Archives for category: Helen Cowen

Most people have some form of digital footprint these days; it’s an occupational hazard in almost all lines of work.  I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked to connect via LinkedIn, and looking after the @ThinkAheadSheff twitter handle means I’m always on the lookout for people/organisations to follow.

Having an online presence as a researcher is a great means of raising your profile; it facilitates global networks and can generate new collaborative partnerships.  An online profile can assist you in promoting your research and reaching a wider audience – with specific social networking sites such as ResearchGate there are a whole host of opportunities open to you.

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Your digital profile is now often the first thing that someone encounters about you – it’s your brand and it should be carefully cultivated.  If you have a personal account on any social media platform and you also used for work purposes, you might want to think about what image you’re portraying with your posts.

I was recently in contact with a researcher who had their twitter handle in their email signature.  Being curious, I checked out their profile to see what they were working on.  Their bio listed their employer and area of research, but all the tweets I could find were complaints to various retailers and service providers and it left me feeling a little disappointed.  There were no retweeted posts or articles relating to their research field, let alone anything sharing their specific research interests.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for using twitter to expedite complaints processes – after a colleague experienced faulty teabags which exploded on contact with water, a quick tweet resulted in replacement teabags and all the ginger tea she could consume. But posts like that should be the exception rather than the rule.

If you advertise your social media platform of choice within a work context it’s reasonable for a person engaging with it to expect some work related content.  Equally you want your audience to connect with you as a person; striking that balance between work-related posts and other interest posts can be difficult, but it can be achieved.

At Sheffield there are a number of resources available to support you with your online profile.  Here are just a few:

There is also a #vitaehangout tomorrow (Tuesday 20th June 2017) on the topic of navigating your digital profile.  It promises to cover a range of topics from creating your own digital identity, to effectively using online platforms to promote your research.

If you are a researcher in the early stages of your career and you want to pursue a career in academia, you’ll need to start thinking about building your funding profile.  Starting off with small pots of money gives you the confidence to navigate the application processes and also gives you a track record of your ability to win money.  This will be of benefit to you in the future when you are looking to write larger grant proposals.

With this in mind I’d like to share with you how the Think Ahead: Sheffield Undergraduate Research Experience (TA:SURE) scheme can assist with enhancing your funding profile.  I’ve previously written about how the scheme is designed to give early career researchers the experience of managing a project from start to finish.  Part of this process is recruiting an undergraduate student and then working with the student to apply for externally funded vacation bursaries.  The student receives a valuable income over the course of the summer project and the ECR, in their role as supervisor, achieves funding which can be highlighted on their CV. Read the rest of this entry »

Everyone tells researchers that they need to get their research “out there”.  They should be promoting themselves and engaging with the public via YouTube, twitter, blogs and the like.  Some researchers can crack on with this and take to it like a duck to water, especially the written format.  But videos…well for some that’s an entirely different matter.  In an age where it can seem like every 10 year old is a YouTuber, what do you do if you’re not confident on screen or if you haven’t got the first idea of what makes a good video? Read the rest of this entry »

With the sunshine seemingly over and autumnal nights closing in, I’ve been reflecting on development events which took place over the summer and in particular the success of the Think Ahead: Sheffield Undergraduate Research Scheme (Think Ahead: SURE).  33 summer research projects took place over a 6-8 week period in the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry & Health and the Faculty of Science, with undergraduate students gaining valuable research experience to set them up for the final year of their studies and, in some cases, to support applications for further study.  Read the rest of this entry »

Being a researcher at the University of Sheffield means that you have a whole host of development opportunities at your fingertips. There’s so much on offer that you could probably spend a couple of days every week attending workshops, events, participating in online training etc. and not tackle the same thing twice. So how do you go about choosing which development event is right for you?

PaniniTo avoid a situation where you start to collect development events like you would panini stickers (got, got, NEED!), it’s always handy to take a step back and reflect on your current strengths and areas for development. There are plenty of tools and resources to support you with this, such as the Researcher Development Framework, which identifies the behaviours and attributes of successful researchers and enables you to recognise your existing skills and set realistic goals for your own development.

Read the rest of this entry »

There’s been a recurring phrase uttered around the office this past week… “I can’t wait for Easter”. I know that I’ve said it almost on a daily basis, not in anticipation of a chocolate egg eating frenzy (though those that know me will find this hard to believe), but more in the fact that I need a break. That’s a break from early morning starts, commuting into Sheffield, emails and just everything work related. I think I’ve needed this for a while, but deadlines and day to day business have caused me to get caught up in the moment and push that nagging feeling of tiredness to one side and carry on regardless. Read the rest of this entry »

You may have read a recent post by my colleague, Bryony, which introduced the Thirty30 Staff Development Festival at The University of Sheffield. Well, we’re now in November and the festival is well underway, with lots of activity taking place around campus (have you checked out the Lego Lunches and the Active Learning Sets?) and the hashtag #myThirty30 seemingly a major fixture on our twitter timeline.

One of the ideas behind Thirty30 is that “development is everywhere”. I was thinking about this in the build up to the festival as my role is to support Doctoral and Post-Doctoral Researchers with their professional development but, if I’m honest, I rarely take time to attend development events myself. I can feel a bit of a fraud advocating to others to take the time out to invest in themselves when I don’t really do that as much as I should. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s my turn to blog this week and I have a complete lack of inspiration. I selflessly stepped in and took an extra turn in the blogging schedule a couple of weeks ago and now I have nothing to write about. I’m completely stuck for inspiration and even my lovely colleagues are failing in their attempts to assist!

lightbulbIn a cunning way of circumventing the lack of a current “hot topic”, I thought I’d write about the blog itself. The Think Ahead blog has been active for around a year now and at the beginning the Think Ahead Team made a pact to be the ‘core bloggers’, each taking a turn on a Monday (or, if you’re tardy like me, a Tuesday – sorry!). The aspiration was to enable the blog to belong to researchers and colleagues at the University of Sheffield and beyond. So far there have been 75 posts and 6376 individual visitors! Best of all, we’ve had 26 guest bloggers sharing some amazing guest posts, covering a whole range of topics including perfection, influencing policy, being an effective researcher and complex cauliflowers. Read the rest of this entry »

I have a dog and he has a few less than desirable traits, barking at other dogs and generally making a complete show of me are the highlights. We go to ‘Naughty Dog School’ (not its real name) to try and help him and, let’s face it, me, to resolve his problems. The other week I took the pooch off for a walk with Rachel, one of the trainers, and she and I got to talking about her route into dog training. She told me that after she rescued her ‘Naughty Dog’, she sought help with its behavioural issues, attended the training sessions and it turned out she was quite good at it. Her trainer, obviously identifying her ability, suggested that she start to assist him during his classes. She loved training the dogs so much more than the job she had taken after leaving college and now, after putting in some hard work and long hours, she does it full time. She gets to work with animals, work outside and be her own boss – it ticks all the boxes in her dream career and she’s never been happier. Read the rest of this entry »

conversationRecently I organised a development event which saw an external facilitator come to Sheffield to share his knowledge on the relationship between researchers and the media. It promised many valuable outcomes for the researchers attending; they would create a press release, gain practical experience of undertaking an interview with a journalist and receive personal feedback on their performance. Everyone who attended told me what a great opportunity this was and that they were so glad that they had made the time to participate. But what struck me more was what happened after the event had ended.

When I arrived at the room to catch up with the facilitator before he left for home, rather than the empty room I was expecting, a few people still remained. They were talking, not just about the content of the workshop and what they were going to do next, but about their current situation; whether they wanted to stay in academia, how they were struggling with having handed in their thesis and what to do next, what coping mechanisms they had in place to deal with their workload and how they managed to have some sort of work-life balance. One participant was incredibly honest and shared their feelings of shock at the transition from Post Graduate Researcher to Post-Doctoral Researcher.

The event facilitator was providing reassurance that these feelings were ‘normal’ and the members of this small group were eager to further explore the situations that each had presented. These people had never met before that day and had clearly built up a level of trust and confidence throughout the workshop which enabled them to share, challenge and offer support to each other. They advised each other of further opportunities that could be beneficial (including those offered through the Think Ahead framework), and contact details were exchanged, along with the promise to share links to articles, websites and blogs and keep updated with each other’s progress.

cupcakeWe all hear about the importance of networking during development events and conferences. I always thought that this meant being engaging, attempting to maintain an air of professionalism whilst shovelling a double choc-chip muffin into your mouth during refreshment breaks, and going home with a whole host of contacts who you might call upon in the future. It never entered my head that making a commitment to fully engage with a development opportunity and fellow participants could have a whole additional outcome to the objectives advertised on the event specification and open up a whole network of peers who are willing to provide support, share their experiences and take a genuine interest in you and your career.

In case you haven’t seen it, this (2014) paper reviews the current needs of researchers in a changing landscape, and presents a case for shared discussion space for exactly this reason. It recommends that all modern doctoral training workplaces should make discussion spaces like this available.

The next time I’m at an event I won’t be in such a hurry to leave in time to catch the next bus home.

To talk more about what matters to you, and make sure the Researcher Professional Development team know what’s on your mind… please visit our ‘talk to us’ page.

Dialogue Image Credit | Cupcake Image Credit

Hancock, Sally, and Elaine Walsh. 'Beyond Knowledge And Skills: Rethinking The Development Of Professional Identity During The STEM Doctorate'. Studies in Higher Education (2014): 1-14.