You could view your PhD as an apprenticeship into academia and it’s where you learn a particular skill set for your career ahead. But a lot of academia is developing a profile and showcasing that you are an expert in a particular field of knowledge. That can be daunting and many doctoral students put this off until they are close to completing their PhD and looking for work. But should we leave it this late? Should we not be developing our portfolio of academic experience from day 1 of our PhD? It’s common knowledge that the PhD journey is driven by the student and supported by the supervisor and I would say that the same approach could be taken in developing your academic profile. Below are some areas where PhD students can consider getting involved, developing their skills and building their CV so that as they come to the end of their PhD, they hopefully find work fairly easily.
- Applying for funding.
For traditional funding councils, there may be eligibility criteria that prevent a PhD student from applying, but there are various sources of funding out there to consider. Accrediting bodies, charities and funding councils often offer small pots of funding to deliver workshops and events focusing on a particular expertise or current trending topic. These organisations do not always have such restricting eligibility criteria as the main funding councils. This is an ideal opportunity for a PhD student to showcase their research, bring together various experts in their field into the one room and to start building a reputation in your field of knowledge.
Tenders are often offered by a range of organisations who are seeking a particular expertise to help provide a potential solution to a particular challenge. The focus is the skills and ability to deliver a solution rather than academic qualifications. This opens the door for students who are actively researching in particular subject areas to be able to have aspects of their research funded and published in a formal report style that an organisation may then take forward and implement as part of their strategy. Tenders are available in a vast range of subject areas and most universities will have a team who specialise in sourcing funding opportunities that their academics can apply for.
- Workshops and seminars
Universities are institutions delivering training and knowledge and there are always opportunities where you may be able to offer your expertise to other students at your university. If your PhD subject area or perhaps even the methodology you are using, is of particular interest to other students then there may be an opportunity for you to host a workshop or seminar event to share your knowledge and expertise with others.
It’s definitely worth approaching your university graduate school office and asking them if they would be keen to help you host a workshop or seminar in the areas of your PhD. If they are keen to do this then they will help with the advertising and promotion of the event amongst the student population and hopefully there will be a good turn out for your event. By gathering a number of people in a room with a similar area of interest, it’s the ideal opportunity to position yourself as the expert, build a network of people who have a similar interest whilst also gaining experience in designing and delivering a workshop that directly aligns to your PhD. This can look great on a CV.
- Collaboration opportunities
If your PhD supervisor is research-active, there is a good chance that they will be working on a variety of interesting projects that may align with your own research. It’s worth having a chat with them to keep you in mind for potential projects that you could get involved in. It could be that you are asked to co-write a paper, to undertake a literature review or to help with data analysis. If you and your supervisor’s areas of expertise do not directly align then it’s always worth asking him to introduce you to colleagues or contacts at other universities who have research areas that are more aligned to yours. Supervisors may not always approach with opportunities as they want you to focus on completing the PhD rather than distracting you with other tasks. So it really is up to you to take the initiative.
- Industry facing articles and publications
Publications are a large focus in academia and something that most PhD students will want to develop from their thesis. Some subject areas are commercially relevant and businesses, organisations and other commercial entities will be keen to gain insight into the latest knowledge. It’s always worth reaching out to accrediting bodies, industry-specific publications, charities and professional organisations and offer to write non-academic articles for their publications, websites etc. These opportunities provide an ideal opportunity to deliver your subject knowledge in a concise and digestible format allowing you to write for a different audience. Some of these professional organisations may also host annual conferences and events where, rather than writing articles for them, you could offer to be a keynote speaker.
- Social media
You probably already actively use social media but do you have profiles that are academically suitable? It’s always wise to consider setting up professional social media profiles, separate from your personal accounts. This allows you to keep business and personal separate. Your professional social media accounts should have suitable profile photos, as well as bios that really showcase your academic expertise and interests. Use these channels to connect with other like minded academics, businesses and organisations and build your profile in your subject area. Use the platforms to share your views, latest research and to ask questions and seek collaboration opportunities. You could always start discussions using particular hashtags to keep track of the discussion. Share your successes and build a professional community that will begin to take notice of your achievements in your academic career. It really is surprising, the number of opportunities that are identified using social media.
So there you have a number of ideas that you may want to consider when building your own reputation as an academic and these are all opportunities that you can consider prior to submitting your final thesis. It’s always useful to be mindful that your PhD should always take precedence over these additional activities and if you notice that you are neglecting your PhD to take part in these activities then perhaps you should refocus to ensure that the PhD remains front and centre.