There are so many opportunities available at York to help enhance your future career prospects. Taking part in some of these has been a really fun part of my time at York.
In my first year as a postgrad student, I started working on the York Award. This is a great way of recognising the transferable skills that you pick up from activities you do outside of your academic work. I wrote about playing sports, volunteering at a bird of prey rescue centre, and even knitting a blanket! However diverse, all of these activities helped me to illustrate particular skills. For example, showing teamwork in playing rugby, or perseverance with learning to knit.
Writing about these situations helped me to reflect on my personal development over the year. It was surprising to see how much I’d managed to fit in alongside my research. I was so pleased to achieve the York Award for postgraduates. As well as being a valuable addition to my CV and a kick start to my career, I identified lots of different situations that I could talk about in job interviews.
Supporting the start of my career
As I’m now coming towards the end of my PhD studies, I recently accessed the Careers Service for support with my CV in my application for a post-doc position. With living quite far away from York, being able to book a telephone appointment with the Careers Service was great. I sent my documents by email in advance. We then discussed changes that I could make to ensure that my application fitted the job specification. This discussion was really helpful and gave me ideas for improvements before sending my application. Unfortunately I was not successful on this occasion; but my sparkly new-and-improved CV is prepared for the next opportunity that comes along.
Three Minute Thesis competition
During my first couple of years as a postgraduate student at York, I entered the Three Minute Thesis competition. This is a national competition, with the first rounds being held at universities across the UK. The winner then goes on to compete in the next round against students from other universities.
The task is to explain your thesis to a non-expert audience, including members of the public. The twist is that you only have 3 minutes to talk. This was a big challenge. However; it was a really good way of clarifying my research ideas and there was lots of support provided by the Research Excellence Training Team (RETT). I think that the experience helped me to improve my presentation and communication skills – both key for future success at job interviews! I was lucky enough to win third prize in the competition, which was a big confidence booster.
York Learning and Teaching Award
Also supported by the RETT team, I took part in the York Learning and Teaching Award (YLTA). This is a structured programme for aspiring academics. It offers opportunities to improve your teaching practice in Higher Education through training sessions, observations, and the development of a portfolio. You also get the support of a mentor.
I really enjoyed taking part in the YLTA. I was able to network with other postgraduate students and build up supportive relationships. It can sometimes be quite lonely as a part-time PhD student, so this programme really helped me to feel part of a bigger group. Towards the end of the YLTA programme, we all presented our research on one aspect of teaching in Higher Education at a symposium. I presented about the link between research and teaching.
The training sessions and observation feedback were useful in helping me to make changes and improvements to my teaching practice. But I think the biggest benefit of taking part was that I felt much more confident. I was doing everything I could to teach well in Higher Education and now know how to express this to potential interviewers in future job interviews. The opportunities available have had a really positive impact on my career.
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