November 1, 2018, by Postgraduate Placements Nottingham

Supporting my peers and gaining career experience at the same time

This week we hear from Hollie who recently completed a placement as a Graduate Centre Coordinator in the University of Nottingham Graduate School.

In summer 2017 I was nearing the end of the third year of my PhD and was starting to think about life after the thesis. Although I hoped to continue with my research after my PhD, I also wanted to gain some relevant work experience that would give me the skills and experience needed to apply for jobs outside of academia. I decided that a placement would be a really good way to do this, and to earn some money during the fourth and final, unfunded year of my PhD project. I started browsing the placement opportunities on the PPN but nothing jumped out at me. Then, at a careers event, I met the current Graduate Centre Coordinator for the Social Sciences and Arts at the time. We got talking and she told me about the placement she was doing with the Graduate School. It sounded really interesting and I decided to investigate further. One successful application letter and interview later, and I became the new Graduate Centre Coordinator! 

My role had two main areas. Firstly, it was my responsibility to take care of the Graduate Centre space upstairs in Highfield House. I made sure things were in good clean, working order so that the SSAGC would be a great place for students to come and study, network, and socialise.  Secondly, I helped to organise events, both professional and social, for postgraduate students. These events ranged from an end of exams pizza social for postgraduate students to an Alternative Careers panel for those thinking about a career pathway outside of academia. I’ve also helped to support wider Graduate School initiatives like the New Perspectives public engagement series.  

What I learnt: 

  • Engaging postgraduate students, especially PhD researchers, can be really difficult. Many students are justifiably focused on their project and it’s sometimes difficult to persuade them to get involved. When organising events I’ve kept this in mind and tried to make events fit in with busy schedules, while encouraging students to see how these opportunities might complement their studies. 
  • It’s been really interesting working from the other side of the Graduate School, learning what the University does to support its postgraduate students. Most courses are offered in direct response to student need so student feedback is really important in shaping what the Graduate School offers. 
  • No department is an island. When putting together initiatives or events I’ve needed to liaise with different individuals, teams, and departments within the University. This was a lot of fun, and I got to meet lots of new people too. 

What I loved most about the role was being able to support other postgraduate students. In particular, I was been able to create new events to better support taught postgraduate students, a group that are often missed out when it comes to general undergraduate and postgraduate events. I’ve also really enjoyed the social events, which have given me a really good opportunity to talk to the students who use the Graduate Centre.  

My placement was a fantastic opportunity to learn new skills outside of my PhD and gain really useful work experience in University administration and project management. When I applied for an administrative job at the University, I used examples from throughout my placement to support my application, and it was this experience that made me a strong and successful candidate. Thank you Postgraduate Placements Nottingham (PPN). 

If you’re a student interested in doing a postgraduate placement visit our webpage for more information, or check out current opportunities at the Placements Portal.

Posted in Placements