November 9, 2020, by Matthew Lumley

How the Advantage Award can enhance your PhD and employability

By Hayfa Sharif, PhD Medicine 

During these difficult circumstances we have been going through with the pandemic, my research and life was put on hold. This is where I realised how the Nottingham Advantage Award can help change your life. 

Joining my third Award module – COVID-19 student volunteers – gave me a reason to keep working and made things feel ‘normal’ again. 

Previously, I had participated in two modules. The first one complemented my role as a Faculty representative – Education Network – Being an effective academic representative. I developed my interpersonal skills by interacting with other students and was part of the decision-making process concerning teaching and other related issues. 

My second module was Part time jobs, vacation jobs and volunteering where I volunteered at the Queen’s Medical Centre charity hub. I gained organisation skills through planning fundraising events and an understanding of how teamwork is an essential part of any organisation. 

I then decided to represent the postgraduate student community as an Advantage Award student representative. 

You may think that, as a PhD student, you do not have time to pursue any extracurricular activities or that it seems a waste of time. However, here is why I think you can achieve so much more. 

Reward yourself

Focusing on academic life is important but so is self-care.  

Sometimes we can become so deeply entangled with focusing on research and on other aspects of academia that we lose ourselves. We can often start to lose track of time.  

By enrolling on the Nottingham Advantage Award, you will have the opportunity to reward yourself and do something that will have a strong positive impact on your well-being.  

Participating in the Award modules will allow you to feel that the hard work you put in amounts to a huge pay back. They help you learn how to balance academic life and social life with selfcare. 

Help manage your time

Do you really have time for this? Yes!  

By enrolling on the scheme, you have already completed the first step towards improving your time management. Setting goals and tasks to complete for the day are a natural part of many Award modules.  

You will be doing something productive and be encouraged to set aside specific time to complete the module tasks. This mindset and the skills learnt can be transferred to your academic work. So instead of spending the entire day thinking about whether you should start your research, you can be organised and use your time wisely to ensure your academic tasks are completed. 

In addition, once you sign up for any of the Award modules you will be able to access – like I did – many crucial workshops. These will help lay the foundations for developing yourself, which will in turn benefit your research work. 

Nothing to lose so give it a go

The Nottingham Advantage Award provides various module options. You may realise that you have already been doing most of the requirements to undertake one of these modules. 

Now ask yourself these questions. 

  • Are you part of any Students’ Union society committees? 
  • Do you undertake any part-time work or volunteering? 
  • Are you doing any internships or placements? 
  • Do you want to gain and understand what skills you need to apply for your dream job? 

You may be starting to notice that you are already doing a lot that can be used towards the AwardIf you are afraid that you cannot commit now, then the modules run multiple times so you can enrol when you are ready. 

Be prepared

During your life and career, you never know what might come up. It might be a new responsibility or a challenge you need to overcome. So, you must be prepared.  

By putting yourself out of your comfort zone and participating in schemes like the Advantage Award on top of your academic schedule, you will gain useful skills and enhance your employability. 

Nowadays, the workplace is very competitive. Having a PhD is not necessarily enough to get your desired role – academic or non-academic. 

Therefore, always aim to gain extracurricular work experience to boost your skills and career prospects. That is why I think the Advantage Award is a great place to start. 

Enhance your PhD and employability

Use the module search tool to find the module that is right for you. 

Spring applications opened on 1 November so apply for modules now. 

Find out more at one of our information sessions. 

Contact and Follow us 

You can keep up-to-date on the Award via social media, so please like and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Want to speak to one of the Award team then please contact us at

Posted in News