Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Blogging is a transferable skill...

I've just returned from Aberdeen, where I was being interviewed for a job at the university (fingers crossed). In my limited experience of these things, it's always a bit nerve-wracking, and you can never quite predict what questions you'll be asked (although there are some that always come up: where do you see yourself in five years?). One of the five-member panel asked me if, apart from the research-related stuff on my CV, there were any other skills or things that I would like the panel to know about. I was unprepared for that, and I figured that saying 'no' would sound like 'no, I have nothing of interest to say about myself whatsoever', and couldn't be a good thing. Although I hadn't planned to, I talked a little bit about this blog, and explained how I used it to try and explain scientific issues in an accessible way. To my surprise, it went down very well with the panel, and I was asked how my blogging experience might help in university teaching. Given my relative lack of teaching experience, having the opportunity to talk about that can't have done my chances any harm.

So, if you're a blogger doing interviews, it's probably worth bringing up your blog. After all, you use it to distill complex issues down to their essentials, don't you? That's definitely a transferable skill.

11 comments:

holfordwatch said...

I'm glad that they responded so positively. I hope that there is a good outcome for you for the position.

Anonymous said...

If it's worth owt, I only read your blog when it's linked to from badscience blogs. But I'm always glad to do so, as it is clear and enlightening. Hope you get the job.

Brainduck said...

Mine's on my CV!

Dr Aust said...

Yes, best of luck with the job, Paul, although we would be sorry to lose you from the N of E quackbusting fraternity.

Agree about the blog - for someone with relatively little teaching experience, the appointment ctte is always asking "CAN - and will - this person teach?" This often breaks down to several related questions:

- are they likely to be interested in teaching / explaining?

- can they explain science / commmunicate well?

- can they judge the "level" of the audience and adjust accordingly?

A research seminar answers the middle one and (to some extent) the final one. But the kind of blog you are doing addresses all three.

PS Do they have the right kind of rocks for you near Aberdeen?

Paul Wilson said...

Thanks all for the kind words. Unfortunately, I've just got an e-mail telling me that "on this occasion you have been unsuccessful". They're never very informative, those e-mails, so I'll see if I can get some feedback directly from the interviewers. Pity, as I thought I had a reasonable chance with this one.

Next up is Royal Holloway in three weeks...

Dr Aust said...

Tough luck Paul.

Bloody cold in Aberdeen, though. And it is a hell of a way from anywhere.

Anyway, hardening yourself to bounce back from the various job rejections will ultimately prove good training for applying for grants. And I'm not being ironic!

Best of luck for R Holloway. Are you only applying for lectureships, or do you have any research fellowship applications in the pot? And when does your current money actually run out?

Paul Wilson said...

dr aust:

Cheers for the comments, as ever.

I'm only applying for lectureships at the moment. Basically, my current funding runs out at the end of August, but it looks as though I will be able to continue as a post-doc on a different project after that, which will probably be for another 2 or 3 years. None of that is quite finalised yet, which makes things a bit nervous, but I don't really envisage any problems. If I'm going to continue as a post-doc, I think I might as well stay here. I like Manchester, and I'm part of a very professional and well-resourced research group.

In the end, it might be a better plan to keep at it here in Manchester for a while longer and get some more publications out, but I'll probably keep applying for realistic-looking lectureships.

And if I totally fail to get a lectureship, I can always take my skills into the oil industry...

Dr Aust said...

In the biosciences I think people actually need 5-6 yrs minimum of postdoc-ing to be "battle hardened" enough to take the shots they will get when they become a lecturer.

Over my two decades odd in the biz I have seen people "transition" to lecturer after anywhere between 0-10 years as a postdoc, and I reckon <5 is a bad idea. It is not so much that you can't actually DO THE JOB (as in do research and teaching). It is more to do with having the accumulated nous to hack your way through all the other sh*t that goes along with working in a Univ... plus having the self-belief AND experience to stay focussed and undiscouraged in a system where funding is scarce and there is a lot of rejection to be endured.

Of course, it all depends on the field... and embryonic superstars can break the rules... but for proper "seasoning", the years served are useful.

In many ways the best option, if you can crack it, is to transition first to a fellowship in your own name but still in a "supportive" (not out on your own) environment, and then later to the lectureship.

Paul Wilson said...

dr aust:

Yes, that seems like a fair point. I think I'm at a stage where I'm doing reasonably good research as a post-doc, but that's obviously not the same thing as running your own research program, teaching, and doing administrative work all at once. That's the advantage (and diadvantage) of being a post-doc: you get to focus on your research, more or less to the exclusion of all else.

Certainly, doing a few more years as a post-doc (I've been at it for three years now) wouldn't be a total disaster.

Dr Aust said...

Yes. Perhaps a better phrasing than

"[Becoming a lecturer off] <5 [years postdoc] is a bad idea"

would be:

"[Becoming a lecturer off] <5 [years postdoc] is a bigger risk"

...both for you and the Univ.

But it's not a hard rule... obviously depends on the person / discipline / B/G / Department hiring.

If you are in a place which is well set up to allow you to be productive then the advice would generally be to move when you're really ready, rather than at the first opportunity.

The good thing about doing all these interviews is that when you see the job you really want - and hopefully at the time when you are really feeling ready to move - all the practise at being interviewed will help you get that job.

She-Liger said...

http://postpostscripti.wordpress.com/2008/06/28/fuk-you-i-am-busy-i-am-seeking-a-good-scientific-job/

Good luck in new job!