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Katie - career building during the PhD
Name: Katie
PhD discipline: History
Area(s) of work: HR; primary school teaching; full-time mother; freelance writer
Year of graduation: 1999
Date of Interview: 23/06/2008

Now Playing: Katie - career building during the PhD
Katie recalls the activities she undertook during the PhD, and explains her approach to managing her career.

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Did you do anything that you might consider 'career building' during your PhD?

Yeah er, I was very conscious of career building because I was told when I was an undergraduate and considering doing an MA and a PhD by the careers department, that er basically a PhD would make you unemployable if you didn't want to go into an academic career and I was strongly advised not to do it, and then with the pressure from family – 'what are you doing with your life? and you should be getting out there earning money now,' I did feel very conscious of needing to make myself employable during that time and I knew that I'd get some of that from doing teaching which is one of the reasons why I was quite eager to do it, but I also did voluntary work in schools, erm what else did I do? Keeping things like a career diary, every time I did give a paper, or lectured or anything that I felt was adding skills I would actually physically write them down, because I was conscious I had to have something produced by the end of those three years that would make me be able to sell myself to employers afterwards.

How did you get the voluntary work in the school?

The voluntary services in town, or was it in the library or something? They had like a folder of different voluntary things you could do and there was a secondary school one and then there was a National one where you could help primary school children read. You could go in two afternoons a week and do reading with them so I did two different schemes at the time which I think took up two afternoons and I think it was one morning so in effect one and a half days a week out of the PhD doing voluntary work in schools.

For what kind of time period?

Erm how long did I do that for? Probably a year and a half, I probably didn't do it right at the beginning of the PhD, certainly did it for the second and probably gave up half way through the final year.

Were you teaching at the same time?


How did you manage to juggle the research, the teaching and the voluntary work?

Because the only that was really er time specific was the voluntary work where you had to be somewhere at a certain time, and I suppose a bit of the teaching but of course the time consuming but it's the preparation for that and perhaps the marking and that can be done anytime so I was flexible about working at weekends, working in the evenings if that gave me the days off. But another reason I did that was I did find that during the MA, it was so isolating during research, that I had to do something to structure that week and to get out during the day, and even if it meant taking a whole day and a half out, and catching up doing the research work or something at night, writing or whatever it was, then that was a much better way of doing it and keeping sane.

How did you think that the voluntary work that you were doing, was going to contribute to your career ultimately.

Um, at that point I was still thinking about the teaching. I wasn't sure how it was going to manifest itself afterwards, but erm, so there was obviously some element of teaching experience in schools but also I was very aware that whilst I could demonstrate academic and intellectual abilities and organisational skills and all that kind of stuff from the PhD, the social skills, the relational skills that kind of thing, I wasn't getting any experience of unless I did something that involved people so the teaching side of things and the going into schools and dealing with children would hopefully demonstrate those kind of softer skills that wouldn't necessarily be demonstrated or developed. 

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