November 25, 2021, by Postgraduate Placements Nottingham

Your next opportunity might be next door

Emma shares her experience of a Researcher Academy placement.

~ Emma Putland

This blog will especially interest PhD students considering non-academic careers in Higher Education, as well as anyone who wants to know more about the peer mentoring scheme Adapt Together, which is for all researchers at the University of Nottingham.

When I say that your next opportunity might be just next door, I mean it literally – as an English PhD student, I’m based in the Trent building, which is right next door to Highfields House, the official address of the Researcher Academy, my placement host. Not that that really matters when your whole placement turns out to be online!

Seeking the unfamiliar within the familiar can, it turns out, really be a lot of fun. My knowledge of the Researcher Academy as PhD student is just the tip of a very big iceberg, beneath which is a whole host of amazing people, new experiences and opportunities. Through this placement, I was able to work on a project that I care deeply about: the Adapt Together programme, which exists because many of the challenges researchers face can be overcome through constructive sharing amongst peers. Adapt Together provides support for members to set up a group to help each other solve common issues, share best practice, and learn from each other’s experiences. If you’re interested, you can find out more here.

My placement responsibilities varied but the central motivation was always supporting researchers, and it was great to see the direct impact of my work on my PhD and ECR colleagues. For instance, with my team I developed a report that analysed Adapt Together member feedback to produce evidence-based recommendations for how to develop and improve the scheme. Much of this included scaling up Adapt’s reach, culminating in a business case to present to the Researcher Academy about why Adapt Together should be rolled out across the university. I’m happy to say that this was successful and you should hopefully now be hearing the name Adapt Together in quite a few places!

“this placement has … expanded my career horizons, given me something other than my thesis to think about, enabled me to take on activities that have been challenging and fulfilling”

Alongside this, I also had the opportunity to help organise a pilot seminar series for research staff, which, following the principles of Adapt Together, sought to platform different perspectives and strategies for dealing with some of the hurdles experienced when building a research career, in the hope of generating an honest, supportive and constructive space for speakers and attendees alike. A range of brilliant speakers explored new ways to think about your strengths (i.e. a strength being something that energises you rather than just what you’re ‘good’ at), the notion of ‘resilience’, thinking about your future (and how to help yourself reach your research vision), building supervisory experience and the pros and cons of becoming involved in the broader professional and research community. The feedback we received was great, so hopefully next year it will be even bigger and better!

Reflecting on where I began (way back in December 2020) compared to where I am now, I realise just how instrumental this placement has been to my personal and professional development. It’s expanded my career horizons, given me something other than my thesis to think about, enabled me to take on activities that have been challenging and fulfilling, and has given me an insight into the too often hidden world that keeps academia running! Of course, when you opt to do a placement part-time, sometimes deadlines clash between your placement and thesis, and your life becomes busier and slightly more stressful. But you also gain new skillsets, connections and confidence in your place in the world beyond your own niche research. For me, doing a placement has been one of the best decisions I’ve made during my PhD, and if you’re interested, I really recommend doing one. If you do, don’t let your preconceptions limit you – you never know where your opportunities lie. They might, for instance, be just around the corner…

Thank you to Victoria Sedman for being a fantastic placement line manager and to Sandra Rose for so brilliantly taking up the mantle! Thank you also to Midlands4Cities for funding this placement and last but by no means least, thank you to Camilla Babbage and Elvira Perez Vallejos for welcoming me with open arms into the incredible scheme that is Adapt Together, and for trusting me to help take it forward.

View our current placement opportunities >

Posted in Placements