Post-PhD career struggles!

This blog post is a guest post by Dr Laura Jenkins. Coincidently, I know her very well and jokingly asked her to write a blog post for me as I did not have time (I am writing up my PhD of course!). After a summer of decisions, moves and a lot of wondering what could be next, Laura talks about her journey from PhD student to Teaching Associate and the struggles she has faced.

Read on for Laura’s post…

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Dr Laura Jenkins

Early career academics are considered those people who have recently completed a PhD, teaching qualification or postgraduate qualification. Being an early career academic itself has many challenges from gaining the appropriate teaching and research experience, to developing an approachable and enthusiastic personality to show that you aim to be engaged in the work that you do.

Some of the skills developed by an early career researcher can be learnt from education and further study when interacting with fellow students and staff. When studying towards a qualification, skills like communication and presentation skills are used on a regular basis and these are the skills which can be applied to any job or voluntary work context outside of education.

There are some skills, however, that need direct work/employment experience and this is one thing that can be difficult for early career researchers to gain. These skills can be detailed statistical analysis skills, software skills or the ability to teach a class independently, which are not always taught in an educational setting.

Trying to find work in an academic setting, in particular in a university setting, can bring a set of challenges for an individual. These can include a heavy workload, teaching and research commitments and instances where student support is needed. Most of these are great challenges and I have thoroughly enjoyed them throughout my early career, especially working alongside and supporting students during their study of Psychology. I am fortunate enough to have gained experience in a variety of universities across the UK so I am able to quickly adapt my teaching and learning style to the situation needed.

The main challenge faced by early career academics is often the insecurity of a job. Once that educational qualification is completed, whether it be a PhD or teaching related, real world experience is often needed to support the skills learned during education. This is one thing that early career academics can find difficult to achieve. One of the ways to overcome the obstacle of experience is to undertake a fixed-term contact. Some fixed-term contacts can be as short as nine months but there are longer fixed-term contracts which can be as long as three years.

After completing my PhD in Psychology (well, when I was approaching my submission date), I decided to embark on the task of looking for a job. I began the job search long before the submission of my PhD but one of the criticisms from applications was that I did not technically have a PhD at the time of applying as it had not been assessed. The first round of ‘job hunting’ was a very daunting process and I was concerned that my applications were not strong enough. As a result of this, I waited until I was nearly ready to submit my PhD before applying for different academic roles so that I could say that my PhD submission was pending examination – it worked!

The first job I was offered after my PhD was a two-year contract in a more teaching support role. I had decided to focus upon teaching rather than research as I wanted to be more involved with helping students develop their own skills rather than continuing with my own research (I do complete some research at the minute, just not a lot).

In my first post-PhD role at Oxford Brookes University, I gained excellent experience at leading classes and being that primary support member of staff for students. I took Research Methods and Statistics classes, of which in my area of Psychology, are important topics to help students develop themselves as independent Psychological researchers themselves.

I do believe that the students enjoyed my teaching methods as I tried to move away from the standard lecture and textbook approach. I would often try techniques such as blended learning techniques where I would use both online and offline material in the class. During my PhD, I had taught classes with more senior staff members during the completion of my PhD at Northumbria University, but my role at Oxford Brookes was much more independent. Some of the people who I had met during my very early teaching career had ‘warned’ me about such fixed-term contracts and I had tried to avoid them when initially applying for employment after my PhD. I was told that a fixed-term contract would make you feel as though you were not really involved with a department but I can honestly say that I disagree with this. I’ve met some lovely colleagues and have felt involved with all of the departments I have been in and Oxford Brookes University was the first university to accept me as a member of teaching staff.  I was also told that fixed-term contacts provide people with a lack of stability with regards to an income, and yes, I can agree to a point, however I have never had an issue and have only had a small worry about what was going to be my next form of income.

After a year in this role I wondered about the direction of my career and decided to look for a more teaching-based role in Psychology. Although I thoroughly enjoyed my role at Oxford Brookes University, I wanted the opportunity to start lecturing, supervising students and taking more independent classes in other areas of Psychology. I never thought that I would be on the job search again so soon, and only a year into my two-year contract, but I felt as though it was the right step for me to help progress my career in teaching Psychology and to gain more direct experience.

Again, I began the task of completing academic applications and as before, this was not an easy process. Being asked to provide the basic C.V. details in an online form can be long enough for anyone (to type in all the individual details) but nowadays, academic institutions like candidates to write a supporting statement indicating how well they believe they fit with the job specification. After completing many applications and interviews, I can now say that I fully understand why candidates are asked to do this. It is simply the best way for a recruiter to get a ‘snap shot’ of who an individual is alongside what their C.V. may detail about the work experience. I was also advised on many occasions that if I did not meet all of the expected criteria with a job advertisement then there was no point in applying – again, I now disagree with this as on many applications where I have been asked to interview stages. I have frequently said that I would be willing to learn more about a certain area or skills!

I often found that the applications took me hours at a time to complete as I would have to think of examples of my teaching skills and how I’ve used the specified skills and qualities in my teaching and research career. I would use websites that helped me structure my application responses and they were very useful in giving me guidance when I did not want anyone at my work to know what I was applying elsewhere. During my time of completing applications, I got very disheartened at the lack of responses and in the initial stages of applying I only received one response to my many submitted applications. I’d only had one year-long job at the time and some of the vacancies required many years of experience in areas that I did not have.

After many applications, I saw an advert for a Teaching Associate at the University of Strathclyde and decided to apply. Again, this was an application where I did not have one or two of the required skills, however I worded the application to reflect what skills I had and how they linked to the skills that I did not. I was then interviewed for the job, subsequently being offered the role. Although I was only at the University of Strathclyde for a very short time, it provided me with the experience I was looking for in supervising dissertation students and independently taking lectures. I questioned whether I could move again for another fixed-term contract but I’m pleased to say that I took the job. I was fully aware of the short-term nature of the contract and as soon as I hit my 6 months of employment, I was back looking for my next post so that I had something to go to when I left the University of Strathclyde.

One of the definite issues with fixed-term contracts is not being able to fully plan what you aim to do with regards to your career. I had always planned on completing a teaching qualification, however, qualifications often took longer than a year so I could never take up the opportunity. The shorter courses that I was offered did not cover the aspects I needed help developing in such as utilising different teaching methods, therefore I saw shorter qualifications as no benefit whilst gaining teaching experience at the University of Strathclyde.

Whilst working at the University of Strathclyde, I saw a voluntary opportunity that I thought would help me stay within a Psychology domain should the chance occur that I was going to be unemployed. At present, I am a Cognitive Psychology Correspondent for Psychreg (Journal of Psychology). I have had many opportunities to write for academic and non-academic audiences; I have been invited to talks and conferences and I have been able to develop in a professional manner outside of my teaching career which helped me to progress a little further.image1

 

This next (technically my third) round of applications took a lot of focus as I had very heavy teaching commitments at the time. I ended up using my evening and weekends to complete applications which meant I was often exhausted when writing about myself and would have to have coffee breaks on a regular basis. Although I thought that my applications were not up to standard due to competing some of them very quickly, I was offered quite a few interviews this time around so was quite happy about how I was learning to structure applications in terms of how to word what I was trying to say and show myself as a confident academic. One thing to note about interviews is that they don’t just involve a face to face interview when you are being interviewed for an academic position. Normally, a presentation or data task is completed alongside the interview, meaning that preparations for interviews are very individual but also very time consuming. The most hectic time for me came when I had three interviews in the space of the week, and they were all very different in nature. I had to constantly be alert when preparing interviews as they all required preparation.

Over the course of progressing with my applications, I tried to attend as many interviews as I could as it provided me with valuable experience of interviews and being able to show a panel why I was a suitable candidate for the job. After the interviews I have had, I’m pleased to say that I have now undertaken a permanent post as a Teaching Associate in Psychology at Loughborough University, and although I’ve only been in the role for a couple of weeks, I am really enjoying it! I now have further career aspirations to complete that teaching qualification I’ve wanted to do since finishing my PhD and I also aim to become a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy after I’ve been in academia for another few years. I do believe that the previous interview practices have helped me to be confident in my more recent interviews. On more than one occasion, I have been congratulated for how well I have presented myself in interview situations…so practicing does help a person to explain themselves.

The one thing I would say to anyone applying for academic jobs is to stick with it and persevere. A job will appear soon enough so it is just a case of continuing with the application process to find a job that may be a good fit. Sometimes the road to a more permanent position involves some shorter contracted jobs and that’s not always a bad thing. I ignored what I was told about fixed term-contracts and continued to apply for them. I would also look at seeking voluntary opportunities to support the development of skills when employment is not an option.

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Celebrating the new job of course!

I am very grateful for both of my fixed-term contract posts because without them, I would not have gained experience in teaching and working with some wonderful students! They have provided me with opportunities to interact with and engage students in many areas of Psychology and I hope to continue this in my current post.

 

 

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Reflections on thesis (not quite) writing

So you may remember that a short while ago I finished my data collection and also started the process of analysing my transcripts from a series of interviews and focus groups. This process took quite a while because I had over sixty participants in my first case study and then twelve each in my second two case studies. Whilst working on my internship between April and June I was able to code some of the data which meant that I was ready for my main task after internship completion of writing up my thesis. This (to me) is the biggest task of the thesis I have had so far and something that makes or breaks the thesis – it’s a piece of cake, right? (question: do I need to reference my cake recipe haha???)

Piece of cake, right?  **I did not get to eat a piece of this cake I made!**

At this point in time (when I was just finishing my internship) I had nothing to do on my thesis but write, write and keep writing. However once I had finished my internship I knew that this task of writing would not be as easy as I thought. I have not written a thesis before and the structure of my thesis is somewhat basic. I therefore decided that writing plan was needed so that I knew what I needed to do and when.

On first day back after my internship I started to write this writing plan and set goals, targets and smaller steps towards completing my thesis chapters. However whilst writing this writing plan I discovered that I do not have a lot of time between now and the start of my new job in November. This means I do not have full working weeks after November 19th and this scared me a little (although only technically its only 6 full time weeks until submission). I therefore had to be very specific in my writing plan and make sure all of my major tasks are scheduled to be completed (by the plan) before my time as a full time student is up . Again I found this somewhat difficult because I was not able to visualise the next few months ahead and plan my weeks quickly in advance. I struggled at first but I made sure that I had to look at my calendar to see my other commitments (such as conference presentations and attendance and also guest lectures). These commitments were anticipated to hinder (well completely stop) my PhD writing. I had to make sure that all additional tasks were accounted for so that I could work on my thesis chapters to draft them to a decent level. Once I had accounted for all of the additional tasks, I was able to make a week by week plan and ask my supervisors what they thought of my plan for my first supervision after my internship. My supervisors gave the general go-ahead on this (although we still need to work out drafts and dates etc) and gave some advice that I think I should share. So here is the advice I received:

[Paraphrased to reflect all advice in one conversation]

‘Please do let us know if you’re not able to keep to this plan of the goals and targets you have set yourself…we know that things may get in the way and this job is something of a big change to you and your working routine. You may find that you are exhausted, tired and are not able to do some of the work when you think you can… This is okay as we know it is a big change for you and your thesis progression**. The overall aim now is for you to submit the thesis and it doesn’t have to be perfect, but of a good standard (appropriate) for submission and assessment (the Viva).  We can roughly plan when your Viva may be but we cannot plan this for sure until you officially submit. We therefore want you to focus more on submitting and writing your thesis to a good standard rather that what may happen after…’

**they emphasised the changes ahead a lot!

This advice from my supervisors was sound. My supervisors know what they are talking about. They have had students have thesis submission delays, students get jobs and students succeed so they know what can and will (possibly) happen. My priorities in terms of the time I can devote to my thesis is almost definitely going to change in the near future. This means I will not be able to spend a full weeks’ worth of work on my thesis after November and the things I want to get done may have to chance. I have designed my writing plan to account for this change in schedule and to attempt to work out what can be plausible and what cannot.

However (as noted as a potential risk by one of my supervisors) at the moment my plan is not going to plan. Since returning to the office from my internship I have had a virus (with a lovely combination of tonsillitis and mild gastritis) which has meant I have been out of action for a couple of weeks. This has also meant that my thesis writing has been out of action for a couple of weeks and I have gotten myself behind in what I wanted to do. On telling my supervisors that this was the case, their (all three of them) main concern was not of my doctoral thesis but with of my own health. All of my supervisors now know that if I am not too well and do not rest, I tend to relapse and my illness comes back twice as bad. With this in mind one of my supervisors told me to get well soon and to focus on me (not the thesis).  To me this makes me realise that my supervisory team know a lot more about their own students (including me) than what I think. They also understand and acknowledge that sometimes things happen and sometimes things don’t go to plan. I’m grateful for the attitude (and behaviours) of my supervisors and the fact that they don’t freak out when I cannot complete some work due to ill health or other commitments. I’m not saying they don’t worry about progress however!

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These pens have survived for 3 years… hopefully now until thesis submission

I’m now getting back on my feet now after having some treatment but this will take a while to settle down properly. I’m starting to get back into routine of writing but I am still struggling. I am struggling to find motivation to want to write and I’m struggling to find the motivation to finish my thesis. I partly blame the fact that I have a job to go to in November I am very impatient and I just want to get started quickly as possible. However I need to realise for myself that my thesis is a priority at the moment and that this needs writing before I am able to start my job properly. With this in mind I am trying to find the motivation that I have lost because I know that if I do not have a decent standard of thesis draft before I leave for my job I will really not enjoy the first few weeks of my job as I’m hoping to do.

So if anyone has any good advice on how to increase PhD writing motivation then please do share them with me! For now, I have the help of my supervisors to give me reassurance/motivation when I think things are going wrong and they are really not… and the help of my own baking to distract me when things get tough.

Final paper acceptance to ASIS&T 2018!

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You may recall that I submitted a full paper to the Annual Meeting of the Association for Information Science and Technology 2018 (ASIST 2018). The conference takes place in Vancouver, Canada, between November 10th and 14th 2018 so I was keen to have a submission to this as I have never been to this conference before.

I am pleased to say that the final version of the paper, co-authored by my supervisors Professor Hazel Hall, Dr Laura Muir and Professor Robert Raeside, has been accepted.

The paper entitled: The interaction between people, information and innovation: information literacy to underpin innovative work behaviour in a Finnish organisation is concerned with the role of information literacy in the learning of innovative work behaviour in the workplace. It draws upon the findings from analysis of interviews carried out with employees of a Finnish organisation. This forms part of my Finnish case study, one of three case studies in my doctoral work.

The paper highlights three main themes that emerged from a thematic analysis of the interview data: (1) information literacy skills serve as a prerequisite for workplace learning; (2) information behaviours support the learning of innovative work behaviour and; (3) a variety of information sources support employees as they learn to behave innovatively.

With permission from ASIS&T, you can find a copy of my paper here.

The data collection and resulting paper would not have been possible without the funding from my ESRC-SDS collaborative studentship and also a John Campbell Trust Student Research Bursary that I was awarded in 2017.

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Lyndsey Middleton in Finland, December 2017

I am also pleased to say that I was awarded a place in the ASIS&T Doctoral Colloquium so I will have the opportunity to share my work with other doctoral students and academics within the supportive learning environment. I will have the opportunity to critically discuss my work and highlight issues I have faced. I will be able to seek advice from the senior mentors and other doctoral colloquium participants as to how any challenges can be overcome and how the challenges may have impacted my doctoral work.  I am very much looking forward to attending this event!

 

 

 

 

 

The end of an internship… the start of something new!

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So I blogged a while back with an update on my internship and so much has happened since then. I officially collected all internship data in week 9 of the internship (4 weeks form the end) which gave me 4 weeks to write up the findings as a report and also prepare a presentation. In the last 4 weeks I have also had the opportunity to share my work with practitioners at the NMAHP Digital Health and Care Network Event. I was able to talk to practitioners about my internship work, the findings and ask them to help out a little further and fill in a quick questionnaire to gather move views on the experiences of the use of mobile working technologies at work. This event was great to network with others and get them to know more about my work. It also helped me to include practitioners in the dissemination of my results as this is an important part of a project development and dissemination.

The writing tasks that I have also been doing throughout were not easy given that I have not really written from a policy perspective before and this is something I had to learn. I drafted some of the initial parts of the report first and got some feedback on that from my internship supervisors so that I knew what direction I needed to take. This feedback helped me to tailor my report to the audience (ie. some non-academics and those in healthcare, policy and Government for example) and make some amendments to my style. I admitted that I was very much used to writing academically and my style needed altering a tad. I was able to finish a good draft the report before the end of my internship and it is the process of being approved/looked over in the hope that it may be able to be published online at some point in the future.

My second biggest thing towards the end of my internship was my presentation of the project findings to various staff and stakeholders (e.g. Scottish Government staff, NHS and other associated service staff). Although I was a little nervous this went quite well. I was able to give information on the methodology of the study and discuss the findings in detail. Some of the findings are not surprising in that they are expected to some degree. However, some of the findings added that personal touch to the project data we have collected and it is this is what makes our project unique. We wanted to identify the experiences of staff and practitioners using mobile working technologies and we did that for sure. It was great to hear stories of how the systems and devices had helped practitioners in their work and how staff overcame challenges they had faced. After the presentation we got plenty of good feedback from stakeholders about our findings and this is all an important part of the process. I think that preparing my presentation with my internship supervisor well before the delivery date helped a lot. We sat down for an hour, planned out possible slides and prepared what we were going to do. This means that when I came to write my presentation slides I was able to use these notes to see what I was going to and also use my draft report to give some of the practitioner experiences in the parts I was talking about. We even had a little run-through the day before and my internship supervisor) helped me with my confidence and speaking too which was great (she specialises in coaching and you can find her website here.

I was very pleased that my presentation and final report symbolised the end of my internship as I have something very new lined up ahead!

Before my internship I saw a few adverts for vacancies within the Scottish Government. These were in the area of Research, Statistics and Policy and Operations. As I had already stated wondering what was next (after the PhD) I decided to apply to give myself a fighting chance. I had been advised not to be too disheartened if I was not successful first time around as the eligibility and assessment were designed to be quite tough, but I gave it a go anyway. The staff at the Scottish Government were great at giving careers advice and I think this heled me somewhat so I knew what kinds of things to expect.

I am pleased to report that in May 2018 I was offered a post within the Scottish Government. I will be working as an Assistant Statistician, something which I love so this just adds a bonus to my experience overall. I know that my appointment to the Scottish Government was not directly related to my internship as I could not put this on my application (apart from a little note to say I was starting it in April). However, I know that my internship has allowed me to see how the Scottish Government work, see what kind of roles are available and see exactly what those roles entail. I am pleased to say that I will be starting my new role in November, after my trip to Vancouver of course!

I have thoroughly enjoyed my internship experience and I feel that it has helped me too. I hope that students read my blog posts and are able to see the benefits of the internships and will apply for the ones being advertised now. I am very much thankful to my internship supervisors, Justine and Alix, for supporting me all of the way through. They helped me plan out the project, collect data, write the report and all the parts in-between. I could not have coped without their supervision!

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The final conference season of the PhD… possibly.

So whilst I have been interning, a lot has happened in relation to my PhD. I have had paper and poster acceptances, journal article publications and other news too. So I decided to blog about these in smaller stages as I go so that I could share the news as it happens, and this blog post is the turn of my conference presentations.

Acceptance of my paper to ASIS&T 2018!

You may recall that I submitted a full paper to the Annual Meeting of the Association for Information Science and Technology 2018 (ASIST 2018). The conference takes place in Vancouver, Canada, between November 10th and 14th 2018 so I was keen to have a submission to this as I have never been to this conference before.

I was pleased to receive an email mid-May to say that my paper has been accepted (yey!) but some revisions are required to be submitted. This is completely normal for a conference paper but it does mean that I will be working on this paper whilst working on my internship so my time will be tight unit it is submitted.

My paper, co-authored with my supervisors (Hazel Hall, Robert Raeside and Laura Muir) is written from the findings of my Finnish case study in relation to how information is used in the development of innovative work behaviour. It is entitled ‘The role of information literacy in learning innovative work behaviour: a case study of a Finnish organisation’. The paper discusses the findings of a series of interviews collected in Finland and is concerned with the role of in information literacy in the learning of innovative work behaviour and associated information behaviours for innovative work behaviour to develop. Three main findings (themes that emerged from the data) are discussed: (1) the need for the development of information literacy as a prerequisite for workplace learning; (2) the use of information in multiple ways to support the learning of innovative behaviour; and (3) the deployment of different information sources in learning how to behave in an innovative manner.

I am very pleased with the acceptance of this paper as a lot of work on it was put in. I am especially thankful to my supervisors who spent the time to help me with this, before, during (lots of help during the writing of this paper) and after the submission, and also many thanks to Professor Brian Detlor who gave support in paper development too. This paper would have also not been written had I not been awarded a bursary from the John Campbell Trust to visit Finland so I am very thankful for this opportunity too.

Acceptance of my poster to ISIC 2018!

Just before starting my internship I also submitted a poster to Information Seeking in Context (ISIC) due to be held in Krakow in October 2018. I am pleased to say that my poster was accepted and I will be travelling to Krakow in October to discuss my work.

My poster co-authored with my supervisors (Hazel Hall, Robert Raeside and Laura Muir) discusses the results of my Scottish University case study. The poster is entitled: ‘How do we use information to help us learn to innovate in the workplace? A case study of a Scottish University?’ and was accepted on the basis of an abstract and document that outlined the content of the poster. My case study comprised 33 interviews and 8 focus groups and analyses highlighted some key themes that will be discussed further as part of the poster presentation: (1) information literacy contributes to the initiation of workplace learning; (2) information sources (primarily external information, internal databases and people) are important to workplace learning; and (3) ease of access to information, as well as information sharing, facilitate the learning of innovative work behaviours in the workplace.

I am pleased that my submissions were so successful and I am very much looking forward to travelling to Krakow in October and Vancouver in November as the (possible) final conference season of my PhD. My doctoral workshop submissions for each conference are still in the decision phases… watch this space!

Applications and applicability of Social Cognitive Theory in information science research: new paper published!

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Lyndsey Middleton presenting at i3 conference: photo credit, Professor Hazel hall (https://twitter.com/hazelh/status/879727254376513539)

The paper I (and my supervisors) submitted to the Journal of Librarianship and Information Science (JoLIS) is now available online.

The article was developed from a presentation I delivered at the i3 conference back in June 2017 and is entitled ‘Applications and applicability of Social Cognitive Theory in information science research’.

The paper (co-authored by  Professor Hazel Hall and Professor Robert Raeside) discusses the theoretical framework I chose to underpin my ESRC/Skills Development Scotland funded doctoral work and the use of this framework in Information Science research. Origins and key concepts of Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) are discussed and illustrated with examples from a range of disciplines. This is followed by an analysis of the contribution of SCT to Information Science research with final discussions and reference to the use of SCT in a project on workplace learning and innovative work behaviour (my doctoral work).

The paper has now been published in the Journal of Librarianship and Information Science (JoLIS) as an OnlineFirst paper.

Half-way through the internship!

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So as you know I am not PhD-ing at the moment, I am working instead. I took a SGSSS internship at the Scottish Government (number 36 on the list for the Scottish Government internships) when I was offered the post earlier in the year. The start date was prefect and it meant that I could take a break from my PhD and do some research in an area that was completely unrelated to my own doctoral work (this was a specific requirement for an internship for me).

As part of my internship I am based with a specific team within St Andrews House in Edinburgh. I am based within: Directorate: Health & Social Care Integration, Division/Team: Digital Health & Care in the eHealth: Policy & Strategy team of the Scottish Government. I joined the team in the processes of a new Digital Health and Care Strategy being developed, which was in its final stages of approval. As you can now see, the strategy has been published and my internship work aims to feed into the strategy and will eventually (hopefully) help/support the implementation of specific elements of this.

I was looking forward to starting my internship and quite nervous at the same time.  I started just after the Easter bank holiday so I got a nice rest before all the hard work began. My first week was very induction focused. I met most of the team and a lot of other people who may be interested in the findings of my work. I also completed quite a lot of e-learning which was a requirement of the internship so that I was trained to the necessary standards of the government. I have since met some of the other interns working in health too. There are more of us than I had thought!

My second couple of weeks were spent planning out the project (e.g. developing a project plan and analysing literature around the project). The project plan was developed so we can see if the project is on track and so we could schedule what tasks needed doing and when. This seemed to work for my PhD (in my first review) so taking this approach was definitely useful for the 13 weeks of work ahead. My literature searching was something I had not done in a while, and something I had not done in the Scottish Government. I learned about the library the Scottish Government has and the vast amount of resources where literature (both policy and strategy related and academic journals) are based. I started to look into the relevant policies and strategies created either by or in partnership with the Scottish Government to help me set context to the research. My next task was to explore the literature ad determine if there was a gap – luckily there was (this was determined before I was even an intern but I had to fins this out for myself too!). but it was still good to know my internship work has basis and it was filling a gap where this needed to be filled.

A while back I bumped into some other PhD students and joked about this being a mini-PhD project in 13 weeks. In my eyes I see the same structure and planning phases but some of the procedures (e.g. data collection and ethics) do differ as this is not an academic project. It was good to learn about how things work within the Government so that I am learning about the non-academic/public sector side of things too. This is all helpful for the potential future career move to non-academia when the time comes.

I have also completed the stages of data collection preparation (e.g. developing questions to ask participants), piloting and am now in the process of collecting data for the project. As you can see from the internship project advert, I was required to carry out some interviews with practitioners. We decided to take a slightly different approach in data collection (still qualitative) than originally planned but this makes the project even better. This is now going to be a mix of focus groups, interviews and other qualitative methods so that we can reach the people who we need to in the time given for the internship.

By the end of the week I will have collected around 90% of the data so far and managed to transcribe it all too. The method of transcription is a little unique compared to that of my PhD but it is based on a specific methodology that has research and academic grounding (and publications) to help justify its use.  You will be able to find out more about this in my report once it is approved and published, keeping in mind that this could take a little while as it needs to go through a lot of reviews before it does.

Aside from the project planning and data collecting, I have been able to attend some interesting meetings too (some project related and some not) and get to know how the Scottish Government works with other services (e.g. the NHS, Care Inspectorate, homecare services etc). I have been able to listen in and observe carefully to actions taken to develop and implement the new strategy as well understand the roles of others involved. I have been able to explore what mobile working technology products are available out there, which in turn is helping to shape the development of the project and its future applications.

Part of my internship project is to present the findings of the research to practitioners Scottish Government Staff and other associated staff too. This is something that I am having to work towards and I will be able to prepare for this towards the need of my internship seeing as though I am booked in to present this on my final day as an intern. To help me prepare, I am able to present the findings of my part of the larger project at a local networking event next week where my internship supervisor will discuss the wider project and her quantitative results too. I will then have the opportunity to discuss the preliminary findings from my data collection so far and help to facilitate what all of this could mean in health and social care practice. One things I am having the opportunity to do (soon) is present my doctoral work within the healthcare division. My work relates quite nicely to some team goals the service is developing so having that opportunity to share knowledge of my work and some results of one of my case studies I something that I welcome. We have not yet scheduled a time for this just yet but it will be a valuable opportunity for my work to have some form of impact, not only in the healthcare of the Scottish Government but in an area outside of the intended audience of my doctoral work (a bonus indeed!).

So as a quick recap half way through – I am thoroughly enjoying my time here. I think that the work will benefit my own PhD work in that I will see where the applications lie. Similarly, the internship is giving me an insight into working in the Scottish Government should this be a career move in the future. I am seeing a huge difference in my own working pattern in terms of my time in the office, my workload and this is completely different to what my PhD has brought. I had said to one of my supervisors that I taught that the new schedule would hit me ‘smack in the face’ in the first couple of weeks and so it did. Luckily I have got used to the change in schedule very quickly and working location and this has not bothered me one bit!

More internship updates will follow when I can…