of papers, I was in 2 conference programme committees, I got 2 small grants but it is still not enough.

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    I don't understand what position you hold. You say RA, but that implies to me that you haven't yet finished or have only done so after completing this year.
    – Buffy
    Commented Aug 31, 2023 at 15:35
  • I am an RA on paper for the past 3 year with ongoing short extensions (3-6 months each). In reality I created a course and I teach part of it along with coordination.
    – Nadia
    Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 12:42
  • @Diane What is an "RA"? Are you effectively a post doc? "RA" can abbreviate many different things in academia...
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 23:30
  • What country? Might help because usually "RA" doesn't imply teaching responsibilities. Commented Sep 2, 2023 at 2:24
  • @Buffy Research Associate, similar to postdoc but not attached to a particular project.
    – Nadia
    Commented Sep 4, 2023 at 10:37

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Yes, it is very difficult to advance without a circle of connections, especially collaborators. And you are in a particularly difficult position, I think, and may be being exploited to some extent. If they would offer you a permanent position, even as teaching faculty then it would give you a base.

But the solution to the problem is to develop that circle, I think. I had a very difficult time getting started even with people willing to support me and the market for faculty in academia seems to be very difficult at present (as it was for me).

First, try to find a mentor where you are. Look around at faculty who might serve - people you respect. Talk to them about your need to find a better position that is more open to advancement. You need a base from which to work and you need people willing to help you find that base.

The department head/chair has an ethical obligation to help you get started, even if they don't recognize that. If you can talk to them, expressing your career needs, perhaps they can help with money for travel and conference fees.

You are doing the right thing being on conference committees. Use those people to start with building your circle. Talk to them about your needs. Get the more prominent ones to introduce you to people with similar interests.

One can expand their own circle by getting introduced to members of the circle of others.

If you are introverted, find ways to overcome that. It can be difficult and it takes practice but it can be done. I doubt many here would tag me as very introverted, but at one time I was held back by an extreme reluctance to make my needs known to those who had the power to help. I know people who are "on the spectrum" who are also known as brilliant public speakers. They have learned to play a role and not let their "natural" inclinations to hide in the background dominate their lives. If this is an issue with you, add a comment and I'll say a bit more.

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... but I mostly do teaching and no research. My teaching experience is good but I don't have that many publications. ... I tried to network but it is very difficult. So far this year I wrote a couple of papers, I was in 2 conference programme committees, I got 2 small grants but it is still not enough.

As an add-on, give thought to reflexivity. You can leverage on your subject knowledge and teaching experience to write and publish papers on your teaching delivery, innovations in your teaching style/approach and assessment.

Innovation can be processes, pedagogical approaches, technological innovation, sustainable assessments: Boyd (2000), Boyd (2016), Adesemowo (2017).

Through collaboration and showcasing your scholarship of teaching, learning and assessment, you might build (lasting) network. Your network will also gravitates towards your 'topic'.

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Nobody knows, really, "how to" progress in academia. Trying to progress in academia means taking part in a lottery. Someone might read a paper of yours and notice you, or it might go unnoticed. Being at conferences is good. Being a research assistant who is exploited to do only teaching sounds bad.

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