Here my very subjective view on the principles of academic success (still working on step 4…):
- To be successful as a master student, you have to be intelligent.
- To be successful as a doctorate student, you have to be intelligent and hard-working.
- To be successful as a post-doc, you have to be intelligent, hard-working, and super-focused.
- To be successful as a professor, you have to be intelligent, hard-working, super-focused, and make other people work for you (for free).
ad 1) If you are intelligent, you can still slack around, start studying three days before the exam, and still be ok.
ad 2) Intelligence is no longer enough, but you have to keep a continuous work pace to get the job done and spend a lot of time with your work. Good thing, you still have time to invest some days or weeks into something you are interested in and explore things.
ad 3) Hard-work is no longer enough, only those will survive who will invest their time most efficiently. Don’t even move a finger without a paper or a project grant coming out! If other people want your help and there is nothing in for you, smile, give a polite answer and send them away as quickly as possible.
ad 4) Being focused is no longer enough, to climb up the ladder you simply can’t do the work on your own any more. Since money is rare in science, you have to use all tricks to make other people (interns, students, PhDs, post-docs, other colleagues) work for you. If you have a reputation, pay’em less, since they will still want to work for you. Use all leverages you have. If you have a PhD student after his first year, or better half-time control, you can make him work almost as much as you want because the penalty for quitting his job/PhD project will mostly be too prohibitive to him to quit or even complain. For post-docs the issue is a bit more complicated (abroad), however, in Germany, where you have to acquire another degree called habilitation (venia legendi) under the supervision of your boss, the situation is similar to PhDs.
Any points to add?