…and then jump off*!
Due to the wonderous power of internet my last two posts were delivered from the rather beautiful and uncharacteristically sunny Windermere where I’ve been on a course for the best part of last week. To set the scene that little bit more we were staying here
with a view like this
Once the course got underway I didn’t have a spare minute for my laptop as it was go, go, go with the work. The course was a ‘gradschool’ organised by Vitae. As a brief introduction, Vitae is a national organisation funded through the Research Careers and Diversity Unit of the UK Research Councils and is managed by CRAC (The Career development Organisation). That’s a lot of semi-non sensical words to the majority so to sum up they’re a nationally funded body aiming to help the ‘personal, professional and career development of doctoral researchers and research staff’.
Vitae have been organising GRADschools since 1968. Their UK GRADschools are short, residential courses designed to highlight and develop postgraduate researchers’ transferable skills, helping them both to finish their PhD and then go on to find work either within the academic sector or elsewhere. As Vitae are funded through the research councils the courses are free to research council funded students. For some universities and departments these courses are actually a prerequisite of finishing a postgraduate degree, for me it was an optional but interesting course. For all of us, we had no idea what it would really include until we started on Tuesday morning.
There was a strong emphasis on teamwork and communication, and we spent a lot of time carrying out activities under strict time pressures in teams of people we’d just met. Everything from interviews to consultancy to earning a fictional university millions of pounds of research money from strongly bargained and hotly contested enterprising and patent deals in a ‘commercial logic’ exercise. There was also some more unusual activities, during which I learnt some things I’ll try to integrate into my PhD work…although I hope the fact my team worked best whilst blindfolded was just a one-off as I can’t see it being very practical in the lab.
For me the take home message was all to do with targets. I’m already an avid list-writer and goal-setter but I usually set them low (as I don’t want to fail) or undefined (so I don’t feel bad when I don’t fully achieve them). But on the second day, on an outdoor activity course, I set myself the target of climbing to the top of a swaying telegraph pole* and then letting go (that’s against all natural instincts I can tell you) and despite being utterly petrified I did it! Surely a PhD is now just a walk in the park…
* attached to a secure harness, obviously.