So you’re loving life expanding your mind at SOAS? Tempted to join the hordes of SOAS grads that make their way into the wonderful world of the PhD? Well, you’re in luck! This week we take a look behind the leaning towers of coffee cups, books and papers that surround academic researchers to discover the truth about getting a PhD and working in academic roles.
Last Tuesday we gathered a dream team of PhD Candidates, Early Career Researchers and Professors for an open discussion around their experiences. Safe to say it was an eye-opening panel, and it quickly became apparent that resilience is key to making it in the world of academia. It was noted that the academic career journey can be a bumpy road – and so it’s crucial to be tough, disciplined, confident and persistent. In fact, all the panel were keen to point out that you need to have the right combination of passion and discipline to persevere.
Balance also regularly came into the conversation, and the advice was to consider how you’ll juggle not just the competing demands of an academic role but also making sure you still make time for work, your personal life and those all-important holidays. Anything to make sure you remind your mind that there’s more out there than your thesis!
Realism was a recurring theme – and the panel all agreed that the Higher Education world is tough, with increased regulation and increased competition. There’s no escaping the fact that there are more PhD candidates than academic jobs, and some universities in the UK are going to have big challenges ahead. That being said, their enthusiasm for academia was infectious: it was clear that this route offers personal integrity and the opportunity to change the world!
So, what was their number one tip for making it in academia? They unanimously agreed that while staying in further study might take you on a meandering path, never forget that each experience is giving you something new!
Here’s a run-down of the most pertinent advice they offered up from their experiences:
- Good communication is key to engaging with students and colleagues
- Build, develop and strengthen your networks
- Publish in peer reviewed journals and be strategic with
- Take opportunities to organise conferences and apply for funding
- Make sure you get your CV and Covering Letter checked by SOAS Careers
If you’re keen to discover more about academic roles, PhDs and all things further study, an awesome starting point are the resources up on MySOAS Student. Drop in to the Careers Zone, SL62 (Paul Webley Wing) any day between 10am – 5pm, and we’d be more than happy to talk you through what your next steps can look like.
Alexis Fromageot, Marketing Manager