Career Doctor

Last Wednesday (26 October), I attended the Career Doctor/PhD to Present conference/workshop day. As usual, the parallel sessions meant that I couldn’t attend everything, but what I did get to go to was really interesting.

Session 1 – Research Fellowships (Dr Douglas Robinson)

“You can be excellent, and still unfunded”

This was a really useful message for me, because naturally, I have a tendency to feel like I have to succeed at everything. His key messages for getting a Research Fellowship were:

  1. Start thinking early. The process usually takes 9 months to a year after submission, and then you won’t start immediately. The planning and writing process can take a long time too, so don’t plan to do it at the last minute.
  2. Read the fine print. There’s a lot of different meanings for ‘fellow’ and ‘fellowship’, so make sure you know what you’re applying for. You also need to check that you meet the criteria for application.
  3. Fellowships are about you. Most fellowships are about developing you as a researcher and future leader than your research design. Write your application accordingly.
  4. Network, network, network. The more people you know, the more ideas you generate, the more things you can get involved in, the more likely you are to get a fellowship.
  5. Failure is part of the process. The more iterations of applications that you write, the better the application will get each time. Take the feedback on board, and develop from it, rather than feeling like you’ve failed.

Session 2 – I’m done with academia (what else can I do?) (Dr Inger Mewburn) – a.k.a. What do non-academic employers want?

“Leaving academia is the new normal”

This was a really interesting session on finding jobs outside of academia that use the skills you have gained in a PhD. It also covered the types of skills you will want to develop for a job in or out of academia.

A quick summary of skills that the private sector, and the academic sector feel that PhD graduates are missing:

Private sector:

  1. Engagement, influence and impact
    1. Engagement and impact
    2. Communication and dissemination
    3. Working with others (Particularly team work. Often PhD graduates don’t have much experience working with people other than their supervisor.)
  2. Personal effectiveness
    1. Professional career development (having a development plan)
    2. Self-management (time management, and self-motivation)
    3. Personal qualities

The academic sector thought they lacked sills in research management of multiple projects, and finance, funding and resources as well as the ones listed above.

Session 3 – Writing and pitching for The Conversation

Basically, if you are an academic, you should do this

This session got me really excited about writing for The Conversation. It seems really worthwhile, and I’m already passionate about sharing my research with the world, so this looks like a great opportunity.

The pitch: Write no more than 100 words that basically says “here’s what I want to write about, and here’s why it matters”.

  • Try to say what your story is in one sentence.
  • Don’t write the article first.
  • See what’s already been read.
  • Write within your area of expertise.
  • Pay attention to the news and pitch articles when something relevant is happening (or you have new findings).

She was able to find a story in everyone’s research, including the pure mathematician. So don’t be afraid to pitch.

All in all, it was an amazing day, and I feel like I have a whole lot of ideas of where I can go, and what I can do next.

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