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”

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?”

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”

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”

In a post-submission “lull”?

The Research Student Administration team find they are at their busiest for thesis hand-ins at this time of year. This post explores some options for what to do next.

Woman on peak of mountain
Travel photo created by bedneyimages – http://www.freepik.com

Congratulations!  At long last you have submitted your completed thesis to Research Student Administration (RSA), perhaps after attending a Thesis submission event.  What happens now?  Patter describes this period of time as “hand-in limbo”.

First of all, take a break.  Away from your thesis, and away from your research.  This well-earned holiday is both a chance to reconnect with yourself as more than just the author of your thesis, and to reconnect with family and friends that you may have been neglecting recently.   Importantly, this also gives you a new perspective on your thesis  for when you return to it to prepare for the next milestone in your journey, namely your viva. 

After your break, here are some practical tips on how you can fill the post-submission lull productively.  Continue reading “In a post-submission “lull”?”

Don’t ‘plan,’ just ‘do’: how to let your career find you during your PhD

This post, written by our very own PGR Careers Advisor Holly Prescott, was previously published on the FindAPhD blog.  It follows on nicely from Shana’s posts before Christmas (part 1 and part 2) on her “extra-curricular” activities.

In the autumn of my second PhD year, after 3 glasses of 99p wine (stipend-allowing), I reluctantly agreed to help a friend out running campus tours at the University’s Postgraduate open day. I knew I’d have to walk around on the day with a lime-green, plastic ‘here to help’ sign, like a weird student-recruiting Lollipop Lady. But… my hob was broken and there was a free dinner in it for me. So I said yes.

open-day-324-copy-cropped-510x256
A University of Birmingham Open Day

The truth? Green lollipop aside, I actually sort of enjoyed it. I enjoyed the simplicity of being helpful. So for the next year, I carried on helping with campus tours and advising at open days and other events. It gave me a break from my niche research. It gave me perspective. It even gave me a few extra quid to get my hob fixed. Continue reading “Don’t ‘plan,’ just ‘do’: how to let your career find you during your PhD”

The thesis is not enough… (part 2)

In the second and final part of her post, Shana Gander-Zaucker, a current PGR in Psychology, shares her experience of being involved in wider non-research-related aspects of University life.

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. Continue reading “The thesis is not enough… (part 2)”