Social Justice Festival – Postgrads welcome!

JustFest: Thursday 23rd April

Workshops: 10:00 – 12:00
Festival events: 12:00-18:00 outside University Place

JustfestThe University of Manchester’s first Social Justice Festival kicks off this Thursday. This is a brand new event aiming to promote a just society by challenging injustice, valuing diversity, and supporting human rights and a fair allocation of resources – and postgrads are very welcome to attend.

24 workshops in the morning explore a range of different issues relating to social justice, for example:

  • Social Justice, Creativity and Participation – Contact Theatre, Working with Communities
  • Just Banking: can banking be good?
  • Direct Action in HIV/Aids Activism
  • Is Humanitarianism Aid a Human Right? The Case of Darfur
  • Race, Education and Social Justice
  • WeFarm: The internet for people with no internet

You can find out all about the workshops here:

From 12 onwards, there’s more of a festival feel outside University Place, with a Main Stage hosting performances including Rodney P, Fallacy, Dizraeli, Jon McClure (Reverend and the Makers) and a panel session featuring Akala (of The Hip Hop Shakespeare Company). There will also be more intimate and interactive sessions and a whole host of food stalls. You can simply turn up from midday onwards.

JustFest is your chance to engage with issues of social justice, to take part in something out of the ordinary, and to make the most of your time as a postgrad at Manchester.

The Art/Science* of Academic Networking

*(delete as appropriate)

Which of the following best describes you at a conference?

__ Life of the conference – always leave having given out a stack of cards and collecting invites to give seminars
__ Making sure whatever session I’m in is the trending topic on Twitter
__ Browsing posters on coffee breaks and chatting with one or two people about the weather.
__ Most likely to be found lurking in dark corners/behind the poster presentations with people from your lab/office
__ Spend most of the time drifting in the spaces between groups of tightly knit people who all know each other wondering how to join the conversation
__ What is the point of talking to anyone? It’s not as if they’re going to give you a job.

Have you got some ideas for making the most of conferences?

Have you got some ideas for making the most of conferences?

Think about your response and consider: Are you making the most of conferences? Do you appreciate the relevance of networking to a successful career in (or out) of academia? What could you be doing differently to feel more comfortable, more confident and more productive?

Conferences (as well as other events – and even your departmental kitchen or common room) are brilliant opportunities to meet people, acquire information, get advice, explore ideas, raise your profile and generate research opportunities.

Here’s some useful advice to help you make the most of networking opportunities (aka – making friends):

Networking resources for researchers by Vitae


Once upon a time… role models, stories and finding your own career Pathways

Once upon a time, I wanted to be a vet.  I was four years old, I liked animals and when we took my cat to the vet, I saw people who got to work with animals every day.  So determined did I seem,  that my mother even bought me a book about becoming a vet, Ms. Veterinarian by Mary Price Lee (the title might seem strange now, but back in 1976 it was rare for women to pursue veterinary careers; now nearly 60% of veterinary professionals are women).  Events took an unfortunate turn for my cat and I discovered the less pleasant aspects of a vet’s job – so I just as determinedly decided that this was definitely not the career for me.

How was I making my career decisions between the ages of 4 and 8? I had information based on my preferences (liking animals, and liking them alive), a role model (our family vet), and a book about careers as a vet.  Seems reasonable, but it’s safe to say, I wasn’t really thinking about things much, just operating on impressions.  I would like to say that this changed early in my career development but then this wouldn’t be much of a career story.

My high school didn’t offer careers guidance.  In those pre-internet days, I used the most ubiquitous and easily accessible form of information available, film and television. It may seem silly now, but thirty years later, children are still using television as a source of career information.  So – film buffs, it was 1981 – what film inspired me to be an archaeologist, and most significantly, at the age of 9, decide to get a PhD?  Other than a bit of dirt under the fingernails archaeology seemed free of occupational unpleasantness (current archaeologists may disagree) and I pursued this path until 2003 but it still didn’t feel like the ‘right’ choice.

Role models, as Robert Merton (he coined the phrase) demonstrated, are an important source of information about careers and professional identities- arguably the most important because often we are not even aware of their influence on our decisions.  Role models show us and tell us what it’s like to work as a veterinarian, an archaeologist, a teacher, a careers consultant, a policy officer, an entrepreneur, an aid worker, a cartographer.  Their career stories are valuable sources of information, advice, inspiration, ideas for experimentation, testing and exploring – but only if we don’t take the stories at face value and learn to ask our role models the right questions (although I admit, asking Harrison Ford what being an archaeologist was really like probably wouldn’t have got me much further ahead).

The poet John Oldham said, "And all your future lies under your hat." How can you make sure it's the right hat?

The poet John Oldham said, “And all your future lies under your hat.” How can you make sure it’s the right hat?

It wasn’t until I started working in careers as a researcher that I learned the critical questions to ask, of role models and their career stories as well as reflective questions to ask of myselfThis is how you make the most of what role models have to offer, and how you incorporate their information into an personalised, informed decision-making process.  Finally learning to do this helped me find my ideal career and set me on the pathway to becoming a careers consultant.

At Pathways 2015, you will have the opportunity to encounter the career stories of a diverse range of professionals with PhDs (i.e., role models). This is an opportunity to get beyond vague impressions of jobs and career paths:

  • What will you learn from hearing panellists’ stories?
  • What questions will you ask them?
  • What will you be listening for?
  • What friends can you make on the day?
  • What stories do they have that you can learn from?
  • What can you teach them from sharing your own stories?
  • In what ways do you hope Pathways 2015 can help you take the next step in your career?

Image: Brown felt fedora by Ivy Dawned is licensed under CC BY 4.0

Read this if you are looking for an amazing part-time job opportunity

NB: Before applying you are expected to have experienced the Applications Advice service as a client and/or observed a session – your experience will form part of the interview.  Contact

What’s the job?

The University of Manchester Careers Service is looking to recruit a number of Applications Advisers for Academic Year 2015-16, working as part of a busy careers team to provide 1-1 advice to students and graduates on their job application techniques.

After training, you will provide applications advice to students and graduates during one-to-one appointments.  This includes content and format of their CV, cover letters, application forms, LinkedIn and personal statements for further study.

Will there be training?giving feeback

Yes (and paid!) – see the full job advert for more details.

What are the hours?

Hours will vary according to levels of demand from students. Applications Advisers work half days: 9.15-12.45 & 1-4.30 or full days 9.15-4.30 (with half hour lunch break).  The ability to work flexibly is essential. This role is part-time, initially for the first semester with the possibility of extending into the second semester.

What does the job pay?

The rate of pay will be £9.11 per hour.

Who are you looking for?

The post would be particularly appropriate for a postgraduate student or someone who is similarly familiar with the undergraduate career search experience. This position is likely to appeal to someone with an interest in developing a career in human resources, recruitment or advice and guidance. Prior recruitment experience would be an advantage.

Essential Knowledge, Skills and Experience:

  • The ability to manage your time and  client expectations
  • A clear understanding of, and the ability to identify with, the undergraduate job search experience
  • A strong commitment to excellent customer service
  • High standard of written and spoken communication skills; including listening skills, the ability to relate to the student and show understanding, persuasion and good written presentation
  • The ability to deal effectively with people, requiring tact, courtesy, empathy and patience
  • An excellent command of the English language

How do find I out more and apply?

Applications Advisers Vacancy Advert 2015 (PDF)

For further details/informal enquiries contact:  Sarah Mallen or Dominic Laing on 0161 275 2828

Are you putting off dealing with procrastination?

I’d meant to write this post days ago but now the week is almost over and I am wondering, ‘Where did all that time go?’

Procrastination. A big word for what is simply putting off until tomorrow what can – or should – be done today.  In fact, the literal translation of the classical Latin root procrastinus is  ‘that which belongs to tomorrow’.

While the concept is simple – delaying or even not doing something – the reasons for procrastinating are manifold, complex and personal.  Perhaps not a cheerful topic with to approach the weekend (and the coming Easter holidays) – but inspirational in an unusual sort of way, I hope:  If you already know that you have a tendency to procrastinate or you recognise that you are developing procrastinating behaviours, you can use the holidays to explore and implement effective time-management and coping strategies – before your to do list scrolls off your desk on to the floor and down the corridor.

sleeping cat

“Putting off an easy thing makes it hard. Putting off a hard thing makes it impossible.” George Claude Lorimer

Maybe you find you only procrastinate about certain things – managing your career, for instance.  What are your reasons and strategies for avoiding engaging with  your career?  My colleague David Winter explored career management procrastination and surmised that a lack of self-efficacy – “I can’t do it.” – was one important factor explaining students’ tendencies to put off career planning.  As postgraduate students, you can do it. The same skills that make you successful learners and researchers (whether it be of masters dissertations or PhD theses) are those will make you successful career planners:

      • Research
      • Exploring and stretching yourself
      • Communicating and influencing
      • Broadening and building your connections
      • Enthusiasm, drive and persistence

How can your Careers Service help you stop not-thinking-about-your-career?

      • We can reassure you – you are not the only student who doesn’t know what they want to do,or who feels confused, or who knows what they want to do – but would like the chance to discuss your ideas with someone impartial
      • You don’t have to sort it out all at once – managing your career is a process. We have staff and resources who support you all they way (and up to 2 years after you graduate)
      • Talk to an experienced information professional any time without appointment to get information, advice or a referral on any careers related topic
      • We can help with CVs, applications and interviews
      • One to one appointments to discuss your career ideas and plans with a careers consultant


Some of these stories of ‘epic’ procrastination will hopefully make you laugh, as well as reassure you that you are not alone (also see the opening sentence of this blog post). If you have concerns about procrastination, there is help available for you on campus, for example:

1. You can start with these elearning modules Understanding the procrastination cycle and Strategies for dealing with procrastination.

2. If you are a PhD student, your faculty may offer time management workshops.

3. The Counselling Services runs a range of courses for all students at the University.

1 easy (but very useful) thing you could do today to prepare for life after graduation

Reflecting from scratch can be a daunting task. Just you and blank sheet of paper. Where do you start? With work? University? Extra-curricular activities? What’s important? What’s not? What’s useful for sorting out your career? Or valuable to tell potential employers? How much detail is enough? How do you take action on your reflections to recognise your strengths, make improvements, make decisions about your future?

Grossman (2009) sheds some light on the process of reflection, the characteristics of ineffective reflection and discusses some of the ways we can become more skilled and effective reflectors. One of these ways us through the process of scaffolding (if you are a GTA, you may well have come across this concept). Scaffolding is an important strategy we use to help learners develop from novices to experts in skills, knowledge and understanding in your subject area – we use techniques and activities to bridge gaps in knowledge and ability.  There are career management tools which can scaffold career development and help us become experts in ourselves. Using these tools can help us make the most effective use of a blank sheet of paper by giving us some parameters for our thinking and a bit of guidance.

snowy mountains in wintry weather

Self-reflection without support can be a bit like wandering in a wilderness without a map. Photo: Cairngorm plateau in winter. D Gillie

We should be experts on ourselves already, shouldn’t we? After all, who knows us better? Grossman found that students asked to reflect on their development most often wrote inferences without providing any supporting evidence or insight into the intellectual and practical processes that enabled the student to do or understand something. From the point of view of careers consultants, something similar often happens when we begin to explore career possibilities with students by asking opening questions such as ‘What are you good at?’, ‘What do you enjoy?. Students may not be sure what they are good at or what they enjoy. If they can state what they enjoy or what they are good at, some may struggle to provide the evidence to uphold those statements.

We can make reflection more productive and accurate by providing structure – scaffolding – in the form of some very simple to use tools that are available on the Careers Service website:

  1. Assess your personality styles and preferred working styles using The Type Dynamics Indicator.
  2. The Career Interests Inventory provides ideas and suggestions of preferred careers based on the pattern of interests (your personality or identity) suggested by your answers.

These are not predictive tools – their value does not lie in telling you what your career will be. Their value lies in providing an opportunity to think in a focused and constructive way about who you are and what you might like your future to be like – and then take the steps to get there.

You could also complete one of these assessments as preparation for meeting with a careers consultant – the results may give you specific topics you would like to focus on.


Grossman,R . (2009) Structures for facilitating student learning. College Teaching, 57(1), 15-22.

Although this paper is written from the point of view of faculty member who is training teachers, the insight into the reflective process is valuable and, significantly, accessible to a non-expert in pedagogy or cognitive psychology.

Morin, A. (2004) A neurocognitive and sociological model of self-awareness. Genetic, Social & General Psychology Monographs,130(3), 97-224.

A more technical paper, but Dr Morin’s work on the nuts and bolts of reflection and self-awareness is insightful and thought provoking. Figure 1. in the paper,  a diagrammatic representation of Morin’s model of self-awareness,  is particularly interesting. How often do we recognise that some of our self-awareness arises as a result of books we read, programmes or films we watch, seeing ourselves in mirrors or through interacting with people?

In the saddle and raring to go…

Thanks to Elizabeth for a great introduction to the blog. It’s an honour to be taking over the reins of the Postgraduate Graduate Careers blog from such enthusiastic, experienced and skilful hands.

hands holding reins on horse

This work, “Hands on Reins”, is a derivative of “Creative Commons Reins” by Darcy Moore, used under CC BY. “Hands on Reins” is licensed under CC BY by DFGillie.

New jobs are fun and exciting – and a little bit daunting:  How does one find one’s way around the Stopford Building?, Ah, ‘the baked bean tin’ and University Place are one and the same…, and the Renold Building is farther away from my office than Google maps thinks – most of all when you are doing something you believe in and enjoy. I became a careers consultant because it allowed me to combine all my favourite parts of different jobs into one occupation: working in a university, supporting the personal and professional development of students and colleagues, teaching, research, being enterprising and creative. And, like most jobs that involve ‘work with people’ (more on that thought in an upcoming post), no two days are ever the same. If you’re curious to find out more about my career journey from PhD to careers consultant, feel free to have a look at my LinkedIn profile. What will I be doing for and with you in my new job?

  • facilitating career management workshops for PGRs across the institution
  • one-to-one guidance and interview simulations
  • working with the Postgraduate Careers Manager, Elizabeth Wilkinson, researcher development colleagues and other staff across the university to provide careers and employability support for postgraduates
  • blogging and tweeting news and information relevant to postgraduates
  • updating our web-based resource for postgraduates
  • developing new online careers support for postgraduate
  • researching and disseminating information about the postgraduate labour market, career development and employment opportunities,
  • and, watch this space…

Postgraduate careers consultants do indeed like a challenge, so see what you can rustle up and I’ll be waiting to meet you.

Postgrad Blog – Rebooted

microphoneOne TWO, one TWO …  is this thing on?

It’s been a long silence, but we’re back, with a great new act about to make her debut on the “Introducing Stage”.

Job changes have sadly left me no time to nurture my beloved postgrad blog, but at last we’ve recruited a fantastic new postgraduate careers consultant, Dr Darcey Gillie, to take over the reins.

She’s as much a fan of using social media and new technologies to talk to postgrads as I am, so she’ll be the one informing and inspiring you about all the amazing futures you could create after your postgraduate programmes (though I reserve the right to dip in & have my say now and again).

Darcey’s an experienced careers consultant, having worked or studied in universities in England, Scotland and the USA, so talk to her, tell her what you want to hear about, & ask her lots of difficult questions (postgrad careers consultants love a challenge)


Pathways: What we learnt

pathways14LTI love Pathways, our annual PhD careers options mega-event – and it turns out I’m not the only one. Here’s a great guest post from Chris Manley, Senior Careers Consultant at Warwick University who visited Pathways this year, gratefully reproduced from The Careers Blog at Warwick.

Life after the PhD – by Chris Manley

The annual ‘PhD Pathways’ event at Manchester University attracts 500 delegates and dozens of speakers, all former PhDs. It covers both academic and non-academic careers across twenty different workshops.  I have recently taken up the reins of PGR lead within our careers team [at Warwick University], and decided to pop along to this year’s event to find out about life beyond the PhD…

There was far too much (engaging!) content to cover in a single blog post, and I don’t think I could possibly do justice to the scale of the event. Instead, I’ve summarised my experience – and thoughts – in the following Q&A:

What distinguishes those who find it easier to find work which satisfies them at the end of their studies?


  • Explore and are curious
  • Connect – with each other, and with potential employers
  • Communicate
  • Reflect
  • Bounce back if things go wrong

What they don’t do is sit back and wait for success to happen.

Aside from their technical skills, do PhDs have skills which they don’t show?

Yes! Resilience (see above). Commitment. Writing to a high standard. Self-starters. Problem solvers. People who are willing to take responsibility. Flexibility and ability to think laterally. PhD students are more than the subject they are studying.

When PhD students go for roles outside academia, what are the potential tripwires?

  • (Perceived) Lack of business acumen
  • (Perceived) Lack of teamwork skills.
  • Failure to appreciate the need to prove yourself before you move on and up.

All is far from lost, however. If you have previous business experience which you can articulate (and re-frame if necessary) then you won’t fall foul of the “commercial or business awareness” requirement. Similarly PhD applicants who can anticipate concerns around team working and collaboration will find evidence to counteract this assumption. Don’t limit your horizons by thinking about your experience in narrow terms. Sometimes, it’s just a case of semantics. Yes, the two worlds may be divided by language, but there’s considerable overlap when it comes to skills and competencies – you just have to divorce yourself from an entrenched mindset.

There are a myriad examples of former PhDs whose rewards came not so much from the initial position they gained directly post-doctorate, but because they utilised their skills and capabilities within the professional workplace to good effect, persuading employers to give them additional projects, promotions and other opportunities for career development. As a PhD graduate you may have to start at a fairly modest level in the non-academic environment (or certainly more modest than you might hope after three years’ hard slog) but once ensconced in the workplace, progression and promotion can happen at a rapid rate.


Does the corporate world have a forced positivity which doesn’t exist in academia?

Answer: Yes! In a sense. Managers are not paid to not know, whereas not knowing is the starting point for a PhD and academic research. Shareholders want as close to certainty as possible, not the opposite! But seeing how your skills (and knowledge) can make a clear and demonstrable contribution to the success and profitability of an organisation may make the corporate world an attractive option. And for those seeking a stimulating environment, there’s the chance to use your intellectual agility and resourcefulness to solve new problems and learn new skills. (Although it wasn’t mentioned specifically, the fact that there are far more PhD students than academic positions was an additional reason to be reassured by the many contributors who absolutely loved the roles they found themselves in)

How do I best market my skills?

Story-telling, including telling stories about (and to make sense of) ourselves, is something we all do – so marketing yourself should be about telling your story in a powerful and compelling manner. Tell your story in a way which is interesting to your intended audience, and in a way which reflects the person you want to be. Marketing is about authentic communication, not contrived superficiality.  ‘Making connections’ and ‘Sharing Stories’ are in fact close – arguably more satisfying – synonyms to marketing. As with any story, it’s important to find a clear narrative arc and use this to hook and engage your audience.

So – a question for you – what story are you going to tell?

World Bank – Young Professionals Programme talk

worldbankIn case you missed the reference in the Pathways post, we’re delighted to have Antonieta Podesta Mevius coming to the University this Friday, 6th June, to talk about recruitment into the World Bank Young Professionals Programme.

The talk and this programme are aimed at PhDs, and at Masters with at least 3 years relevant experience.

Here’s what Antonieta has to say:

We would like to invite you to a presentation on the World Bank Group activities followed by an overview of the Young Professionals Program and other employment opportunities.

The Young Professionals Program is a premier global recruitment program and is a unique opportunity for young people who have both a passion and talent  for international development.

The Program is designed for highly qualified and motivated individuals skilled in areas relevant to the World Bank’s Operations such as:  economics, finance, education, public health, social sciences, engineering, urban planning, and natural resource management.

The Bank offers a number of unique programs that provide learning, staffing and capacity building opportunities for junior and mid-career professionals to experience first-hand what working at the World Bank is like. Learn more about the many opportunities offered at the World Bank at this event.

When and where

Her presentation will take place at 11am in Renold Building, Lecture Theatre C9 (no registration required).

She will also be taking part in Pathways (for UoM PhDs, registration required) and will be available during the morning for informal discussions between 9.30-11 and over lunch from 12-2 – though as she’s getting off a plane at 8am, she will need some breaks! If you want to speak to her directly about the YPP programme, please be flexible about timing.

Important Advice

worldbankeventIf you want to talk to Antonieta directly, do make sure you have read the information on the website about the YPP and the World Bank thoroughly.

It really doesn’t impress recruiters if you show you haven’t bothered to read the stuff they’ve already written for you! Plus, it wastes good time when you could be getting real inside info to help your applications.

(This applies to talking to any recruiter at a recruitment event or fair)


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