Careers research talk at UWS!

detailsToday I was invited to talk to a group of career guidance students from the University of the West of Scotland about my internship research (as it was careers focused) and also my PhD. The aim of my talk was two fold: (1) I wanted to give an overview of how a careers adviser could get into research (or research as part of their role) and; (2) I wanted to explore ways in which careers advisers, both trainees and qualified individuals, could access information and research to enable them to apply this to their own practice. I wanted to incorporate my own personal experiences so that the students understood that some things take hard work and that some things are not too simple, and that is just what I did.

I have to say that I was nervous about my talk as it was the first time I gave an in-depth talk about my internship that I undertook before my PhD. It was also the first time I talked about my PhD research to career guidance students as normally I present to academics who are either in the information science field or students who are also talking about their work.

The session went much better than expected and I was able to get my points across decently well. I wanted to use my own experiences as a trained careers adviser and a PhD student to put across the points I wanted to make and also ensure my talk was relevant to the students I was chatting to. So here is a little detail about what I talked about (along with my slides that I presented)…

I started off by introducing myself and explaining my background so that the students knew I was ‘one of them’. My career journey has been quite unique as I started off wanting to train as a Clinical Psychologist and now I am as far from that as you can get. I explained a little about my previous voluntary work, which included stints at Age UK and the NHS as part of their research department. I then explained about my main role after completing my Master’s degree as I worked as part of a neurological rehabilitation service. I worked as both an Education support worker and specialist mental health mentor supporting individuals in local universities. These individuals required support due to the nature of their neurological conditions, developmental disorders or mental health concerns so that was part of my role too. I was then promoted to an Assistant Neuropsychologist for the same organisation but instead of working in the education service, I transferred over to the community side of things. There, I managed cases where individuals required support in the community and employment settings and undertook clinical work as part of that role. However, after a while of doing this, I realised that this type of role just was not for me and I faced the decision as to whether clinical psychology was too.

Image credit: Emma Bolger’s twitter feed

This was the moment when I decided that clinical psychology just was not for me and when the opportunity arose to train as a careers adviser with the National Careers Service, I took this opportunity with open arms as it was something I was really keen to do. Now whilst I was a careers adviser, some of you may know that I also undertook a research internship. This was not something easy to do as working full time and being a part time intern does take dedication and requires the intern to take control of her time and life. I had to have very good time and self-management skills during this time! It is that internship and the PhD it coincidently led to applying to which I focused on during my talk to exemplify how research could be applied to practice through the dissemination techniques used.

The research internship

My internship was applied for in a voluntary capacity but it was not an advertised post. In the process of contacting the head of department at Northumbria University, I was contacted by a (then) post-doctoral researcher called Dr Debora Jeske in response to my queries. She is now a lecturer in Work and Organisational Psychology at University College Cork and you can find more about her here.  You see, Dr Jeske was looking for someone to help out on a research project and it appears that the project was perfect for me (although I did not know this at the time). The project focused on career exploration in young adults so I was very keen to be able to work in this project as it went hand-in-hand with my employment as a careers adviser.

As part of the internship Dr Jeske and I actually had to communicate and set our own expectations of each other, and for the whole internship. This meant that I had to explain what I would like from the internship and Dr Jeske had to do the same (in terms of what she expected form me too). We worked out all the little things in an initial meeting so that I could hear more about the project and make a decision as to whether I definitely wanted to work on it or not. I was most definitely interested and undertook the internship to build skills in the area of research knowing this could be a potential career in the future. I wanted to be able to evidence different skills and tasks I had done in the internship (literature searching, journal identification, data analysis, presentations etc) in case  needed this for future educational and employment applications (it appears I did..!). I think this meeting was really important do Dr Jeske and I could see how each other worked. Now, as a staff member I would assume Dr Jeske would have not appreciated a lazy intern so the purpose of the project was set out and we knew what expectations we needed to meet.

In my talk, I also discussed outputs form the internship, something I got more out than expected. As part of our initial meeting, Dr Jeske and I had briefly discussed the possibility of two outputs from the internship, but the amount of actual final outputs was a lot more than I expected. You see, form the internship we got:

  • 1 internal poster presentation at Northumbria University
  • 1 external poster presentation at York University
  • 1 conference presentation
  • 1 prize for ‘best paper’
  • 1 publication in conference proceedings
  • 1 journal publication

LJ wordpress headerAs part of my talk to the careers guidance students I talked about these outputs. I explained the nature of each and what my role was and what we ended up with overall. When explaining about the external poster presentation one comment did arise. I was the only delegate there who was not a member of staff and who was not a fully-fledged academic so it was hard for people to understand why I was there. I had to make efforts to explain my role to people and help them understand that I was a careers adviser researching in a careers project. Once that was understood, it was easier for other delegates to understand why I was there and why I was one of the best people to talk about the research specifically in terms of its practical applications to careers advice.

My talk was designed to explain some of the dissemination techniques used as part of a research internship, and how these are used to get the research to the wider audience. I then discussed one of the main outputs of the internship published last year – our journal article in The Journal of Careers Assessment. I can’t publish the article on my blog post due to copyright, but I do have the reference at the bottom so you can explore the article further.

posterThis then led me to question about what happens if the project is a larger project, a three year project for example. A three year project such as my PhD?

The PhD

Now in this part of my talk, I discussed the importance of innovation both in theory and practice. I won’t go into too much detail about this now as I have blogged several times before and you can see this in my previous posts. However, this led to the explanation of my research aims and methods, and an explanation of why these differ from the research internship.

You see, I have three years to plan and implement a PhD compared to the nine months part time for the internship. This means my PhD lasts longer and I have more time to include several research methods in one project as this was just not possible in the internship. I was able to talk about the three stages of my data collection and analysis and give the students and overview of why I am studying the topic I am, and who this topic is relevant to.

The final part of my talk saw me discussing dissemination techniques as part of the PhD. So far I have presented posters, talks and also doctoral colloquium summaries. I have presented locally in Scotland and also internationally so I have been able to disseminate my research quite widely. During my talk I emphasised one main difference between dissemination in internship and the PhD. As part of the PhD students are encouraged to talk to others about their research from day 1. This means talking about literature, theory, purpose, contributions and methods to that both academics in the field and non-academics in the field get to know who you are and what you are doing. I don’t yet have any results I can disseminate but when I make sense of my statistics, I then will and these can be disseminated too. I can then present reports to my funders on the importance of investing in innovation. I can write a journal article to present the results in relation to literature present and I can then talk about my results to the wider audience through various means of communication. That is what differs from the internship.

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I then went on to highlight the difficulties in accessing information and research from conferences and academic outlets like journals where some individuals cannot go (or access them) due to the fact that they do not research in the field. This means that some people may not be able to access this research easily and led to me seeking opinions form the audience:

  1. How (and where) do you access information and research to be able to apply this to your practice?
  2. What do you do if you cannot access research at work?
  3. What are the differences between accessing information and research as part of being a trainee careers adviser and as part of a qualified role?

The student’s split off into groups and chatted for a while about these questions, throwing ideas and opinions around. I encourage the students to think about different things and their ideas were great when I went around each group to see how they were getting on – they were a very communicative groups! We came together as a group towards the end of the session to reflect upon these suggestions and here are some suggestions which arise:

Accessing research and information as a student:

  • Journal articles (online)
  • Books (online and offline)
  • Academic media outlets – such as research gate to request papers and research
  • Contacting academics in the department and other departments if you see something you are interested in

Accessing research and information if not a student, and employed outside of academia:

  • Looking into if the company has a research department or research policy – a good example of this is Skills Development Scotland (who part fund my PhD);
  • Investigate whether the organisation has a research database where research can be accessed by staff;
  • Approaching appropriate staff members and enquiring about research, giving examples of how research can be applied to practice in your work;
  • Formal social media outlets such as LinkedIn so that you can connect with researchers in the field.

As a careers adviser, both in training and when qualified, these questions are really important to ask. If you can’t access information and research results then you simply cannot apply the results to practice and then the research has not reached where you work. As a trainee (and when qualified) you need to make efforts yourself to access research and then to understand what is said. I’m definitely not saying that you need to read research all of the time but if something is highlighted in the media, don’t take their word for it. Grab the article and read it, make your own opinions and see what it’s all about. The research will not come to you and your practice so putting in that extra effort means it will help.

IMG_1415In our final discussion points, one student made a comment that I agree with wholeheartedly. It’s great to use research in practice and get information on results, theory and how such things can be implemented. However as a careers practitioner, often you have to brake the research boundaries, go outside of that theory and use an approach which suites you and your service user. That way, the research can form a basis of our work, but you are using your own evaluation skills and analytical skills to explore the research further, and use it in your own practice (or adapt it) as you see fit. Sometimes research does not have all the answers, and only working in your field, adapting the approaches in our work will help you make sense of the research you’ve seen.

For now, that is all for my blog post as I have written quite a lot. But I hope this writing has sparked thinking about how you can disseminate your own research and also how you can access research to apply this to your own practice.

References:

Jenkins, L., & Jeske, D. (2016). Interactive support effects on career agency and occupational engagement amongst young adults. Journal of Career Assessment (ePub). doi: 10.1177/1069072716652891

Jenkins, L., Lin, R., & Jeske, D. (2016). Influences and benefits of role models on social media. In Y.K. Dwivedi et al. (Eds.):  I3E 2016 Social Media: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Ch. 60, pp. 673-684). Lecture Notes in Computer Science (LNCS) 9844. Springer: IFIP International Federation for Information Processing. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-45234-0_60 (http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-45234-0_60)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reflections on SGSSS student-led symposium

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Picture credit Lyndsey Jenkins

As a student rep for the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science, you will be aware that part of my role was to help support the development of the student led symposium held at Glasgow University this week. I also attended the symposium as a student rep and a regular delegate so that I could get as much out of the sessions as possible.

I found the event particularly useful and some of the sessions even more so, so I thought I would share some of my own thoughts on the two day event. Please do note that this reflection is not feedback from everyone and it is my thoughts only on the event.

So some of the student reps living in Edinburgh set off early on Thursday morning so that we could get to the symposium to welcome others there. We managed to get there with no issues, manned the registration desk, enjoyed lunch and settled down for the first session of the day.

Rowena teaching her session
Prof Murray (picture credit Noor Saeed)

Our first session was very writing focused and was delivered by Professor Rowena Murray. The session focused on how to get us writing, and techniques PhD students could use when writing for themselves. Whether it be writing for a report, the thesis or a journal, Prof Murray took us through the techniques to help us see what would work best for us. I have to say that I really enjoyed this session because of the stage of the PhD I am at now. You might know that I am currently in the process of writing my first PhD paper and this has not been an easy task for me. I have struggled with motivation and my office is not the most ideal place for writing to take place so I have been looking for quiet spaces and times to get writing. Prof Murray helped me see that my efforts on this are now going to waste and that my efforts in having short writing times may actually work.  Prof Murray talked us through free writing techniques to help us ‘get into the writing mode’ knowing fine well that often we do everything else first (I’m obviously not talking about checking emails, Facebook etc…). We also talked through some more structured techniques, using prompts and words to help us along the way. I found this useful too as I have been stating to plan a lot of my writing out like this so that when it comes to the task, I know what I am hoping to write about. I heard a lot of positive feedback from that session as students felt it was beneficial and worth the time taken in class. This was then followed by a session to help us get out writing out there and to the wider audience…

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Sarah Burton taking her class (picture credit Noor Saeed)

Our next session was held by Sarah Burton, a student who has just submitted her PhD and is awaiting her viva. Sarah talked about things we could do to help us get out writing noticed and visible to the wider audience. This included things such as guest writing for blogs, journal articles, conferences and so on, various methods to help us get our research and writing noticed both formally an informally (such as the very much talked about social media). In my school, we are encouraged to do this by using our own blogs so that readers can see who we are and what we are doing in our own freestyle writing technique. We are also encouraged to publish in journals as this is how our research is seen by the academic audience. This session was good to understand what we can do to make our work visible, and it was good to hear this from the perspective of a PhD student who was coming to the end of the process herself.

We were then able to network over a coffee break before our keynote was delivered by Professor Steve Yearley from The University of Edinburgh. Steve’s abstract was as follows:

Can academic ‘engagement’ be enjoyable and can one prevent it becoming a new euphemism for marketing and self-promotion?

Matt and Steve
Matjaz introducing Prof Yearley

Description: Engagement, participation and stakeholder involvement have become mainstream over the last twenty years. They are now as likely to be an obligation as an aspiration. In this talk I want to reflect on my experiences with engagement – during and after the research process, with policy organisations, with community groups and with public audiences (at festivals, zoos and theatres). I hope to highlight the trends which are leading engagement to become routinised, and to suggest ways to avoid the routines and to promote rewarding forms of engagement.

Prof Yearley talked about engagement from research and how research can be applied to practice (and other settings). He gave specific examples of how his own research has been applied outside of the research context and helped students to understand the importance of impact in research, particularly if the research can be applied to the external context. This got me thinking about my own impact and what impact and engagement means to me. I know that my research had value within the academic community, but I need to work on its impact and value, and making sure the research outputs (in a couple of years’ time) have value to those who need it most. To do this, it is important that I engage with my academic and non-academic audience so they get to know who I am, what I am going and how my research is important to them. This was a good session to end the day and get students talking about impact and engagement at the event dinner which followed.

glasgow cup.JPG
picture credit Lyndsey Jenkins

Our second day was very career development and employment focused which is something I really needed the most. Firstly, Dr Philly Wiseman and Dr Richard Brunnar talked about dealing with supervisors and led a purely Q&A session from the audience. The students discussed what they thought supervisions should be and what they should not be to get an idea of different views and opinions on supervision itself. The session was very student led and I think it got students thinking about their own supervisions and how to address problems that arise. It appears that (compared to some others I talked to during the day) my supervisors put a hell of a lot more effort in than some supervisors and they even take time out of their day to make sure their students are okay. I have had recent examples with in-depth written work feedback, scheduling in meetings so that my supervisors can having some dedicated time and there was even that time I got admitted to hospital and my director of studies made sure I was okay every minute I was there and was in constant contact to keep things flowing on the academic side during my absence. Now not many supervisors would offer to bring your PJs to A&E if you’re suddenly kept in overnight!

We then heard form Dr Kirsten Jenkins (a previous SGSSS student rep) on how to survive the viva. Kirsten passed her viva last year and was able to share her experiences of what helped her along her viva journey and what did not. She explained what happened in her visa and process leading up to this. She talked about her preparation for the viva and questions she got asked in the viva itself. One of the best pieces of advice we were given is that students need to understand that everyone and everything in the thesis does not have to be perfect. Yes, you do have to prepare a lot and work hard to get where you are but part of the viva process is recognising if you spot a problem in your thesis document and being able to address this confidently if asked in your viva. It is this desire or

Reps and Jo
Dr Jo Farrie & Student reps (L-R: Matjaz, Noor & Lyndsey) – picture credit Noor Saeed

perfection which often pushes students to fall at the first hurdle instead of taking advantage of the critiques and making the most of the viva situation at all. Another good piece of advice was creating a plan of what you want to do with your thesis afterwards. Examples can be publishing in certain journals, creating another project form this so that the panel can see that you have plans after completing your PhD and that the PhD is going to be used in future plans. I think it was really important for Kirsten to talk form the heart, and that is exactly what she did. She helped reassure students who had concerns but also told us the truth when it came to things we should and should not do during the preparation phases.

We then heard form Harriet Waugh who talked about how to apply skills outside of academia. Harriet is a Social Researcher within the Scottish Government and explained what she does for her role and how skills we are developing could be applied to her role. Harriet explained her career journey before she got to where she is today. It was lovely to hear that she has taken a similar journey to me in that she started as an Assistant Psychologist after doing her degree, but felt her desire to do research was something that powered her career to take her where she is today. I feel this talk was one of the best (for me) as I went to the event now knowing options on what I could do after my PhD. This talk has helped me see that skills I am developing can be used outside of academic and we were shown how to go about searching for roles within the Scottish Government that I did not even know existed until now. I even liked Harriet’s practical example of a social research quiz to exemplify why social research is important in the Scottish Government and how issues within the government can influence the development of research itself.

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Reps manning the registration desk (R-L: Lyndsey, Noor, Sue, Matjaz, and Anna facing Matjaz)- picture credit Noor Saeed

After lunch, we had our two final sessions. Firstly, Dr Jo Ferrie talked to us about what academics expect from a personal specification on academic jobs. She did a great job of explaining: (1) what personal specifications look for; (2) what academic frequently hear form PhD students or early career researchers applying for these jobs and; (3) how we can improve our applications to emphasise our examples of the skills and qualities we have developed through our careers. For me, I needed this session more than I thought. I needed someone to explain what application reviewers look for and how this can be written in a way to make us look great. I have not had a lot of this type of teaching and learning through my PhD and I look forward to more sessions like this which are offered in the future.

Our final session of the two day event was a discussion on activism and the academic by Dr Mo Hume and Professor Colin Clark. They discussed how their academic work has used activism, from the perspectives of academy and non-academic work outside of the academy. They talked about how academic can include forms of activism and took questions from the audiences about the pros and cons of being an activist within research and practice. This gave good insight into how academic research can be both intriguing and dangerous at the same time and there are a lot of ethical considerations needed for this type of research.

poster
Session information – picture credit Lyndsey Jenkins

So overall, for me, the symposium was a success. I now know a lot more about writing, about career options and what I may do with my life afterwards which isn’t a bad thing considering I went to the symposium with no clue at all. I also understand that I have a good network of people and supervisors to support me and this is something I should appreciate as much as possible. I was also able to meet others and network with them and the other reps which has helped me explore and explain my research to people who now know who I am.

Now the job is to review feedback form students and work on the next hopeful symposium in 2018.

The first conference paper of the PhD

picture-1Early this year, I (with my supervisors) submitted an abstract for the i3 conference (information: interactions and impact) due to be held in Aberdeen in June 2017. As with most of the PhD students in our School, we decided to aim for submitting a full paper for the conference in the hope that it would get accepted. However we knew there was the possibility that the reviewers could ask for a short paper or even reject the whole paper idea.

I waited a long time for the feedback of my abstract but I understood that they had been sent to different reviewers an there was nothing I could do but wait. I had hoped to hear before my annual leave in March but got to the point where I had to leave the PhD behind for a week and not think about a thing. I left my supervisor with some kind instructions to contact me if anything was wrong with the abstract. She did just that. You can see the news I received here.

The decision was made to accept my abstract for a full paper… with no amendments to be made. This means that I did not have to do anything to the abstract for it to be accepted and for me, this was a huge relief. It also was a sense of achievement as it was the first time my research had been welcomed into the information science domain without any question at all.

You see, my research is not always accepted in the Information Science domain as it is not 100% Information Science (even though my PhD topic is). My PhD incorporates literature form a variety of domains, including employment research, organisational studies, human resources and even some Psychology and it is my job to make it count in the Information Science domain, ground the research there and make it stay.

This is where my next PhD task comes in… writing of the conference paper!

The paper I will be writing  fits quite nicely on grounding my research in the information science literature as it explores my theoretical framework. If you read my blog you may already know that my theoretical framework will incorporate Social Cognitive Theory (Bandura, 1986). The theory (originally from Psychology – but shhh don’t tell anyone that!) explains how people learn and that there are three main factors that interact and interplay in this learning process: (1) intra-personal factors; (2) behaviours and; (3) environment. If you would like to know more about the theory, please do explore the references at the bottom of the page as I swore by these when looking into whether the theory was right.

Triadic reciprocal causation in the Social Cognitive Theory (Pálsdóttir, 2013).

So my paper will explain the application of Social Cognitive Theory to my own PhD research. It will ground my research in the domain of information science by explaining the theory and how it has been used in information science research. More importantly, it will explore the contributions my research will make in terms of the theory and discuss the methods I have used (and will be using) to collect my data and answer my research questions proposed.

I can’t really tell you much more about the paper yet, firstly because it’s not written yet and secondly because it may be published. Once this is done, I can explore the information a little further.

For now I just have to get writing and prepare the paper as best I can so that my conference presentation can be worked off that.

References:

Bandura, A. (1986). Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory. Prentice Hall: Englewood Cliffs, NJ.

Pálsdóttir, A. (2013). Social cognitive theory. In Wilson, T. D. (Ed.). Theory in information behaviour research. Sheffield, UK: Eiconics Ltd. [E-book] ISBN 978-0-9574957-0-8.

2017 Scottish Graduate School of Social Science Student Led Symposium

As one of the student reps for the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science, I have been involved in helping to organise a student led event which takes place very soon.

We have organised a student led symposium with the theme of ‘Survival Strategies for the Modern PhD Student’

You can register for the symposium on this eventbrite page and more information on the student led event can be found below.

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2017 Scottish Graduate School of Social Science Student Led Symposium

Survival Strategies for the Modern PhD Student

Thursday 20th 12:30pm–6:30pm to Friday 21st April 9am–3pm

Hugh Fraser Seminar Room, Wolfson Medical School Building, University of Glasgow

 

Keynote Speaker: Professor Steve Yearley

School of Social & Political Science: University of Edinburgh

Can academic ‘engagement’ be enjoyable and can one prevent it becoming a new euphemism for marketing and self-promotion?

Description: Engagement, participation and stakeholder involvement have become mainstream over the last twenty years. They are now as likely to be an obligation as an aspiration. In this talk I want to reflect on my experiences with engagement – during and after the research process, with policy organisations, with community groups and with public audiences (at festivals, zoos and theatres). I hope to highlight the trends which are leading engagement to become routinised, and to suggest ways to avoid the routines and to promote rewarding forms of engagement.

 

Special Contribution: Professor Rowena Murray

School of Education: University West of Scotland

This Writing Workshop will include writing to prompts, ‘snack’ writing, analysing academic writing, writing an abstract/summary, using prompts in series, outlining and writing groups, micro-groups and retreats. This will be a practical session, involving writing activities and discussions of how these activities can contribute to the writing of theses, journal articles and other texts. Participants are encouraged to bring laptops to this workshop – if you have one – although it’s not a requirement.

Topics covered during the event:

Activism & Academia

Unpacking the Academic Job Advert

Dealing with Supervision

Writing Strategies

Internships

Surviving the Viva

There will also be a dinner event open to all delegates on Thursday 20th April 2017. This will be held between 6.30pm-9pm at Siempre Bicycle Café.

The event is free to PhD students studying at a Scottish university and it is organized by the SGSSS student representatives. Fifty places available on a first come, first served basis: Registration essential via Eventbrite. Lunch, coffee/teas, dinner (20th) & Breakfast, coffee/teas and lunch (21st) provided for delegates.

Accommodation grant available up to £60 for Thursday 20th April only. Travel expenses paid (public transport within Scotland only). For further information and to record access or dietary requirements please email: sgssocsci@gmail.com

The official event poster can be found here: 2017 SGSSS SLS Poster