A much-awaited career management workshop for PhDs and ECRs launched this month at the University of Huddersfield.
It was clear the selected group of 12 participants valued the opportunity to gain clarity regarding their post PhD life. Workshop evaluation forms and two, 20-minute focus groups provided a space for participants to feedback.
“It was really enlightening, the whole process from yesterday to today. I have learnt a lot about my abilities, my values and how I can apply that to my career.” (Focus group participant, engineering)
“[This workshop] starts that process of thinking what this means, to take a breath, to think… where am I, where have I been, and where would I like to go. Cutting the distraction out, asking these questions of each other, […] getting rid of all the bits and focusing on the important things.” (Focus group participant, chemistry)
The workshop is structured around a three-part framework incorporating Bourdieu’s (1977) thinking tools and Wenger’s (1998) Communities of Practice model. Participants are encouraged to explore potential career ideas; to understand the employment market, and to use this awareness and information to plan a strategy moving forward. A coaching style enables deep listening and supports clarity, problem solving and collaboration regarding career planning.
Anna Seabourne, Head of Research Environment at the University of Huddersfield, commented.
“Dani’s theory based approach is a powerful tool enabling deep reflection with a practical application. The feedback from the course shows that participants found it ‘valuable’ and ‘incredibly useful’. We certainly aim to run the course again in the future.”
A very real concern for many PhDs is anxiety regarding unclear goals and isolation (Vitae, 2018). Participants discussed the benefits of connecting with others around common themes.
“We could be relaxed and talk about all these things without fear and anxiety that comes when you are all on your own, it is a good way of connecting with other people who have similar experiences. That anxiety is removed when you are placed in an environment where you share with people who have a common experience. I mean before you come on this course you definitively have some issues like, how to articulate, how… where do I go from here, I have a PhD now what do I do. It is not just all too official; it has been both enlightening but also entertaining at the same time”. (Focus group participant, engineering)
Presenting a 10-minute strategic plan using a community of practice lens was a process many found helpful in defining goals.
“The exercise today has enabled me to put thinking into my own practice, to see one I need to join a community of practice because one does exist and two I need to foster one from my research, it has been great!” (Focus group participant, education)
“I intend to use the knowledge I have gained to explore further the path I wish to take after completion of my PhD”. (UoH evaluation, anonymous)
Procrastination and writing confidence were also mentioned.
“It can affect the corrections you are making […] this doesn’t only help with your career progress, it helps me to know, okay this is who I am now, and to communicate this clearly in everything that I do including my thesis.” (Focus group participant, music)
These presentations were the final moment in a process participant’s recognised as marking the end of an incredible journey.
“Throughout the workshop, you are thinking where is the moment where this question will be answered, step by step, I read through everything we did yesterday, and I came in this morning and begin to see things coming together. That question was really answered, so now this is where I belong, this is where I am going. Whereas before, coming here I was lost, what next? We just coming here for two days, now I am far away from there. It has been really helpful, really really worth coming for. Thank you !” (Focus group participant, engineering)
Participants recommend the course to PhD candidates, graduates and ECR.
“Very useful course, I’m very glad it has been added to the portfolio.” (UoH evaluation, anonymous)
“I hope the Graduate Centre will continue to offer this course in the future. I’ll recommend it to any PhD student whom would benefit from it” (UoH evaluation, anonymous)
“The course was incredibly useful and should run again in future” (UoH evaluation, anonymous)
This workshop addresses Concordat principles 3, 4 and 5, the European Charter for Researchers and responds to the requirements of the HR Excellence Award. If you are interested in running this or a version of it for your PGR or ECR community please get in touch with Dani via email on [email protected]