Today 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.
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
As 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.
This 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?
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.
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:
- How (and where) do you access information and research to be able to apply this to your practice?
- What do you do if you cannot access research at work?
- 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.
In 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.
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)