November 22, 2018, by Postgraduate Placements Nottingham
Recognising the breadth of opportunities open to me post-PhD
This week we hear from Leslie Bode a former PPN placement student and our new Postgraduate Placements Delivery Manager.
At the start of my PhD, I was keen on pursuing an academic career and felt that doing anything other than focusing all my available brainpower on my research was a waste of time. Once I entered my writing up stage, after hitting a few bumps along the road (competitive colleagues, terrifying fieldwork, and lonely lab work), I felt like I needed a little something else in my life. Because writing for eight hours a day was not going to be very fun and I didn’t think I could concentrate on one thing for that long.
On a typical writing day, locked in a postgraduate study rooms in Hallward library, procrastinating and thoroughly reading a Graduate School newsletter (an excellent source of distraction) I stumbled on a PPN advert for a placement as a Graduate Centre Coordinator. My interest was piqued as I had secretly harboured a strong fascination with everyone who worked in the Graduate School for a few years. Having taken countless short courses, I kept hearing the Research and Training Development Managers (those amazing people who deliver exceptional training courses) introduce themselves and their backgrounds, and many of them had PhDs, making me wonder what sort of roles were available in the Graduate School?
Anyway, I dropped everything that day and devoted it to filling in the application and updating my CV. Then, a few weeks later, while I was delivering an academic paper in Paris, I got a phone call inviting me to an interview. After a few months of PhD drudgery, and chapter re-writes, I was so enthused and inspired to have gotten an interview! It really meant a lot to me, just to be considered for the role and was a great boost for my mood.The interview went smoothly enough (but I was so nervous that it remains a blur in my memory), but I obviously said enough of the good stuff, to be offered the job.
While the placement role mostly focused on the day-to-day running of the Jubilee Graduate Centre, I also delivered shut up and write sessions, and collaborated with the other Graduate Centre coordinators on hosting larger events, like a Christmas Jazz evening for postgraduates. I also got a brief glimpse behind the scenes of what the Graduate School is all about while attending Graduate School Forums. All this while working just 2 hours per day, Monday to Friday, alongside my writing up. This really broke the day up for me and allowed me to focus part of my day on writing and then spend at least two hours in a much more social environment. In addition, being paid for this was amazing! Even though it was just ten hours a week, it really helped.
The best benefit of all, was that I made some amazing friends. Two of the other coordinators were at the exact same writing up stage, and despite being from completely different academic backgrounds; we bonded instantly over the shared pains of getting ready to submit. We encouraged, competed, fed each other over the final year leading up to our submission. We actually all viva’ed within a few weeks of each other, and all graduated in July 2018. We remain in touch, and encourage each other in our varied post-doctoral career challenges.
My placement expanded my understanding of academia and the range or support roles that help hold up all the amazing research and teaching delivered here. I also strongly believe that it is essential that we have some people with PhDs behind the scenes to help translate some of the struggles and who can offer a consumer perspective of what the Graduate school can offer. As a future directly in my area of research became less appealing to me, a career in Higher Education support started infiltrating my goals.
I was initially (and honestly still am) conflicted about this idea, as I felt that deep down this means I was a failure at academia. However, the combination of my previous career and Graduate Centre coordinator experience paired with my recent PhD and a previous role within the Students’ Union, leading me to successfully apply for a dual role in the Graduate School as a Postgraduate Placements Delivery Manager for Postgraduate Placements Nottingham (PPN) and the Partnerships, Placements and Relationships Manager for Midlands4Cities Doctoral Training Partnership (M4C DTP). I hope to bring my complete postgraduate experience and insight to these roles, and aim to keep in perspective the fantastic ups, and the dreadful lows that a PhD researcher goes through. I hope to develop and support exceptional placement research projects that inspire our students to take on new challenges, think outside the box and compliment their fantastic research with incomparable opportunities.