Being remotely productive

In this post, AlAnood Alshaikhsaad, a PGR from the Department of Theology and Religion, shares their advice on remote working from their experience as a distance learning PGR.

A sketch drawing of AlAnood's workstation
AlAnood’s home workstation

To me, remote working is all about time management and prioritizing your tasks. What people tend to miss after jumping from their on-ground non-stop jobs to remote working is the predictable tasking structure a corporate or institution provides. While the flexibility of remote work is one of its most appealing benefits, people are used to a certain routine, and routine can still exist within that flexibility. For example, waking up at a consistent time, getting dressed, fixing a pot of coffee, running through your to-do list, breaking for lunch at noon, scheduling virtual meetings in collaboration with fellow peers or supervisors. Once you define your routine more clearly, stick to it. Continue reading “Being remotely productive”

Making the “e” in e-mail stand for “effective”

www.maxpixel.net-At-Mail-E-Mail-Characters-Envelope-Post-Email-3413133How many e-mails do you receive in a day?  How many e-mails do you think your supervisor receives in a day?  A typical supervisor might receive well over 100 e-mails every day.  What can you do to help make e-mail an effective communication tool between you and your supervisor when your supervisor has so many messages to deal with?

The Thesis Whisperer has discussed this a couple of times, with excellent posts on a supervisor’s perspective on the “tyranny of tiny tasks” that often result from e-mail, and inter-cultural e-mail communication.  Here are some additional strategies that I use when communicating with colleagues (including academic colleagues) by e-mail. Continue reading “Making the “e” in e-mail stand for “effective””

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)”

The thesis is not enough… (part 1)

The pressure of submitting a thesis might be overwhelming and some PGRs might feel guilty about spending time on social or other activities. In this two-part post, Shana Gander-Zaucker, a current PGR in Psychology, explores these matters in greater detail and shares her experience of being involved in other aspects of University life.

When starting my PhD at the University of Birmingham I remember going to a Careers Network event during which one of the attendees stated: “try to gain as much experience as you can in different fields at the University while doing your PhD as it will help you obtain a job afterwards”.

Shana Gander-Zaucker RPC 2016
Shana presenting her poster at the RPC 2016

My first reaction to this was a feeling of slight anxiousness as I felt a little overwhelmed by just beginning a PhD and I didn’t want to add more to my so-called ‘to-do list’. However, since then I have obtained some work experience in different capacities and have been involved in a variety of social activities. They have greatly helped me in my development as a researcher. In this post I will talk about how focusing on more than only your thesis could help you not only while you are doing your PhD, but also afterwards. So what types of roles have I been involved in? Well, they have been varied. However, while reading this you should recognize that this is not a comprehensive list and that each PhD journey will be different with its own valuable and unique opportunities.   Continue reading “The thesis is not enough… (part 1)”

What is Enterprise and why is it in the RDF?

In this post, the University Graduate School’s Entrepreneurial Development Officer, Katie Hoare, introduces “enterprise” and her role in supporting you to develop enterprise skills.

There is often confusion around the term enterprise.  It is sometimes used interchangeably with entrepreneurship and so has connotations of starting a business.  But enterprise simply refers to the generation and application of ideas to address practical situations (QAA definitions).

Ent role wordcloudEnterprise sits within the Engagement, Influence and Impact domain, however enterprise skills feature in all four sections of the RDF.  Enterprise isn’t a stand-alone skill you can develop in isolation, it requires a whole host of competencies and attributes.  In fact I have identified 38 descriptors within the RDF which relate to enterprise.

This is not bad news.  It does not necessarily mean enterprise is a more difficult skill to develop.  On the contrary it means that whilst developing your enterprise skills you are simultaneously acquiring many other abilities.  It also means that you are already half-way there to becoming more enterprising… Continue reading “What is Enterprise and why is it in the RDF?”

SUPER-visory relationships

The relationship between a PGR and their supervisor is unlike any other relationship that you might encounter in professional or personal life (although it has been compared to that between a physician and patient).

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A successful relationship can benefit both parties, and nurture a PGR towards a brilliant thesis and blossoming into a highly effective researcher with all the skills and behaviours (both research and transferable) that entails.  What can you do, as a PGR, to increase the chances of building a super relationship with your supervisor?  Continue reading “SUPER-visory relationships”

Spotlight on the RDF: “Enthusiasm”

In one of our occasional series of spotlights, we take a closer look at a specific descriptor from the RDF.

In this series of “Spotlight on…” posts, we’ll be delving into the detail of the descriptors in Vitae‘s Researcher Development Framework (RDF).  Each one of the sixty-three descriptors is a characteristic of an excellent researcher, and we’ll be looking at how UoB PGRs can develop these characteristics.

Enthusiastic PhD student!
Photo credit: Kimia Solutions.

Enthusiasm is defined by the OED as “passionate eagerness in any pursuit, proceeding from an intense conviction of the worthiness of the object” [1] and I think this is something that many of us can identify with when we embark on a new research undertaking.  However, passion and intensity require a lot of energy to maintain, so this post explores ways to keep enthusiasm and motivation high over the course of a research programme. Continue reading “Spotlight on the RDF: “Enthusiasm””

Social Networking to raise your research profile

This week, an introduction to social media for research from Dr. Adrian Bromage, Library Services.

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Image credit: mkhmarketing

Today, I’ll briefly explore what social networking in an academic context is all about, and how it can help you. We’re all probably familiar with social networking in the context of our social lives, but how do we harness the power of social networking to help us as professional researchers?  And how or where do we start?

I’ll try and answer those questions: firstly, developing a social network of fellow researchers working in your field can help to keep you informed of developments, conferences, research grant opportunities, etc. The ‘How?’ question is probably the one that preoccupies most of us! Continue reading “Social Networking to raise your research profile”

Present your research with confidence

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Mathew Schofield, winner of the University of Birmingham 3MT 2016, presenting at the final.

An important part of the research process is communicating and disseminating your work.  There’s no point in doing the research in the first place if no-one gets to hear about what you’ve discovered.  One key route for dissemination is in writing, but equally as important is communication through oral presentation.  Oral presentation has a key advantage in that it allows immediate dialogue with your audience, enabling dynamic knowledge exchange and debate which will ultimately benefit your research.

Everyone feels apprehensive about the prospect of presenting their research in front of an audience, but it’s important to focus on the exciting opportunity you’ve been offered to share your research and discuss it with interested people.  Remembering why you signed up to present in the first place is helpful in overcoming your nerves, as well as helping you prepare a successful presentation; clarity about your central message and the nature of your audience will help you focus on what really needs to be said and how. Continue reading “Present your research with confidence”