Contemplating Life Beyond the SGSAH Cohort

As part of the SGSAH cohort, I have been lucky to attend a series of doctoral training events throughout the course of my PhD. These events have provided us with an awareness of some of the challenges awaiting us as PhD students, and equipped us with some of the skills we need get through. Last Friday was the final of four key events for my cohort, which have taken place in Edinburgh, Stirling and Millport, and then Edinburgh again. When I attended the first SGSAH event back in the winter of 2014, I was – to be honest – terrified. I was intimidated by all these ‘real’ PhD students, by the prospect of having to talk about my own brand new research project, and all the other first-day-of-school feelings that never seem to leave us. I wish I could have told 2014-Lucie that she would have enjoyed the majority of these events, and met so many brilliant people. The programme on Friday which hugely informative, and it was – as always – lovely to catch up with the rest of the cohort!

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Dee, Jude & various members of the 2014 SGSAH cohort, photo by Anna Scott

The day was made up of four main sessions, interspersed with coffee breaks and at one point – to great joy – Tunnocks Teacakes. In the morning we could choose between workshops on academic or non-academic careers, and as I chose to attend the ‘non-academic’ pathway that is the one I will focus on here. I was told, however, that Diljeet did an amazing job being the subject of an academic interview in front of everyone in the other room! In the session I attended we heard from two fairly recently qualified PhDs who had moved into other career paths. It was great to hear about how applicable PhD skills can be in other areas, and how you can play these strengths when applying for jobs or progressing further in your career. As part of the session we were pointed in the direction of a few incredibly helpful looking websites  – which I have listed below.

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Learning to prioritise in career planning

For the afternoon the group was reunited, and we were treated to some brilliant advice on applying for fellowships, a session that I found particularly enlightening, as I had not yet looked into the world of fellowships. It was fantastic to hear from Zubin Mistry (University of Edinburgh) who was recently awarded a prestigious Leverhulme fellowship and did a brilliant job of explaining the many pitfalls of fellowship applications. One particularly interesting point he raised was to consider who you are writing the application for, as it will be read both by experts in your field, and experts in other fields who are completely unfamiliar with your subject. Zubin’s top tip was to write in a way that would ‘get the non-specialists nodding their heads.’ Professor Nigel Leask (University of Glasgow) then shared his perspective from the other side, as it were, as a reviewer of British Academy Fellowships. 

For the  final session of the day we were joined by five different publishing specialists, between them representing a couple of different journals, Edinburgh University Press, Palgrave Macmillan and Manchester University Press. The discussion focused on turning your thesis into a monograph, and the steps to publishing journal articles. I recently published my first journal article, and I wish I had been able to attend this session beforehand as it would have made the process much easier! It was also great to have the precise differences between the thesis and the academic monograph explained, and the publishers were very generous in sharing their insights from the academic publishing industry. Matthew Frost from Manchester University Press also gave out some free books, which, as you can imagine in a room full of PhD students, went down very well.

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Zubin Mistry (left) and Maria Fusco (right)

In true SGSAH-style, the day ended with wine and a delicious dinner. As I think we all learned on our very first residential in Stirling, sometimes the most valuable networking you can do is with your peers. Joint fellowship applications were plotted, writing retreats discussed, and there was even talk of crashing each other’s graduation ceremonies. This was also a chance for us to say goodbye to Jude, outgoing Director of the Scottish Graduate School, who has been with us all since day one. Jude leaves for a new job in just over a month and will certainly be missed!

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I’ll be back next week for the monthly roundup for March, tweet or email me if you have anything you’d like me to include (see February’s post for an idea of what to share). 

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