The reason I say this is that when you look at advertised tenured academic positions, being able to demonstrate independent and innovative thinking is a one of the essential application criteria (usually articulated along the lines of ‘an established or growing international reputation’, ‘proven ability to secure research funding’ or ‘a consistent track record of quality publications’). The university faculty needs to keep moving forward and, ideally, wants to be leading the field in its key areas of research. If you can show that you are an independent innovative thinker, who is prepared to move out from the shadow of your supervisor and take your research in new directions you will stand out from the crowd. Your list of publications may be impressive, but are you ready to be the person whose name is listed last, can you take on the role of corresponding author, will you be able to submit successful funding applications, which demonstrate that your are re-positioning your research away from that of your current professor? Securing an independent research fellowship early in your career will allow you to shape your research interests to prepare you more readily for this transition. Alternatively, your postdoctoral position may have uncovered a niche of expertise, away from that of your supervisor, which you feel confident to pursue at the leadership level.
So, referring back to the start of this blog, two key activities that will almost certainly help lead you towards independence are the cultivation of people and ideas.