Posted in Professional development and Identity, Recap, The job search

Recap: #ECRchat on Changing Track, 1 August 2013

August 1st’s chat was hosted by @ImperialPDC (Imperial College London’s Postdoc Development Centre), represented by Postdoc Adviser (and former humanities researcher) Rachel Walls.  Rachel advises mainly science postdocs on professional development issues such as finding a fellowship or moving out of academia.  Previously she was careers adviser for researchers at the University of Oxford.  She completed her PhD at the University of Nottingham in 2011.

The #ECRchat on August 1st was about changing track in your research. This was a chance for ECRchatters to hear about each other’s reasons for changing direction or considering a change, and to share tips for how to make transitions easier.  We had participants from across Europe (Norway, the Netherlands, UK), Australia, and even North America as @JacqInTheBooks got up in the early hours to join us.

The following questions were posed:

Q1. Have you changed direction since your PhD or are you considering it?

Q2. What are/were your reasons for changing track?

Q3. What are the advantages/disadvantages of changing track?

Q4. What did you do to make the transition successful/easier?

Q5. For those who changed, what would you do differently?

Q6. What research areas would you change to if you had no constraints (fun blue sky question to finish!)

Below is a summary of the conversations that occurred, but if you would like to read the tweets then you can find them at this Storify.

Q1. Have you changed direction since your PhD or are you considering it?

There were a variety of answers here, with some people changing direction in a small way such as adding a new method or expanding their research area.  Others had made more significant changes, both planned and unplanned. We had contributions from both scientists, social scientists and humanities, with some still completing their PhD and some much further into their career.  Some participants who hadn’t made a change were considering it and interested to hear from those who had.

Q2. What are/were your reasons for changing track?

Some people had moved, or were considering moving, in order to stay fresh and fundable. Others had changed track to take a particular job or to explore a different strand of a multidisciplinary PhD. Funding and finding work came across as a strong shaper of research direction, although others were driven by a problem they saw that needed addressing. 

Q3. What are the advantages/disadvantages of changing track?

Disadvantages included the huge amount of reading required to get to grips with a new area. Another disadvantage were slightly changing track and then realising there would be necessary additional unanticipated field shifts. There was also concern about how you can explain your research history and changes to panels when going for new jobs/fellowships and participants offered useful advice about being prepared with a compelling story about how your research has evolved. 

Advantages include new perspectives, new collaborators and insights.  Even some who were forced to change direction felt they had gained many transferable skills and were glad to have found new perspectives in the process. 

Q4. What did you do to make the transition successful/easier?

The resounding advice was to ask for help!  This included getting support from your current colleagues and building networks in the field you are moving into.  Getting a mentor was another suggestion.  Participants who had changed track had found reading the key journals and edited collections an important first step, as well as going to conferences in the new area and talking to people there.  Small conferences were praised for more effective networking and learning. Forming collaborations with people in the new field and making the most of library support was also mentioned – use your librarian!

Q5. For those who changed, what would you do differently?

Again, the main message here was ask for help sooner.  Also, publishing more between PhD and graduation was cited as a way of getting ahead with future options.  

Q6. What research areas would you change to if you had no constraints (fun blue sky question to finish!)

We heard from one participant that they were really happy in what they were doing now, and from another that there were too many interesting topics to choose from!  Many others had ideas about what they’d like to do, some more realistic than others.  #ECRchat coordinator @KL_Wheat said she’d love to work  on #ECRchat (including publications and research) full-time, so if anyone has any ideas for funding this be sure to let her know!

The chat ended with a reminder that there will be a change to chat timings in September, so keep an eye on the blog.  The next #ECRchat is 15th August but the hashtag is always here!

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Author:

Academic, political tragic. Northern Rivers, NSW, Australia.

3 thoughts on “Recap: #ECRchat on Changing Track, 1 August 2013

  1. Reblogged this on followmyphd and commented:
    After the post I wrote yesterday about having to change my project this blog from ERCchat is one to come back to. My to-do and priorities lists are about to get jiggled about.

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