All 7 entries tagged Job Search

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March 16, 2012

Reflections on the 'Careers in Academia' event (Arts Faculty) – by Lauren

There's been an awful lot of what my supervisor punchily dubbed "peer panic" flying around at the moment regarding jobs. Specifically academic jobs. Specifically academic jobs in the arts. Which has, as those of you who remember my post The Back-Up plan know, has always been my Plan A. So when I read about the Careers in Academia event on the Graduate School website, I signed up immediately.

Confession time here: this is the first ever careers event I have voluntarily attended in seven (!) years of university life.

Shame!

To my surprise (and shame, after hashtagging it a #boringcareersevent in a tweet earlier that morning) - the event was extremely inspiring and made for a thoroughly riveting, if tiring, day. This was not least thanks to some of the excellent speakers, all of whom were members of staff at Warwick who had given up their time to come and tell us all about their jobs - the good and the bad. As one speaker put it, this was a "warts and all" look at the career. Some speakers - I'm naming no names - had more warts to share than others! It was also eye-opening to see the administrative and governance side of academic life represented, and the passion that Laura Meadows and Jocasta Gardener displayed for their jobs was, judging by the room's reaction, truly infectious.

The event was structured so that all of the sessions had ample space for open discussion and lots of time for questions from the floor, which made a real difference. The candidness of the responses provided some extremely useful strategic knowledge which I feel like I can now translate into job applications. The audience of postgraduate researchers are also to be congratulated for getting involved and keeping the discussion moving in a useful and sometimes probing manner!

The atmosphere of the event was warm (surely not just down to that orange and red Postgraduate Hub colour scheme!) and collaborative, and as speakers spoke so enthusiastically, I found my mind flying off on loads of different, exciting tangents - my notes from the day do not just reflect what people said and the wisdom they imparted, but loads of ideas that I had while sat there for research projects, teaching ideas and ways of re-framing my existing skills when I come to write that all important First Job Application.

My only criticism of the event would perhaps be that it would have been nice to have some speakers from other universities - as most of the people there could only speak "for Warwick". With things like teaching-loads and research leave differing so much from institution to institution (and Warwick's allowances being fairly generous), it would have been helpful to have some staff from different "types" of universities represented (not necessarily as a negative, as some people in attendance were interested in more teaching-oriented posts). This is also key, I feel, given that most people's first permanent academic appointment will involve a change in institution.

The biggest thing I took away from the event though, was that if I want to pursue this career it's going to take time. And, rather than putting the fear of God in me, this actually made me relax a lot. I've always felt fairly resigned to the idea that academic work would be contingent and perhaps even non-existent for a while post-PhD, and the vehemence with which some of my colleagues seemed to be punishing themselves for not yet achieving their Dream Job was starting to make me worry that this meant that I didn't want it enough, or I wouldn't push hard enough to make it happen. (Ah, that'll be the peer panic setting in.) Since my colleagues (friends) will probably read this - I'm not judging you in any way! I just know that I need, for myself, to take a more relaxed approach and this event gave me the armoury to deal with that, if you like. Put more eloquently, it confirmed the words of Robert Louis Stevenson:

Judge each day not by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant.

harvest mice

Many of the speakers said that one of the best things about the career was that you are always learning - in some ways you remain an eternal student. And this really rang true with me, because I love to learn (duh)! So when I (hopefully) get my PhD, I won't be thinking "I am now an expert in X", but "what can I learn next?". I went to the day aiming to learn some tips for getting a job, and I came away with a whole new attitude.

If you are in the Faculty of Social Sciences, or the Faculties of Science and Medicine, the good news is your events are yet to come, and you can find details and book online here. If you are in the Faculty of Arts, the Student Careers and Skills team were filming exit interviews with speakers and students, so look out for some of the best tips on their website soon. Students from all Faculties might also be interested in the upcoming Research Student Career Days.

Disclaimer: This event was co-organised by Student Careers and Skills and the Graduate School, but I am affiliated with neither department and they did not ask me to write this. They just organised a really great event!


September 29, 2011

A PhD gap year? – by Anna

So, here I am in my fourth year. Eek! Where did the time go? I still have, I'm thinking, at least 6 months till I finish and submit. It would be quite a bit less if I didn't spend so much time working in the Research Exchange.....(but I wouldn't want to give that up even if I could afford to financially, it's really fun.) But anyway, such is life. I count myself lucky to have a job and not be worrying about how I'll pay the rent once my stipend runs out, which is actually in, uh, 3 days.

Inevitably, as I enter this final stage of my PhD - the bit where I'm thoroughly sick of looking at it and just want to finish ASAP - I'm starting to think about what I'll do next.

Academia or 'something else'/'the real world'/'getting a real job'?

That's always the huge question, isn't it? In some ways I think it's not that helpful, actually, to think of it as this enormous either/or dichotomy. For one thing, it makes it sound as though a lectureship (or research position, or whatever) is not a 'real' job somehow, when it patently is (Are you expected to show up and to fulfil certain, rather demanding duties? Are you paid? Are there opportunities for advancement? OK, it's a real job.)

For another, it encourages inflexibility in our thinking, as though anything outside of the traditional lectureship is somehow 'dirty'. In fact there are career paths that have a foot in both worlds, weaving in and out of academia and industry; and there are other, potentially very rewarding jobs that have nothing to do with the 'Ivory Tower' (note my sarcasm). Besides, let's face it - for people who finish their PhDs, the next year or two at least is pretty inevitably going to involve a combination of types of employment for most of us.

I guess some people might find that scary, but to be honest I find it quite exciting. I'll get to try new things, learn a lot, and find out more about the various directions open to me, all while having time, and an excuse, to do more research and writing (even if this is mostly not for money, yet).

Because in point of fact I have no idea what I want my next career direction to be. I still like research and teaching, although I'm slightly worried about the amount of baloney that academics have to put up with.....administrators breathing down their necks, heavier and heavier workloads with no increase in pay or research leave, the 'impact' agenda, the inflexibility about where you work/live, etc etc. But anyway the point is, although it would match my skills very well, I don't regard academia as the be all and end all of life.

Equally, there are loads of non-academic things I enjoy. I'd like to do some other non-fiction writing, and I'm really enjoying, particularly, the web-development aspects of my job as a Rex adviser. And those are just two examples. I think there's a whole world out there of things I'd enjoy.

A friend I was chatting with the other day said that what he would really like is a gap year: a year or so after finishing his PhD in which he can do other, non-academic things before deciding what career path he really wants for his life - to see if he misses the academy and wants to come back to it, or if there are other things that would be equally rewarding and (perhaps) less difficult than this.

He worried, however, that spending time pursuing other goals/opportunities, even for such a short time, would mean he was out of academia forever....that if you don't keep publishing, going to conferences and so on, then your foot is out of the door.

But again, I don't think that's a helpful way to think about it. I'm looking forward to my post-submission year as a kind of gap year: I will be doing other things, although will also be doing some academic things, and it will be a great chance to explore opportunities. And again, there are career paths that straddle the divide between the academy and other kinds of employment; doing something else for a year may pull you in a slightly different direction but it will not change who you are. It will not subtract from your skills, only add to them.

So anyway, now I REALLY just need to finish this darned thesis......


September 27, 2011

Leaving Aunt Rex Never Easy – by Pete

I'm still reeling from the news that R.E.M. have broken up. It came just as their favourite song of mine was spending a great deal of time in my CD player:

It's easier to leave than to be left behind
Leaving was never my proud
Leaving New York never easy
I saw the light fading out.

There is relevance. After ten years of study and work at Warwick, and seeing whole generations of friends move on, I've finally managed to escape myself, starting a one-year full-time post at Nottingham. This is therefore (sniff) my last post on the PhD blog, unless I sneak a guest one in when I return for my viva. In any case, Aunt Rex did ask me if I'd like to send a final missive back (and when Aunt Rex requests something, you say YES).

One of the things which I've heard people say a lot over the years is that, while the PhD has a very definite start point, it's much more difficult to identify the end. There's submission, but then there's also the viva, corrections, first job. It's hard to get a sense of closure. Moving to a completely different part of the country is, I have to say, quite helpful in this regard. Even though the PhD's not officially over yet, it's good to have a new set of challenges to move on to, new courses to learn and new students to meet.

I suppose the other thing I can usefully testify to is that there are still jobs out there, even in the humanities, for people who've not got their doctorates yet. It's well worth applying for stuff - because even if you feel you're unlikely to get the job, it never hurts to have potential employers reading your applications, giving you feedback and thinking of you if other things come up. I'm as guilty as anyone of being quite negative about the job situation over the last year, but as long as you're prepared to think broadly about what jobs you might be suited to, take a lot of rejections and keep going nonetheless, things do seem to eventually come up.

All the same, moving away does bring home how good a community Warwick has for its researchers, and it's important not to undervalue it! It's great to be taking on some new challenges, but it has involved leaving behind a lot of very good friends and a whole peer network. The things which are happening in and around the RE at the moment - the establishment of the Early Career Network, the new online portals for research students, the introduction of ever more exciting brands of free biscuits - are fantastic, and I'm sorry I won't get to be a part of them.

So, best of luck to everyone for the 2011/12 year, and I'll look forward to keeping up with events via Aunt Rex and the rest of the blogging team!


June 25, 2011

Is a PhD really necessary? – by Faisal

hey, guys how many of us are doing PhD because they are interested in research and study?? and how many of us are doing it to get a better future? The fact is mostly ppl do it for their future, is'nt it true? Sometimes I ask my fellow PhD's, why are you doing a PhD? do u like to study? and the answer is same. The positive aspect is that atleast we are smart enough to chose a field of research that we are interested in, otherwise it would be like trying love someone while you are already in love with some1 else.


June 07, 2011

The Back Up Plan – by Lauren

No, not the terrible Jennifer Lopez vehicle...

The Back Up Plan poster

...although, knowing my thesis, that could be relevant too!

No, I'm talking about my fallback, my Plan B, my alternative career choice. Yikes!

It's a sad fact of what news-bods like to call the "current economic climate" that the job that I am currently in training for by doing a PhD is starting to look a little less attainable than it once was. Not that I ever thought becoming an academic was going to be easy, mind, but it has become clear that it's definitely time to stop putting all my imaginary eggs in one metaphorical basket.

So recently, my thoughts have been occupied by what I might do instead. Unfortunately, some of my other, previous Plan B's (e.g. working in arts administration) have also been shot by current policy. So here are my current dream careers:

1) Running my own business. I'm not sure doing what, but having seen through family and friends what a positive experience it can be, I'm sorely tempted to go out there on my own. It appeals to my sensibilities to make money for myself and those I love, and not for 'the man'! The PhD will have prepared me well for working under my own steam and setting my own schedule. I am an extremely disorganised person though, so volunteers to do my books for me most welcome.

2) Something creative. I find sewing, knitting, designing, writing, and playing with images and text on the computer all really stimulating, rewarding and exciting. If there is some way to make money out of any of these, I'm on it! I kind of wish I'd studied graphics or design at some point. I'm thinking of looking into an evening course in Photoshop or web design

3) Film-making. See point 2). I kind of lost the love for film-making after my undergraduate degree, thanks to a very heavy workload in year three that involved 2 film projects on top of dissertations, research projects, essays and exams! But every now and then I'll watch a few short films and wonder if it's time to dust off the old MiniDV camera and pull my tripod out from under the bed...

4) Something within the charity sector. I figure that this is one sector that should theoretically expand under the 'big society'. Working for a not-for-profit would sit very well with me ethically, and I imagine there's a higher degree of job satisfaction (if a lower pay packet) than in working for a corporation.

If I did want to go down one of these routes, I don't necessarily want to wait until I've finished the PhD to start it. Equally, I am also very aware that taking my eye off the ball two years in is a dangerous game, and that to maximise my chances of success at Plan A, I also need to invest time there - trying to get published, attending conferences, and, oh yeah, writing my thesis!

It's a very difficult juggling act, and on the one hand, I'm extremely peeved that I feel like I can't just concentrate on the academic career. On the other hand, it's incredibly exciting to think of all the things I 'could be [when I grow up?]'.

How are you managing thinking about your career while still carrying on with a PhD? Is it something that you're thinking about now, or that you'll worry about when the time comes? Which route do you think I should take, or should I just concentrate on my last year or so of being a student?

Hmm, maybe I should just watch the J-Lo film...


February 24, 2011

Academia.edu – by Pete

I just received a flurry of e-mails into my inbox, all with the same message:

Someone just searched for you on Google.

If you sign up to academia.edu, this is the kind of thing you get quite a lot. It's essentially the academic version of Facebook - you create a profile and upload your CV, conference papers, publications, research interests etc. You then have the option to "follow" other people's work, get updates on their activity and so forth. I've been finding it very time-consuming to keep it up to date, and I'm a bit wary about posting free-for-all versions of my papers up there, so I'd essentially written it off as a useful tool.

However, I am surprised by its ability to tell you when someone has googled you - and, not only that, but what country this person is from and what their search terms were. So, the one I just received tells me that someone in the UK googled the title of a conference paper I gave last year. Looking back through my alerts, there are a couple of UK and - randomly - German searches for my name, but I've also found out that people googling the title of one of the plays I'm working on also get directed to my academia account. It can tell me that if you google "researching Shakespeare", I'm the third hit. Suddenly there's a purpose to it - I can see how my online presence is being used, what the useful pages are, and how I'm appearing to the world. Inevitably, when you appear on conference programmes and the like, people are going to start looking you up to see what your research is about - and academia.edu's become a useful tool for finding out where they're looking.

Does anyone else use academia.edu at all? Any tips for making more effective use of it? Or is it just something else to procrastinate with?


February 03, 2011

Selling Yourself – by Pete

Bill Hicks once said "If anyone here is in marketing or advertising ... kill yourself." For a lot of us working in the liberal arts, those are sentiments with which we can identify. There's something sordid about the process of "selling" research, particularly in a climate where the price of education is looking to rise steeply.

Yet one of the messy realities of being a PhD student is that, at some point, we have to start selling ourselves. While we're all very aware of the transcendent importance of our own research (that's why we devote so many years to it, right?), we eventually have to persuade other people that it's worth reading, it's worth publishing, it's worth buying. There's no such thing, you could argue, as transcendent, transparent value. That's why even the viva is referred to as a "defence" - you have to fight for it.

I was at a careers talk in the Research Exchange today, at which it was repeatedly emphasised that the jobs go to the people who push themselves forward as much as possible - who have a well-maintained electronic presence, who call universities asking about jobs, who make things happen for themselves. Similarly, I had a conversation with a publisher the other day who admitted there's nothing she hates more than modest academics who don't want to risk "overselling" their own work. Those are the ones, she said, who get the most rejections - because a publisher does not have the time to coax the importance of a piece of work from the academic for them.

All this is great if you're a naturally pushy, confident person, but what if you're not? How do you get over the feeling that you're being arrogant or immodest in daring to tell people that you've got something to offer?

My own solution has been to take advantage of the platforms Warwick has for getting your name out there electronically. Having a good e-portfolio and blog has a great many advantages: people stumble across you if they're searching for things in your research area; people attending the same conferences as you will look you up; publishers and editors see samples of your work, which can lead to offers to review and contribute more significant pieces; and, after a while, you'll find that people you've never met will have heard of you. Warwick websites come up very high in google searches, so take advantage while you're here!

More importantly though, I don't think we're told often enough that it's OK to spend time on the platform of your research as well as the content. Presumably, we all write because we want to be read, and so there's nothing wrong with considering your audience and how they're going to find your work in the first place. Once you think about it like that, it stops being about "selling" anything - it's just research exchange, but on a scale that'll get you known.


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