Archives for posts with tag: networking

ask_expert

Let’s get one thing clear – I’m not saying everyone needs to do a placement or an internship. In fact I’m writing this to stress that there is more to work experience than a 3 month placement – a placement may not be what you need at all. For researchers, whether PhD student or research staff, a placement may not be practical, possible or preferable.

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Building rich research and expansive networks is a core aspect of a successful academic career. Similarly, if you’re looking to move beyond academic research, breaking into professional networks and getting to know who’s who and what they do, is also crucial for getting the vital stats, and a foot in the door.

Researchers are always, and very modestly, telling me they’re really bad at networking… but that’s not what I observe of them. Maybe it’s the old definition of the corporate schmooser that’s confusing the issue. I don’t think academic networking is about elevator pitches and popping on your pushy pants, and I’m not going to reduce it to a ‘skill’ that you can perfect in 10 top tips. 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.