Representing the University as a Postgraduate Ambassador
One role I have had is that of Postgraduate Ambassador. You might think that as a Postgraduate Ambassador during open days you mostly stand outside holding an umbrella when it is windy and rainy waiting to provide directions to potential students. Although this might be part of the role it is also a great opportunity to meet new people. As a Postgraduate Ambassador you get the chance to meet and advise prospective students from a variety of disciplines on open days and other University events, which can be very rewarding. For example, as a Postgraduate Ambassador you might sit on panels advising students on topics such as: applying to the University; obtaining funding; and working with your supervisors. Working in such a role can definitely enhance one’s leadership, communication, and networking skills, which as you probably agree are important skills to gain throughout your PhD, and they will likely help you obtain a job post-graduation.
Organizing Academic and Social Activities within the University
Since I enjoyed the role of a Postgraduate Ambassador and especially engaging with people, I then decided that I would like to try and apply for a Westmere Scholarship. Westmere Scholars engage with the postgraduate researcher communities while trying to establish a sense of community within the University.
They initiate, organise, and deliver a variety of activities for postgraduate researchers. Doing such a role definitely helps improve one’s transferable skills. This is a very important asset to have as they greatly help and transfer on with you (as the name implies) to other responsibilities you might have as a researcher as well as to other roles. For example, last year I used some of the skills I have gained as a Westmere Scholar while organizing a research conference on a topic related to my research for which I obtained College funding. The University provides funding to organise such conferences and therefore my tip to you is to try and apply for it.
Some of you might not realise how important it is to be involved in a variety of social activities or might feel a little guilty sipping wine and eating palatable cheese instead of sitting next to your desk. However, not only is it good for your mental health to be involved in such activities, but it is also a great opportunity to meet people and discuss with them the challenges and joys of your research. In addition you never know if you might meet there someone who could be important when you try to obtain an academic career or alternative one after graduation. Also try not to limit yourself to social activities related to your School or College as someone who is doing research in a different field than your own might shed some new light and perspective about your research which you haven’t thought of before which will enhance your work.
To sum this all up, what I have learned while doing these different roles is that doing a thesis is not enough. Gaining experience through roles similar to the ones described above and being involved in a variety of social activities will greatly assist you in becoming a more effective researcher and in enhancing your CV. It will also help you network with fellow researchers and hopefully you will even gain some good friends throughout the exciting journey of your PhD.
What experiences have you had and how have they benefitted you? How did you manage them alongside your primary research activities?