Up until last year, Vitae had organised tri-annual hub meetings for Researcher Developers to get together to share practice and ideas. When the hub group heard the announcement that this was to be no more there was a ripple around the room expressing dismay. There was a unanimous desire for something to rise from the ashes of the hub meetings but uncertainty about being able to commit to making it happen. Regardless of what our job role is, in research itself or professional development, we all (it seems) have that sense of there not being enough hours in the day and a reluctance to overcommit or to do things to an average only standard. I was all too aware of this, so I whispered in the ear of my colleague Keith from Sheffield Hallam University to ask if he would volunteer to co-host the first meeting of the phoenix from the ashes together. He said, yes….no muss, no fuss. So why I am I telling you all this? Because today I co-facilitated the inaugural gathering of NERDs (Network of Expert Researcher Developers). It was great. Seventeen Researcher Developers from ten different institutions coming together to share projects, challenges, ideas for the future and to engage in CPD in discussion format – our focus for today was ‘mentoring as a tool for career success’. As it was the first gathering, we reviewed how it had worked for people, came up with a few tweaks and agreed who was hosting the next one and how we would decide on the date. The whole process was lightly facilitated, framed on being open and positive and provided time and space for sharing ideas. To my delight, people were open and positive and shared their ideas! I write this to highlight to you the importance of being a NERD. For the purposes of this post, being a NERD means this:
- Network – at its simplest level, connect with other people to whom you might have something to offer or who might be able to support you
- Engage – don’t click delete automatically on every email or invitation, challenge yourself to connect to what is going on outside of your direct sphere
- Reflect – ponder on what is shared by others, sometimes a conversation about what others are doing or thinking can spark that all important idea
- Do – it’s all too easy to say you don’t have time or space or inclination for a given thing but often things are easier in reality, particularly if you share the work with a like-minded colleague
If you network, engage, reflect and do, the sky’s the limit!