The Value of Research Placements for PGRs

In this post, Laura Clark, a PGR in the Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies, shares her experience of undertaking a placement in the Home Office during her PhD, and the skills she developed as a result.

I began my PhD with a vague idea that I would look for a placement without any specific thoughts about what, where, or the things I would like to get out of the experience. After a year of trying to find something suitable, I came across the URKI Policy Internships Scheme, a three-month placement at an influential policy organisation in a parliamentary department, government department, or non-government body. It was based on the needs of the department, which meant I did not need to spend a lot of time planning out the placement, and my research topic was irrelevant providing I could demonstrate I had the required skills. I applied and, after a long process, was offered a placement with the Home Office.

The headquarters of the Home Office, in London, which Laura didn’t visit because her placement took place during COVID-19 restrictions.
Photo credit: Steve Cadman
Continue reading “The Value of Research Placements for PGRs”

Building your research community

In this post, Raeni, a PGR in the Department of Accounting, and Isbahna Naz, a PGR in the Department of Management, share some tips that they found beneficial in developing their sense of community during their PhDs.

3- 4 years doing a PhD is a long time. Some may say, “Life is on hold while doing my PhD”.

We are, of course, all on different journeys but with the same aim. Before COVID-19, we have a study space in the Muirhead Tower, where we could meet, interact and create a community within our cohort even though we are from different research interests. Having a sense of belonging with our peers alongside the journey is essential in numerous ways.

A pre-COVID-19 reading group session – Raeni is at the far right.

Being a member of a research community allows us to stimulate research progress, access an excellent seminar programme, discuss opportunities, and recognise other organisations beyond the campus. The community also sometimes directs us to get opportunities, for instance, acting as teaching or research assistants. Keeping us busy while engaging with others also helps our wellbeing.

Continue reading “Building your research community”

Survive and Thrive: Leadership

Continuing her occasional series, “survive and thrive”, Katie Hoare from Careers Network explores a key skill sought after by employers in the post-COVID-19 world.  It’s likely that you are already developing and using these highly transferable skills in your research.

What

When most people hear the word “leadership” they think ‘management of staff’ or ‘being the boss of an organisation’.  Whilst these positions do definitely require leadership ability, they are not the only scenarios where leadership skills are required.  You can and should be developing your leadership skills regardless of whether you are supervising others.

Photo of a lionLeadership is not one skill, your ability to lead requires a variety of skills including self-awareness, accountability and communication.  Consultancy firm McKinsey have a conceptual framework for leadership and split it into three levels; 1) leading yourself, 2) leading others, 3) system leadership.  People often move from level 1 to 2 during their career, but not everyone ends up at level 3.  System leadership goes beyond leading one organisation to transforming whole systems and often involves connected organisations addressing multi-faceted problems.

Continue reading “Survive and Thrive: Leadership”

‘Non-academic jobs’: more ‘academic’ than you think?

In this post, PGR Careers Adviser Dr Holly Prescott shows us how academic research and teaching aren’t the only jobs that can let you ‘keep’ the bits of academia that you really enjoy. You can find a more detailed post on this on Holly’s PhD Careers Blog, PostGradual.

In academia, we’re often taught to value our ‘outputs’ (papers, theses, grants etc.) over the processes that went into achieving them. Saying that we ‘do research’ or ‘do teaching’ can often ‘hide’ the things we actually do to manage and execute those things, and the things that we get good at in the process. Hence, we can often forget this important nugget that Australian geneticist Joel Huey tweeted a few months ago:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Continue reading “‘Non-academic jobs’: more ‘academic’ than you think?”

Developing Consultancy Skills in Practice

Ahead of running the Virtual Consultancy Challenge in 2021, Katie Hoare from Careers Network spoke to some of the previous participants to find out what they learnt and whether they enjoyed it.

In spring 2020, as lockdown hit, postgraduate researchers from across the University and the globe were gaining valuable professional skills as well as work experience as consultants, and they were doing so completely online via the Virtual Consultancy Challenge. The Virtual Consultancy Challenge is an online self-access training programme and competition where inter-disciplinary teams of postgraduate researchers work together in virtual teams to solve their “client’s” real-life challenge.

The 2020 Virtual Consultancy challenge winning team (clockwise from top): Francesca Lewns, PhD Dentistry; Taiwo Hassan Akere, PhD Earth & Environmental Sciences; Paris Lalousis, PhD Psychology.
The 2020 Virtual Consultancy challenge winning team (clockwise from top): Francesca Lewns, PhD Dentistry; Taiwo Hassan Akere, PhD Earth & Environmental Sciences; Paris Lalousis, PhD Psychology.
Continue reading “Developing Consultancy Skills in Practice”

Survive and Thrive: Adaptability and Resilience

Continuing her occasional series, “survive and thrive”, Katie Hoare from Careers Network explores a key skill sought after by employers in the post-COVID-19 world.  It’s likely that you are already developing and using these highly transferable skills in your research.

What

A chameleon (decorative)According to The Cambridge Dictionary, adaptability is “an ability or willingness to change in order to suit different conditions”.  The term can be applied to people, businesses, physical spaces and technology.  If something or someone is not adaptable, its use and benefit can be short lived.  Resilience has become a buzz word in recent years.  It can be defined as the “ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change” (Merriam-Webster).  In order to be resilient, you need to be adaptable.

Continue reading “Survive and Thrive: Adaptability and Resilience”

Survive and thrive: skills for a post-COVID-19 world

In this post, Katie Hoare from Careers Network introduces her new occasional series, “survive and thrive”, looking at the skills most sought after by employers.  It’s likely that you are already developing and using these highly transferable skills in your research.

The world has changed.  COVID-19 has impacted all aspects of society and both people and businesses need to adapt and learn in order to survive.

An image from the University of Birmingham Graduate School and Careers Network.  The text in the image says PG Skills: skills to survive and thrive in a post-COVID-19 world.

As a postgraduate researcher you are accustomed to learning new things and you are already developing an excellent set of transferable skills such as research, independence, project management and communication.  Now all you need to do is augment this with the top skills employers are looking for and when the time comes for you to seek employment, be it during or after your degree, you will be a very attractive candidate for roles both within and beyond academia.

Continue reading “Survive and thrive: skills for a post-COVID-19 world”

Job hunting is a research project

Following her post back in May, PGR Careers Adviser Dr Holly Prescott updates us on how to keep track of the employment landscape for 2020 job hunting.

A "help!" mug on a pile of careers-related books

Last time I spoke to you on this blog, toilet roll was just making its return to supermarket shelves. Since then, I’ve spoken to many of you who have had job offers rescinded, or have even had to rethink your entire PhD projects. However, I’ve also seen some of you get jobs. So what can you do uncover the opportunities that are still out there?

Continue reading “Job hunting is a research project”

My virtual learning

In this post, Amelia Rouse, who graduated from her PhD in Civil Engineering in December 2019, shares her experiences of online learning.

Amelia Rouse's LinkedIn profile picture
Amelia’s LinkedIn profile picture

I’ve always been an avid virtual learner; it is just part of the life of a PhD student. During the ongoing pandemic, I started learning basic video editing. I’ve been a film enthusiast for as long as I can remember but I also needed to solve a problem. The lockdown caused many businesses and schools to halt their regular activities. My mum’s primary school violin classes had to stop as part of the lockdown in Barbados. She wanted to find a way to continue teaching. Videos were a simple solution. My sister could record the lessons, send them to me for editing and then distribute them to the students.

Virtual learning has allowed me to improve my skills for little to no cost. I wanted to learn Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects. The main platforms I used were Skillshare and YouTube. Continue reading “My virtual learning”

Careers in the time of COVID-19: nine tips for PGRs

PGR Careers Adviser Dr Holly Prescott shares some thoughts on job hunting and working out next steps for PGRs coming towards the end of their PhD during the COVID-19 crisis.

Holly working from home
Holly working from home

Greetings from the spare bedroom, or as it has been for seven weeks now, ‘the office.’ The views definitely don’t rival those of the Westmere gardens. Wherever in the world you are, we hope you’re safe and keeping as well as possible.

These are uncertain times for us all. Will there be jobs? How do I cope? Can I even job hunt right now whilst the kids are at home and I’m struggling to get out of the house for essentials? Just a few of the questions coming thick and fast out of the hinterland of PGR lockdown.

Some voices have told us that a global pandemic might naturally lead some people to reassess their own career ideas; others are keen for Covid-19 to encourage us to consider the responsibility we have towards our communities and social justice in the work that we do. So, whilst I can’t offer a guaranteed blueprint to stay-at-home-job-hunt success, here are a few suggestions to help stay sane whilst considering your next move: Continue reading “Careers in the time of COVID-19: nine tips for PGRs”