In this brief essay, we review insights from a European experience exchange panel which brought together scholars from diverse epistemological, intellectual and regional locations to reflect on their careers. It was with two contrasting questions in mind that we set out to organise an experience exchange panel: on the one hand we asked ourselves, how best can an academic career be planned? That is, how do we seek out the right opportunities? How do we prepare ourselves for unexpected moves, and how, if at all, do we prepare for intellectual changes of direction? What counts as important in building an academic CV? On the other hand, we were perplexed by the range of stories around us about successful careers being founded on chance meetings, impulsive ideas and unanticipated dilemmas. How then, can a career be planned at all? It was with these two opposing views in mind that we set out on this task of bringing together scholars at diverse points in their careers to focus on three themes, as they spoke to a new generation of researchers. We focused on (1) aspects of planning; (2) decisions involved in mobility; and (3) dilemmas in the early days of an emergent career. In selecting these themes, we knew we would open up a European network of experiences, where 'what counts' and 'what plans are the best', would soon become relative questions. And this all, doubtless, in the context of intense competition, financial uncertainties and a changing field of media and communication research which throws up newer interdisciplinarities every day.