Over the weekend, my social media accounts were packed with:
I’m a bit weird about personal and professional boundaries; I like to keep things pretty separate. I mean, you don’t need to know that I get a lot of genuine joy out of Spectrum emulators or that pimple popping videos are a Thing on the internet and I’ve watched more than one. You’d think less of me, right? Oh.
But yesterday I shared a post on one of my personal social media accounts without any comment attached, and the response from friends, family and, actually, total strangers (friends of friends of friends…) made me realise just how much we all need to hear and acknowledge this sometimes. Particularly in academia, which is only now starting to get to grips with mental health issues in its students and staff. It’s simply this:
So, today’s blog isn’t going to be filled with my opinions; I just want to use the space to offer up a few bits of linky-goodness, to people who are struggling with their mental health, or who are trying to support someone who is. Read the rest of this entry »
I must admit that I ummed and ahhed about posting this entry. For a start, I’m still in pretty deep denial about it already being September, and the fact that the new academic year is about to begin; and, for another thing, I’ve touched on my approach to resolutions and goal-setting before in this blog, and I was conscious that I could be about to repeat or, maybe, entirely contradict that post. But, actually, I’ve been thinking quite a lot about my New (academic) Year’s resolutions, and, from talking to other colleagues and researchers, I’m not alone. Read the rest of this entry »
This blog is run by the Think Ahead team, at the University of Sheffield. We work with postdoctoral and postgraduate researchers, supporting them to develop careers inside or outside of academia. We’re very privileged to be able to work with researchers as they progress through their PhD, start a new research contract or take the next step in their career. We see their successes and their achievements – and it’s brilliant!
Inevitably, though, we also see the other side: researchers who are struggling or stressed-out. Because – spoiler alert – academia is hard! It’s enough of a challenge when everything’s plain-sailing in the rest of your life but, when a perfect storm of work and other life stresses come at once, it can feel overwhelming. Read the rest of this entry »
This post is brought to you by a rainy weekend in Whitby…
I’m not a careers adviser. I don’t even play one on TV. At the University of Sheffield, we’re incredibly lucky to have a Careers Service that understand the particular needs of postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers, and has expert careers advisers dedicated to supporting researchers as they plan their careers, either within academia or within a different sector.
Nevertheless, I talk to a lot of researchers in my job and, increasingly, researchers want to talk about and reflect upon whether academia is the right choice for them. I think this is really positive; after all, surely one of the big reasons for undertaking doctoral or postdoctoral study is to open-up opportunities, not to close them down. Read the rest of this entry »
As I stare lovingly at my neat, prioritised To Do list, I allow myself to bathe in the warm, smug glow of time well-managed. Stephen Covey would be proud. Except, of course, on further inspection, my “write blog post” task has slowly crept from the ideal of quadrant two, with all its promise of thoughtful, creative work, towards the screeching deadlines of quadrant one.
The thing is, I know how to prioritise my time; I run workshops to help other people manage their workloads and prioritise their tasks. But sometimes, well, stuff happens (right?!), and you find yourself spending your time increasingly on “urgent, important” tasks and “urgent, unimportant” things, unable to give enough time and attention to the important, meaningful parts of your work. Unless, frankly, you have magic powers, this will happen to all of us from time to time, but if it goes on for too long, it starts to become the norm, with more and more of your once important but not urgent work creeping towards the red zone. Read the rest of this entry »
The ability to reflect on experiences is a valuable skill, which allows you to gain insight into your personal, professional and academic development throughout the course of your career but the term “reflective practice” or “self reflection” can sometimes seem a bit vague or off-putting. So, what is it?
Simply put, reflective practice is taking the time to think critically about your experiences, actions and feelings, and applying your understanding of them in order to inform your actions in the future.
We all think about (reflect upon) situations that have occurred or experiences we have had: what went well? What didn’t? Why? Often, we don’t do this consciously; our thoughts and feelings about something gradually emerge and we may or may not choose to act (or react) differently in future similar situations.
Recent research from Harvard Business School suggests that taking the time to reflect effectively on our work improves job performance in the long run. But when you’re up to your eyes in writing, teaching, marking and, ohwhat’sthatotherthing, right, research, it can be a real challenge to make the time to reflect at all, let alone effectively. But as we approach the Christmas break and the end of the year, reflecting back on your experiences in 2015 can be an important element of of getting geared up for a new year, and of finding your way out of the sluggish brain-fog of too many festive films. Read the rest of this entry »
And, anyway, it’s a given, in our technology-dominated culture, that we should be able to manage the competing distractions of social media, email, cat videos on the Internet (not to mention the actual, real life ‘distractions’ of friends and family), while meeting our deadlines, completing our projects and, obviously, finishing up that next killer paper. In fact, I’d bet a Jaffa Cake (so you know I mean business) that every job description I’ve seen in the last few years has highlighted the need to be able to multitask. But, recently, I’ve started to think that, actually, multi-tasking might be for losers. Or, at least, that it might not be the panacea for all our productivity woes that we’ve been led to believe. Read the rest of this entry »
I work with postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers to support their professional and personal development, to help them achieve their career aspirations. As you might imagine, that involves actually talking to them about their experiences, needs and priorities, rather than assuming blithely that I know best. People who think they know best always freak me out a bit, if I’m being honest.
From talking to researchers and from lurking around all manner of blogs, I’m struck by how often the subject of feeling inadequate/not up to the job/not ‘good’ enough for academia comes up. Bearing in mind that I’m lucky enough to be working with some of the brightest, most able researchers around, that might seem odd; but if you’re surrounded by people as talented and passionate as you are, I guess that becomes your norm, and may be one reason that Imposter Syndrome is very much alive and well in academia! Read the rest of this entry »