Archives for the month of: September, 2014
Dog dressed as a bee with the caption "My SPSS skills are second to none..."

My SPSS skills are second to none…

Over the weekend I was reading the latest volume of Stephen Fry’s autobiography, More Fool Me. Throughout, the way he purports to see himself (sly, foolish, intellectually wanting…) is a million miles away from the way he is perceived by most of the ‘general public’, who – from an entirely unscientific skim of social media – tend to regard him as a terribly brainy good-guy, whose biggest sin is being a bit smug. This got me thinking (because I’m rock and roll like that) about the differences between how we see ourselves in a professional context and how others see us – particularly about the way in which we perceive our skill, abilities, strengths and weaknesses.

The internet is packed full of inspirational quotes assuring you that  how others see you is not important; how you see yourself is everything. But, let’s not forget that the internet is also full of dogs dressed up as bees, so, you know, caveat lector. Whilst I’d certainly agree that self-perception is incredibly important, in terms of career development and professional progression, the way we’re viewed by others is crucial.

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ResearchWordleOne of the key considerations for doctoral graduates looking to work outside academia is knowing which particular entry point to an organisation is the most appropriate for them. For example does the organisation have a recruitment scheme specifically for PhDs? If not, is it necessary to apply for the general graduate entry scheme or might it be possible to gain a direct entry job as an ‘experienced hire’?

If you’re currently asking yourself these kinds of questions, university recruitment fairs (e.g. the Sheffield Universities Recruitment fairs) present an ideal opportunity to meet employers’ representatives face-to-face and discuss your options. Did you know that many of the employers represented will also be offering internships/placements that are open to postgraduate researchers?

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When theSept blog image Think Ahead team made the decision to start up a blog and share the writing between us, my first thought was ‘I’ve never written for a blog before, what if my writing isn’t good enough’. Writing has never been something that comes easily to me, I spend more time worrying about what to write and if it will be any good then actually getting pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard so to speak). Even when I do get started on the writing, I find it so easy to be distracted away by the ping of a new email in my inbox, the buzz from a text message or an unnecessary urge to suddenly tidy my desk. The more I thought about writing for the blog, I started to reflect back to writing my PhD thesis and initially wondered how on earth I had managed to get 60,000 or so words written all those years ago…

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ThesisMorphing several years worth of collected data into a coherent narrative that illustrates clearly ‘what you did’ and ‘what you found out’ is a big challenge. In my opinion it’s one you’re ready for, but you have to get started on writing to really recognise that you can do it.

There are some really excellent reasons to write the thesis that extend beyond just evidencing the time you’ve spent slaving your socks off. I’ve spent some hours talking to thesis writers through my thesis coaching projects, and my following top 5 skills you’ll hone (beyond becoming a Master of the Universe in your subject area) have become well evidenced. These are easy-wins for examples for your next job application, and good to keep in mind if you’re wondering how you’ll survive the write-up phase!

Click the link to read the 5 reasons you are now more employable. Read the rest of this entry »

THEshortlist2014 We are delighted to announce that Think Ahead has been shortlisted in the Outstanding Support for Early Career Researchers category of the Times Higher Education Awards 2014. We have added ​the good news ​to our ‘celebrating success’ webpage, including all the details of our ‘Productive Partnerships’ application – you can find all the information here in the right hand side bar. Congratulations to the team, and thank you indeed to all our partners. You can see the full shortlist for all categories here.

As I am just back from holiday after several weeks away, I realise that I have been thinking a lot about how researchers get inspired for their work. When you ask young researchers what they do to foster their research inspiration and creativity, they usually start by responding that before being able to be creative, they need to know enough, need to have read enough. They may say that they get inspired by attending conferences or by meeting other researchers.


How do we get our research inspiration? How can we be creative as researchers? These are vast questions. What strikes me is that rarely will people start by saying that for them to be inspired or creative in their research, they just need time to think. In some ways, ‘time to think’ may seem an oxymoron in the academic context. Isn’t it what researchers do all day, isn’t it their job to think? Of course you do think all day when you are doing research, but the question remains of how you can sustain inspiration and creativity in the manner you pursue your research. I have just started reading a very interesting book called Bite: Recipes for remarkable research (Eds. A. Williams, D. Jones & J. Robertson from Sense Publishers), which presents lots of examples or as they are called in the book recipes about fostering and sustaining our inspiration and creativity as we work alone or collaboratively. It would be interesting to hear from you which of these recipes work for you.

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