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Robert - career building during the PhD
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Name: Robert
PhD discipline: History
Area(s) of work: Academic research support administration
Year of graduation: 2003
Date of Interview: 17/06/2008

Now Playing: Robert - career building during the PhD
Robert recalls writing for the student newspaper, and applying for jobs in publishing, academia and research support roles while finishing his PhD.

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Did you at any point in the PhD start actively pursuing what you might call 'career building' activities?

Not directly no. Not really. I think there were things that I did with one eye to how they might look on my CV. But I didn't – and those were things like doing bits of writing, bits of journalism for student papers which I'd always done when I was an undergraduate but I kind of got back into it during my PhD. And things like that. I'm not sure they were necessarily career development per se. I did go to the UK Grad five day workshop when I was in my third year which I actually found fairly useful. But there was some stuff in it that I was very surprised any kind of sort of reasonably clued up person wouldn't have thought of for themselves. But equally there was stuff in it about CVs and interviews and stuff that I think probably did give me stuff to think about. But that was as near as I got I think to actual proper career development stuff when I was doing it.

At what point during the PhD did you start seriously thinking about what you were going to be doing afterwards?

I would say it was probably during the fourth year. Yeah I don't think I applied for anything any earlier than that simply because I knew I wasn't going to get it finished any earlier than that. I applied for academic posts and non-academic posts pretty much in tandem. I didn't – I think a lot of people were sort of put a lot of effort into applying for academic jobs and then if that doesn't work out go onto something else which wasn't really what I did. I was applying for academic jobs but also kind of publishing jobs and things like that at the time, and all kinds of things. Things like working for a rare books dealer and things like museum work, library work, publishing work. I was applying for quite a lot of stuff in my fourth year and then sort of after finishing when I was temping for a little while as well. I was churning out applications at quite a rate and in quite an unfocused way I suppose.

And what would you say influenced the kind of jobs that you were applying for?

I suppose it was things like I thought, looked interesting in the Guardian. I think it wasn't really – it was very unsystematic really it was things like I felt I could convincingly put an application in for and that I thought looked interesting, that had some relation to my PhD work as well. I think I probably had a fairly limited idea in the latter stages of my PhD about the kinds of things that a PhD might have prepared me for. I probably also, given what I'm doing at the moment you know in the university support role, didn't really think that that was the sort of thing people with PhDs did, it was a little while before I realised that there were options within universities other than lecturing that people with PhDs might want to do.

When did that become apparent?

That was really when I was temping and that might be something I'll return to later in this but I temped for a while at an art college which was part of a larger institution and got involved quite heavily, much more heavily than might have been sensible, from the institution's point of view for a temp, but got quite heavily involved with some of the research support stuff there and found it quite interesting and saw that there were people of similar kinds of backgrounds to me doing those kinds of jobs which – I didn't know that there were research support offices really did as much stuff as they did earlier on and it was really through meeting people while temping. I think that was the first thing really that made me think of that.

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