Working on the basics

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Today is the last day of February. The month seems to have flown by… one day closer to warmer weather and with this week’s ‘beast from the east’ cold spell hitting, that spring sunshine can’t come quick enough! Today is also the day that I reflect on all of the career development training that I have done this month.

Up until my PhD induction, I thought that my degree would simply be working at the bench, reading some papers and getting good data. I had never even thought about developing my career and research skills in ways other than practically in the lab. I suppose it’s obvious now that it’s really important to develop your basic skill-set and the first year of my PhD is very heavily focussed on training to make sure that I finish my doctorate with the best set of career skills that I can.

The university has a fantastic training programme with sessions that look at all sorts of things. I can pick and choose the training that I do based on what I would like to improve or learn. Some sessions look at general skills to help you become a better researcher like presentation and writing skills. Whereas others are more relevant to me as a scientist – applying for research grants and using statistics to analyse data. At the moment I’ve mainly been to general training sessions because I think they are more applicable to where I am at now as a scientist, but no doubt moving into years two and three of my PhD this will change as I start to think about collecting the last of my data and what I want to do after I graduate.

At the end of my first year I will have to pass a probation review that will allow me to move into my second year and so it’s really important for me that all of the training that I do is well documented ready for my review. Not only that, regularly monitoring my own development will really help me as I go along to address things that I still need help with. I’ve been lucky in a sense that my bench work has got off to a slower start so that I can focus on getting organised with my training from early on and I feel like I’ve developed on a lot of skills already. Hopefully getting into these good habits of reviewing my training monthly will continue even when I start to get busier in the lab.

Even though monitoring personal career development seems mostly relevant to people wanting careers in academia, I think it’s massively important that everybody thinks about working on their basic skill-set no matter what field of work they are in. Jobs nowadays are more competitive than ever and being able to identify where you need to improve and documenting your development as evidence for prospective employers is a good thing to do. It shows your ability to self-reflect, even if not to sell yourself to employers, but for improving yourself. Something we all seek to do, right?

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