C-DICE Careers Coaching for Early Career Researchers – Reflections of a Postdoc
Dr Thomas Fender participated in the Career Coaching for Postdoctoral Researchers – a six week long bespoke career coaching programme to lead researchers through the spectrum of career activities and enable them to make informed career choices and decisions. He has continued his association through a 3 month secondment funded by C-DICE to assist in maximising the impact of Tyselely Energy Park on local industries during the current cost-of-living crisis.
Thinking about the next steps as an early career academic can be as easy as 1-2-3 or seem more daunting than the viva preceding the award of a prestigious PhD. The C-DICE Career Coaching sessions were designed to help ECRs in all steps of their career journey with varied future destinations, be it lecturing, further research or industry.
Expertly led by Eve Uhlig, these training sessions offered great insight into the rigmarole of targeting jobs, understanding application processes and interviews, for those interested in an academic career pathway, or moving into pastures new, and we all gleaned something from every session.
We started with an exploration of self-knowledge and self-learning, where we discussed why we had chosen to take this course, where we were at in our careers and what we hoped to achieve. We then moved on to focus on personality profiles and career ambitions, taking a personality test and drawing a career path, often with surprising consequences. Then came sharing “job searching strategies”, which is of the utmost importance in the modern world where jobs are advertised in such a litany of ways.
Week three considered the nitty-gritty of CV writing, from which my main takeaway was the value of a master CV that can be tailored. On a personal note, this can reduce the number of CV versions I write annually (having reached V11 last year!). We discussed the importance of carefully reading a job description to understand exactly what or who they’re after. Marketing was explored via translating learning about product marketing into how you market yourself as a researcher. This was one of the most enjoyable activities during the course, as marketing ‘speak’ translates into all languages. Finally, we focussed on interview training, including peer-peer mock interviews and the helpful feedback really helped me to better understand my interview performance. This part of the course supported me in identifying strategies that colleagues used when answering interview questions, guided expertly by Eve’s STAR(R) technique.
The Career Coaching training was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, where I learned and fine-tuned my personal career pathway aspirations and, most importantly, how I can get there.
Dr Thomas Fender
Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham