Social Media – What value for me, and my career?

What value for me?

If you are itching to Tweet and Post and B/Vlog and Snap and Tik and… you might want to go straight on to the next section.

However, we think that, before you do, it’s a good idea to pause and consider how Social Media can benefit you and your career. That’s because, although Social Media can support you at all stages of the research cycle, it requires an investment of time (although not as much as you may fear). So, it’s important to minimise confusion and wasted time by working out why you might engage with it, so that you can engage most effectively.

A useful analogy for many of the sites we’ll consider is to view them as an empty room into which you will invite people or a room full of people with a shared interest. You have control over who to invite into your empty room and control over which rooms you enter, but little control over what people say in them – just as in physical environments.

What do you need?

With this in mind let’s start by thinking about what you need to hear and see in those rooms to help you.

  • Do you need to find out how to be a researcher, meet others who will support you to move to research independence, or address an audience of people eager to hear from you as a leader in the field?
  • Are you looking to discover and join academic and other professional networks? Share knowledge with them? Or recruit people to help set up new networks from scratch?
  • Are you trying to explain your ideas to a new audience? Challenge existing ideas?
  • Do you need to be recognised for what you share? Or are you just ‘giving things away’?

Where you’re up to in your career, and where you want to go next will shape what you do… for example:

Doctoral researchers need to manage the demands of their PhD, keep on top of literature and developments in their field, disseminate their work, maintain their momentum, develop their employability, write a thesis, prepare to defend their work in the viva and prepare for the transition into whatever will follow.

  • Who could help you find ways to tackle these demands?
  • What information would help you understand academia and research?

Postdoctoral and contract based research staff need to develop a research profile, develop their independence, disseminate their work and ensure it has maximum impact, understand the funding landscape, develop links to future collaborators, be aware of opportunities and again, be ready for the end of their contracts and what will follow.

  • Who needs to be aware of you and your work?
  • What information or opportunities would help you be more successful?

Established researchers need to develop new research ideas, publish work which is important and influences their field, attract new students and staff, build relationships with partners to enhance impact, manage their time and prioritise effectively, add value to their institution and research community, find partners for projects and proposals and demonstrate their esteem in their field and community.

  • What individuals or communities do you want to connect with? 
  • What kind of influence and impact would you like to have?

Deepening your knowledge of academic careers

Given that you will be building your profile and contributing material potentially for many years, you also need to look ahead in your career and think about future challenges and demands.

Many online resources are available to help you think about these demands and broaden your thinking about your current situation. Note that these aren’t solely focused on social media although we discovered them through social media – either through the individuals or organisations that produced them or seeing them recommended and discussed by others.

The University of Manchester’s “An Academic Career” site includes advice and insights into the demands and opportunities ahead.

Jobs.ac.uk includes a substantial careers advice section with many different articles and a series of e-books on different aspects of academic careers

Oxford University’s Apprise site brings together resources from a range of projects aimed at those in the early stages of an academic pathway and includes prompts for personal reflection.

The Wellcome Trust offers a guide detailing the kinds of things to think about for those returning to academic careers after a break, or other time away.

Vitae, a national organization for researcher development, has published a series of reports on the destinations and subsequent career paths of doctoral graduates.

There are also offline sources, like Liz Elvidge, Emma Williams and Carol Spencely’s “What every postdoc needs to know” (summary here) – a book that breaks down the whole postdoctoral career journey, and asks challenging questions that you might want to consider.

What are the challenges that you’re facing now? At the next stage? In 5 years? In 10 years?

With these challenges in mind, if you now feel ready to explore the role of social media in your career, the next section will provide an overview of social media and the platforms available.

If you aren’t ready to move on yet, you can work through the more detailed questions in the worksheet and arrange to discuss your thoughts about your career challenges with a colleague or mentor.

Social Media – A series for researchers

Social Media offers researchers huge potential to communicate with a range of audiences. Researchers who have developed an effective social media presence will talk about the ease with which they can engage people, strengthen their networks and receive key information. Reaping the benefits requires an investment of time, but just as with established networking, there are strategies to hit the ground running, to benefit more quickly and have a greater impact.

Current limitations on social interaction, and focus on working from home means that not only is Social Media particularly useful now to maintain visibility for present and future posts, but that researchers may have more time than before to engage in developing a Social Media presence.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be publishing a series of blog posts to help researchers to better understand the potential of social media to enhance their research activities and develop a strong, credible profile. We’ll look at the key sites and tools, and guide you through a process to evaluate any new networks you encounter.

If you’re familiar with social media, the posts will help you reflect on your communication style and career objectives, investigate unfamiliar platforms and learn from the experiences and advice of other researchers.

The posts are structured into five sections. Each will include an overview, links to resources which explore the topic in more detail and a worksheet designed to help you reflect on your approach and set clear objectives. The sections are written to help you:

  1. Reflect on your career and how social media might add value
  2. Navigate both generic and research-based social media options
  3. Relate the potential of social media to your career and research goals
  4. Communicate effectively, efficiently and appropriately online
  5. Evaluate and develop your online impact and ambitions

This resource is designed be a relatively concise starting point to the world of social media, so it covers the headlines for each topic and where necessary points to the detail available in a range of articles, books and guides on the web. These will all vary in depth, perspective and age, so you can choose how much to dig into the detail.

Watch this space for the next post… !

Online Writers’ Retreats… what you do when you can’t meet up!

If you search the Internet for writing retreats, you’ll find all kind of images that involve groups of people sat, with laptops, around a table… like this:

group of writers around a table, each with their own laptop

There’s a very good reason for this. When Rowena Murray did her initial work on structured retreats back in 2009, she found that key to success was the ‘doing together’ that comes from all being in the same place at the same time.

Writers on our retreats have told us the same.

“It helps me push through, when I get stuck and I might get distracted and give up, being with others who are also writing means I don’t stop… I keep trying, and eventually I work out how to get past the problem and I can move on.”

What do you do, then, when – like now – you can’t be in the same room? (more…)

Bristol Clear – we’re here if you need to talk

With all that is going on at the moment, we realise that many of you may be finding the situation challenging. Working in unfamiliar ways, and in unfamiliar environments, you may be struggling to know how to do your job, how to structure your time, and how to access the support that would normally be in place from colleagues and the university. More importantly, you might be dealing with new worries – about loved ones and how they are coping, or about your own health and work both now, and in the future.

There is no clear end to the current situation. And so, to support you, we’ve made some changes to our existing provision to make it more accessible to you. We’ve also added some additional provision that is specifically there to support you through the next few months.

Please read on to find out how our support will change, and what more we’re offering.

Training

Our face to face training and workshops will be moving online where possible. We’re currently talking with our training-providers about how we’re going to do this, when, and what form their training will take.

If you are booked onto a workshop or retreat, we will be in touch with you directly when we know more.

Writers’ retreats

All physical writers’ retreats will be moved online. We’re exploring technology that will not only allow us to preserve the peer support of being ‘in the room’ but will also open participation up to a wider audience (including those on the waiting list!). We’ll be able to use this experience to enhance the retreats when we are able to return to normal.

If you’re booked onto a writers’ retreat, we’ll be in touch with a ‘how to’ guide shortly.

1:1s

We can no longer offer face to face career-focused 1:1s. However, anyone who has one booked or who is on the waiting list will be contacted to be told how we will run all of these remotely.

In addition, we are setting up regular, weekly, virtual 1:1 chats for you to talk with someone about how you are finding the current situation. So, if you are struggling with working from home, managing or structuring your day or maintaining your motivation for example, you can talk to us. These can be used for any topic: professional or personal, and are bookable through: https://calendly.com/bristol-clear-1-1-chats/1-1-chats.

Please note, if you are fortunate to have a strong support network, please allow others to take priority so that we can reach those most in need, most quickly.

Mentoring

The Bristol Clear Mentoring scheme continues, but moves online.

All of those who signed up for the current cycle will be hearing shortly who their mentor/mentee will be, and will also receive information about how to set up a virtual meeting.

The Bristol Clear blog

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be using this space to support you to make the most of remote working by looking at how you can structure your time, write effectively at home, protect your well-being (particularly in this period of ‘waiting’), and use social media to stay connected with others and make your work more visible.

We’ll also use this blog to point to other sources of online training.

Bristol Clear emails

We’ll be mainly using email to send out updates, and signpost additional sources of information and support, so – if you are filtering – please keep emails from bristol-clear@bristol.ac.uk out of SPAM. We will temporarily pause sending out the Bristol Clear Bulletin and instead will send individual timely emails with key information about new initiatives, support and opportunities.

Twitter

You can also follow us on Twitter, @UoB_Researchers.

 

Creating the best culture for researchers to thrive

…is the aim of the recently updated “Concordat to support the Career Development of Researchers”. In an earlier blogpost we offered some of our reflections and thoughts on what the 2019 version of the Concordat might look like. Now that the updated Concordat is published, and we as the University of Bristol have signed up to it, what does it actually mean?

We are all responsible for creating a positive environment to thrive in

The Concordat sets out that the responsibility for implementing the Concordat, and therefore the responsibility for creating a positive culture in which researchers can thrive, is a joint responsibility. We are all responsible for creating this change. We, that is institutions (the University), funders, managers of researchers (PIs, Heads of Schools), and last but not least researchers (you!).

This means that the University of Bristol will be working to create the work environment, policies and practices which will allow researchers to thrive. The University is developing an action plan for the implementation of the Concordat, which it will be held accountable for.

We will be working with managers of researchers to offer support and information to help them support you effectively.

And we will be supporting you as researchers directly, by continuing to offer you development opportunities, career support and clarity, and by working closely with you to identify what support you need the most.

But no support, no policy, no action plan will make any difference if individuals don’t play their part in the story. Only if we all work together towards this goal of creating a positive and supportive culture is there a chance for it to become reality.

 

What can you do?

As a first step, familiarise yourself with the Concordat and reflect on its expectations of you. Start having conversations with your PI/manager about the Concordat, and explore together how you can use this as a framework to create this positive environment, and to develop your career.

You may want to map your skills against the Researcher Development Framework and use this as a starting point for your continuing development. Check for staff development opportunities, 1:1 appointments, find mentors if you haven’t got any already (you may want to use the Bristol Clear Mentoring Scheme which has 2 cohort intakes per year), and talk to your Rep if you have any suggestions or would like to highlight any issues.

We believe that together we can make a difference, so we are looking forward to continuing to talk to, and work with, you over the coming weeks and months.

 

The publication pipeline

hat someHow did that submission go? Did you get it accepted?

Yes, all in – reviews done. Now I’m at the foot of Everest again.

The foot of Everest?

Yes… I’ve not really got any writing in progress, so I’m starting again from scratch.

The first time I published, it felt like that. The process was very one-directional. I wrote, I submitted it, I dealt with the reviews, I resubmitted, it was published.

Because it was so single-minded, it was relatively easy. I just did what I needed to do, and then waited for instructions from the editor. But it also took a long time. From initial idea to print, the process was on and off, and lasted a full 2.5 years.

Both of those things – the ease, and the time – aren’t a problem if you’re starting out as an academic. But they become more problematic if you need to be publishing more often. A more recent journal article took me and a co-author nearly 5 years from conception to print.

Adding the time for the first and second publications together, that’s two publications in 7.5 years. That’s waaaay too slow for any kind of academic CV.  (more…)

Writing and publishing: strategies from/for non-native speakers

By lucky coincidence, most of the Bristol Clear writers’ retreats this year are being run in a large, well-lit room in Bristol’s ‘Centre for Academic Language and Development’. The CALD is a unit dedicated to supporting (particularly overseas) students with their English. As you walk through the main doors of the Centre, you can’t help but notice the banners, celebrating a quote by Pierre Bourdieu, which says

Academic language… is nobody’s mother tongue.

Bourdieu is right, academic language isn’t anyone’s mother tongue.

And for many of those who come on writing retreats, neither is English. And yet they are expected to not only write and publish in academic language, but in the academic form of English.

A non-native form, of a non-native tongue.

How are they doing this?

This is something that I’ve been asking those who attend retreats. I’ve also been looking in the literature to find out what others do. There appear to be four main approaches.

Write with a native

Probably the most common way that those who aren’t native speakers of English produce publication-ready material is by co-writing with native speakers (who lend their eye to all of the writing at all stages).

As a strategy, this is hugely effective, particularly at early career stage when there are potentially, naturally, multiple authors involved in a publication. But it can also carry risk, particularly if any kind of tension over the ‘authoring’ breaks out – e.g. where author ‘order’ becomes less an issue of who contributed most to the thinking, and more about who wrote more ‘words’. This can get worse when, in the mind of the authors, they begin to associate words with expertise. One writer describes the problems that arose when native English speakers in a mixed language group started to act as if they were more ‘expert’ in the research topic, simply because their English was ‘better’.

“at one point [it] caused me to go off and publish some academic articles in [my own language] just to prove that I’m better than them at something” (Sword 2017: 96).

That doesn’t mean you should avoid writing with native English speakers – It can work brilliantly, and even the difficult moments make it a perfect opportunity to practise negotiation and collaborative working (both of which are key professional skills). But it does mean being aware of the potential for tension early on, and taking steps to resolve it through a planned and professional approach, rather than assuming that ‘things will just work out OK’.

Ask a native to proof (or better still, mentor) your work

After writing with a native speaker, the next most frequent approach is to find a colleague who is prepared to proofread and/or correct a draft that you have written.

This can be very effective. Although it does rely on a (sometimes fragile) quid pro quo. Even though many fields have strong non-English literatures, in most the need to write in English massively outstrips the need to go in the other direction. Rather than a balance, then, the ‘proofing’ approach can end up relying on the generosity of a colleague, who may not receive the same degree of support back from you if they don’t need to publish in your language.

There are ways around this. Helen Sword suggests, in her book ‘Air & Light & Time & Space’ that you can establish a balance in the relationship by ‘giving back’ something: conversational language support in your native tongue, or cooking lessons. If you can’t do that, then you can at least offer constructive critical feedback on their work if they need it.

Alternatively, you might try to move away from the ‘ad hoc’, and establish a more stable relationship with a ‘language mentor’ – someone who will regularly work with you, reading what you write, to identify consistent language issues that you can then correct.

Language mentoring has the advantage that, because it systematically works on reoccurring weak points in your language, over time your English improves.

Professional proofing

An alternative approach, and one that doesn’t rely on colleagues, is to get proofing done by a professional. This can be useful, particularly if you are writing for an unfamiliar audience and need to ensure that not only the language, but the content lands as you want.

However, the expertise of editors can, on occasion, collide with the aims of the writer. I work in a field (Deaf Studies) where a capital letter can mean the difference between affirming someone’s identity as the member of a cultural and linguistic group (Deaf), or defining them as disabled (deaf). I have had editors assume that my capitalisation was in error, and remove it all – a mistake that then required hours of careful re-editing to put it all back in.

Besides which, professional proofing is expensive, and although it’s now required by some journals for articles from non-native speakers, I’m not aware of any publishers (or indeed any universities) who will pay for it.

Take a chance

The final approach is where you don’t get any native speaker support, but simply write and submit, and see what happens.

This is a gamble that can pay off… Researchers I spoke to have seen this work – but only where their English has been almost perfect, and where they happen to have landed a reviewer who has had time (and a generous spirit) enough to offer corrections, or on an editor who has seen the individuality of the writer’s style as something to be valued, rather than smoothed out.

The general rule of thumb, though, when presenting a manuscript for publication is to make it as perfect as possible. Editors and reviewers are just as tired and overworked as everyone else, and the last thing they want to do is wrestle with a script that is peppered with problems, or is unclear.

In that case, the gamble can fail – spectacularly.

I’ve known some very good articles be rejected and then really struggle to find a home, simply because in their first submitted form, they looked like the writer ‘hadn’t bothered’.

And finally… to all those native speakers out there.

All of the academics that I spoke to, and much of the literature, suggests that the better your English gets, the less you have to rely on any of these strategies, and the more you can simply write and submit under the ‘take a chance’ approach with a good expectation of success.

But as (again) Helen Sword suggests, that takes time.

Learning to write sophisticated academic English… Like any other artisanal skill, the art of communicating fluently and elegantly… requires, at the top end of achievement, thousands of hours of practice – and there are no shortcuts.

No shortcuts means that, in addition to their academic skills, non-native users of English spend thousands of hours honing a skill that most English-world academics have picked up, probably without ever being aware of it.

So here’s a thought for all those academics out there who are native speakers… consider how lucky you are, and be generous with it.

Whether as a co-author, an ad-hoc proofer, a mentor, a willing reviewer or editor, or simply as a colleague, ask what you can do to support your colleagues to succeed.

 

Structured writers’ retreats – things we learned during WriteFest

Across UK Higher Education, the month of November was ‘WriteFest’, a month for writing.

As part of our WriteFest provision, we ran four writing retreats, one a week. They’re structured days, set up specifically to allow academics to write, without the distractions of their daily work.

The retreat structure has always encouraged productive writing. But – with a whole month to play with – I was keen to examine the retreats themselves, and to identify and adapt anything that would make them even ‘better’ – to make the environment as conducive as possible to writing.

Now, at the end of the month, here are some things that we’ve learned, and changed.

(more…)

Core Values

Core Values

When thinking about career development, core values really are something to take into consideration. If you’re not sure what yours are, or you’ve never heard of core values before – read on to understand a key tool in thinking about your next career steps.

What are core values?

Core values are a set of values or beliefs that are fundamentally important to you as a person. We all have them, and they will be different for each of us.

They could be things such as autonomy, security, creativity, wealth, expertise, equality, kindness… the list goes on. But what it comes down to is the fact that there will be a few on that list that you will want to uphold and live by above all others… They are at the very core of who you are and what you believe.

Why are core values important?

Your values will affect the way you behave and your decision making. In short, they affect how you live your life. They are still there working in the background, even if you don’t consciously know what they are.

You’ll know that they exist because when you are living a life that is consistent with your values you will feel content, satisfied and all will feel right with the world. However, when you are going against your values, making decisions or behaving in a way that does not uphold your values you are likely to feel discomfort, unease and like something is just wrong… that sinking feeling in your stomach – a kind of gut instinct.

Becoming aware of what those values are can help you to make decisions to live a life more aligned with what is important to you. For example, if you value security, how comfortable will you be knowing that to be in a research career you are likely to be on fixed-term contracts or constantly bidding for last-minute funding? On the flip side if you value freedom, it is worth considering if a core-funded position like a lectureship will give you the freedom you crave?

How to identify my values?

So how do you find out what your values are? One way is to look at a list of values and see what resonates with you. There are many online or you can use the one linked below.

You’re looking for just a few… the really important ones.

If you struggle, then see if you can create categories of ‘I really don’t care about this’, ‘I care about this, but I can compromise’, and ‘I absolutely will never compromise on this’.

That refusal to compromise gives you another way to explore your values. When was the last time you got really angry with a situation? What was it exactly that made you angry? Why did you care?

It’s likely that, if you dig deep enough, you’ll find that someone ‘stepped on’ one of your values (or worse, forced you into a position where you had to ‘betray’ your own values).

The hard bit – making changes

Many things can stop us from making the changes we need to make, to live in a way that is more aligned with our values; Habits, lifestyle, peer pressure, fear… all these things can keep us where we are even if we don’t feel great about where that is.

So how far might you want, or need, to redress the balance?

Be aware that there are no hard and fast rules about this. Each of us is different, and has different tolerances for misalignment, for different reasons, at different times.

And so there is no judgement either.

For that researcher who needs security, they might decide that they will embrace instability, for a period of time, in order to work towards a more permanent academic position.

Or… they might begin to look for a role that gives them more security.

And, for that researcher who revels in the autonomy of a research position, they might decide that they can build that freedom into a permanent academic post… or that the compromise of lost freedom is justified by having a stronger platform of influence for their work.

Or… they might decide that they value the freedom more, and – even though it’s potentially precarious – remain as a researcher.

The difference for both will, though, likely be that having identified their core values, and negotiated with themselves a solution that acknowledges and respects those core values, they will be at peace with the solution that they adopt.

 

Resources

Values sheet

What Are Your Values? From mindTools

The case for structured writing retreats

If you’ve ever been to a writing retreat at the UoB, you’ll have heard us explain why we structure it as we do.

If you’ve not, then you might wonder why we run them in such a structured way.

The structure might even have put you off.

This post will explain some of why we shape our retreats like that – and what the potential benefits are.

*spoiler alert* – they’re not just about how many words you write!

(more…)

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