Holidays are time to think of the family and, in the academia, the Alumni are the relatives we often tend to forget. Here is why you should not hesitate to reach out to them…
PhD Alumni have been there before; with some of them you might even have a shared office, research field or even a supervisor. Either you’re a mature student, coming back to academia after years of working in the industry, part-time student perhaps, balancing your career, family and studies, or have started your PhD immediately after you undergraduate degree, there is likely somebody who has been in a similar position. In majority of cases, the alumni will be happy to share their experience and offer advice, so do approach them when given the chance, either in person or online.
This point refers to a rather small population of the alumni, but some of the former PhDs from your department (or related departments and centre) doing research in your field might be willing to include you in some of the projects or put you in contact with other scholars and institutions (obviously, you would build up to such proposal in case you haven’t met the particular alumni in person). The might share an interesting call for papers or a conference, which could yield new opportunities for networking and similar.
The alumni are an invaluable source of information about potential career pathways for PhD graduates. In times when resilience is of great importance for PhD students, the alumni stories can offer reassurance and new motivation to carry on with your research and expand the range of your skills. Of course, tips on job interviews, CVs and assessments centres are always welcome.
How did we do it?
If there isn’t an alumni association at your department or institution, there is no reason why current PhD students couldn’t initatiate one (if you would like a more detailed post on the organisational side of thing, let me know).
In June 2015, within our Postgraduate conference, we organised an alumni day, where we hosted PhD graduates from Centre for Applied Linguistics in three panels. Some of them joined us in person, others via video conferencing, and told us about their research and careers after graduation. It was a technical and organisational challenge to bring everyone together (going global entailed dealing with different time zones on a weekday), but definitely worth it!
The alumni gave us some great advice (all three panels are available here) and reminded us that we are a member of a community, an academic family, if you wish, and that viva isn’t the end, but a beginning of our journeys.
With this soppy ending, I’ll bid you goodbye for this year, as PhD Life needs a Christmas break too. We’ll be back in 2016 with new posts and, as always, if you’d like to write for us or have an idea for a post you’d like to read, leave a comment, tweet (@ResearchEx) or send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) .
Enjoy your well-deserved break and have lovely holidays! 🙂