I mentioned the Arts and Humanities alumni event in my last post and thought I'd share some of the highlights with you. Although our speakers were all working in very different areas, a lot of common themes emerged from their talks. Some of these were positive, in that people were finding opportunities to do the things they're passionate about but some were less positive. Fixed term contracts, often thought to be the bane of academia, featured in more than a few talks. Many public or voluntary sector appointments are also on fixed term funding.
Many of the speakers mentioned how the skills they developed during their PhD, such as managing huge amounts of information, have stood them in good stead later in their career. The fact that they could recognise their own transferable skills helped them to be more confident in taking on new projects or job roles, which were often completely unrelated to their PhD.
Taking advantage of training courses, mentoring and other opportunities not directly related to your PhD was also recommended. For example, Amy Cartwright, who works for Vitae, spoke about her involvement in Glasgow's online journal eSharp and how that helped her identify some of the things she wanted from a future career as well as build up a support network within the university - something that's particularly important for the 'lone' researcher.
Using voluntary work to plug any gaps in your CV was also mentioned by several speakers, with their own experiences of this ranging from helping at a Young Archaeologists Club to working for charities and sitting on a Board for various organisations in the Arts. The Student Representative Council can help you find a voluntary opportunity that suits your interests and the UKRC offers training for women who are interested in public appointments, sitting on a decision making board or advisory group. Contrary to what a lot of people think, it doesn't have to be something you do when you're retired and can be really useful for your career development, as well as giving you the chance to make a differenct to your local community or work in an area you are passionate about.
Watch Bonnie Greer talk about why it is so important for people who aren’t the ‘usual suspects’ to think about contributing to public boards and the need for diversity: [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwOvv1lLAlY&feature=player_embedded]