In research and scholarship, what counts is the better idea, the stronger argument, the more convincing interpretation, or the deeper insight. Universities worldwide strive to recruit the highest-calibre academics, whether just for a time or permanently. Traditional career trajectories, oriented towards appointment to a professorship and embedded in rigid hierarchies, can attract long periods of support – but by the same token, also entail dependency. This can be an obstacle to attracting the very best researchers from across the globe for a career at German academic institutions. To develop their individual talents to the full, talented early-career academics need freedom of scope, encouragement to develop their own ideas, and the possibility to work independently and on their own initiative.