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)

Pathways: The Programme is announced …

It’s almost upon us – our annual PhD career options event, Pathways 2014 takes place on Friday 6th June, in the Renold Building (register on C floor concourse).

It’s free, and open to all University of Manchester current PhDs and research staff.

The event gives you the chance to hear from people who’ve already got their PhDs, and in many cases have been post-docs, and find out what happened next.

Late addition: Antonieta Podesta Mevius, a recruiter from the World Bank, is coming to Pathways, and wants to talk to PhDs about their Young Professionals Programme.
Meet her on the concourse or at our employer panel in the afternoon.

renoldpathwaysconcourseWhy attend?

Panellists include academics, people who use their research background outside academia and people who are now doing something slightly – or completely – different.

They’ve all got real life stories to tell about what worked, why they chose their path or what they would do differently if they could go back in time.

Most importantly, they can give you an insight into how PhDs like you negotiate the tricky transition from research student to whatever comes next.

What happens when?

The event runs from 9-4pm but you can attend for as much (or as little) of it as you want. If you haven’t yet registered, please register here (so we know how many lunches to cater for!)

The 9am plenary sets the scene and then you’ve got some time to read the profiles and figure out which sessions to go to, as they start at 10am sharp.

The programme is always fluid until the last minute, as we continue to add panellists and shuffle things around, but it looks like we’re sorted now so here’s the panel timetable to download (pdf)

What will the sessions cover?

We’ve learnt that our PhDs get most out of sessions which address a theme, rather than details about a specific job, so there should be something for everyone, whether or not your preferred job or specific research discipline is represented:

Academic roles for…..
Our panels comprise those who’ve pursued their careers within an academic context including those who have research roles and teaching positions, at all stages of progression.
Sessions for each faculty

Broadening your horizons – working overseas
Panellists will talk about their experiences of pursuing careers in different countries, working cultures/environments and the advantages and disadvantages in comparison with working in the UK.
Relevant to all disciplines

Commercialising research, entrepreneurship or starting a business
If you already have a business idea or simply an entrepreneurial spirit and want to find out more, this panel will discuss the processes and advantages of turning your research into something profitable.
Relevant to Engineering & Physical Sciences; Medical & Human Sciences

I’ve been a postdoc – here’s my story
Our panel will talk about their experiences of working in Postdoctoral roles – the highs and the lows.
Relevant to all disciplines

I’ve done things that aren’t related to my PhD – so can you
Whether they planned to or simply have found themselves taking a ‘scenic’ career path, our panellists will talk about the positions they have held which are not related to their specific discipline of study.  A session for anyone who wants to change direction or simply wishes to find out what’s possible with any PhD.
Relevant to all disciplines

It’s OK to change your mind
Very few people have a job for life these days. Moving between organisations, roles and sectors is increasingly common. It is possible to change your mind no matter where you are on your career journey. If you’re feeling trapped, confused about where to go next or just want to see what’s possible, come and listen to the positive stories our panel has to share about trying new things.
Relevant to all disciplines

Managing a Portfolio Career
Portfolio Careers are becoming increasingly popular –  where a normal working week comprises balancing a variety of part-time roles, sometimes related and sometimes completely different. Our panel will discuss how to forge a Portfolio Career which could enable you to pursue a variety of passions, use a range of skills and gain expertise in multiple areas.  They will also consider how they manage their time and how they switch between roles.
Relevant to all disciplines

Should I stay or should I go? Options for international students who wish to work in the UK after their studies
Our panellists have all chosen to remain in the UK since finishing their PhDs. They will talk about the challenges, the opportunities and compare what working in the UK is really like.
Relevant to all disciplines

What are the opportunities to use my expertise to work as a Consultant?
With enhanced skills and knowledge in a specific field, there will be many opportunities available to you to work as a Consultant in the future.  Our panel will discuss the various Consultancy-related roles they have undertaken.
Relevant to all disciplines

What can I do with a PhD in Humanities/Engineering & Physical, Human, Life or Medical Sciences? More things you can do with a PhD in Engineering & Physical Sciences
We’ve brought together panellists who are connected by discipline area (EPS/Humanities/MHS/LS) but who’ve followed a range of different career pathways to give you just a flavour of the options available to you.

What do recruiters and employers look for in PhD applicants?
From CVs and applications through to job interviews, what are recruiters looking for when they are assessing PhD candidates?  We have invited panellists with lots of collective experience of hiring PhDs who can give honest insights and share their tips and advice on how you can stand out from other applicants.
Relevant to all disciplines

Which is better – industry or academia?
Our panels will compare and contrast their experiences of working inside and outside Universitie. Which have they enjoyed more? What are the benefits that each can offer? How have they moved between the two areas?  Relevant to all disciplines

You don’t have to be an academic to work in a university
Enjoy being part of a University environment but not sure you want to pursue an academic, research or teaching career?  Have you ever thought about the wide range of non-academic jobs within universities?  Come along and find out more.
Relevant to all disciplines

You don’t just have to work in academia to be a researcher
What are the opportunities to continue a research career outside Universities?  How do these roles differ? Where do you find them and how do you get them?
Relevant to all disciplines

Marketing your skills and your PhD
Our final panel event – showing you how to go out and get all those roles which have grabbed your attention throughout the day.
Relevant to all disciplines

Environment, International Development or Media – Events coming up

This semester, our events are targeted at those really “tough to get into” careers – environmental work, international development and broadcasting and journalism.

These careers are so popular that, unfortunately, employers have no need to turn up to careers fairs, trying to tempt you to apply to them – so you won’t see them at our normal recruitment events. They can afford to sit back and wait for you to come to them.

That means you’ve got to be resourceful, to:Journalism event

  • search out the opportunities yourself
  • make sure you’ve got up-to-date information about careers in these areas
  • get great volunteer experience to make you stand out amongst all those other postgrads and undergrads who are desperate to get into these careers.

Luckily, we make it just that bit easier for you by inviting our contacts, alumni, friends, whoever we can get frankly, to give up their time to talk to you about how they made the journey to a full-time career in these sought after sectors.

They won’t be offering jobs, but they will be offering their own personal insights and tips on what they had to do to make it.

Getting into International Development
Wednesday 12th March, 1-5pm, Lecture Theatre B, Roscoe Building – includes talks from international development professionals from Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), Mines Advisory Group (MAG), the British Red Cross, Retrak, CAFOD, Merlin, the British Council and The Gold Foundation, plus the chance for some networking to find out how you can make it in this career.

Careers in the Environmental Sector
Wednesday 19th March, 1-5pm, Lecture Theatre B, Roscoe Building – includes presentations, panels and networking with professionals working in both technical and non-technical disciplines

Insight into Broadcasting and Journalism
Monday, 7th April, 9-5pm, University of Manchester – as well as getting to talk to media professionals (we’ve had all the stars, y’know – even the god-like being that is Gordon Burns, no less), this is a day when you also get the chance to put your skills into practice with some practical news reporting.

Register now through the links above to ensure you get your place.

If you have any interest in these areas, don’t miss out on the chance to attend these events – this is your one chance in the year to get up close and personal with people who’ve made it in your ideal career.

Mentors available for postgraduates

mentoring-altblogpicThere’s just over 24 hours until the application deadline for our careers mentoring programme, Manchester Gold. You’ve got until 5pm tomorrow, Wednesday 26 February to get your application in!

The programme is open to postgraduates as well as undergraduate students so you can apply to be matched with a mentor who is working in your chosen industry or even your dream job. It’s your chance to speak to someone who is currently working in your chosen area and to find out from them how you can succeed.

We have a specialist strand for spring which is especially for doctoral researchers. There are a number of mentors on this strand who are looking to work with doctoral researchers and you can find a list of the mentors on the strand on our website – in the ‘how to apply’ section.

You’ll also find information about how to apply on our website. It’s quite a quick process via your CareersLink account. There’s only one question to answer so if you’re interested, why not have a look and apply today?

UN Virtual Careers Fair

Following on from the info on EU internships, we’ve just been told about a UN Virtual Careers Fair. I don’t normally just reproduce info sent to us, but this one’s too good to miss:


The second Virtual Careers Fair will be held on 10 December 2013. The following international organizations will participate: The United Nations Secretariat (UN), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPs) and the European Personnel Selection Office (EU Careers).

For 24 hours, you will be able to pose questions to knowledgeable staff in these organizations about different careers opportunities. You will also be able to watch videos describing the participating organizations as well as the application process, competitive examinations and competency-based interviews.

To participate no registration is necessary. Please log on to on 10 December (ICT)/(CET)/(EST).

Please note that no CVs or applications will be accepted as the Fair is for information purposes.

If you want to know when that is, try this link to a time converter (handy website if you have to communicate across time zones).

The link they give is only for the fair, so if you want to know more about careers with the UN, have a look at their very informative website, UN Careers, including info on the Young Professionals Programme, Internship Programme and Volunteer Programme, which are likely to be the ones to check out for any of you without extensive experience.


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