Written by Dr Kathy Barrett, University Lead for Research Staff Development, Centre for Research Staff Development
While I was doing my PhD I had a colleague who arrived in our research group as a fairly timid postdoc. Over time she gained more and more in confidence in speaking to the group about her research. She hadn’t obviously practiced this skill, so I asked her where her confidence had come from. She told me the source was the amateur dramatics she had been doing outside of work. This opened my eyes to the myriad ways in which we can build our own capabilities, not just the obvious ones.
Being heard is part of your role in any profession. If you wish to climb the ladder the people around you need to know you exist. Within any organisation, those who are valued are more often the people who contribute not just through the obvious channels, for example in a university by doing research, but also by their citizenship. While it could be argued that recent bureaucracy, for example the REF, is eroding this aspect of academic life1, there are still Higher Education Institutes that place a high value on it. In fact, Exeter University has a webpage2 devoted to academic citizenship outlining the expectations placed on staff. Even if you are content with where you are, reminding others of your existence every so often will mean that you continue to be included in interesting projects.
Learning how to get your voice heard in an effective manner is not necessarily something that will come overnight, as my previous colleague and now good friend learnt and showed me. Yet by continuing to challenge yourself through new channels it is surprising what you can achieve. Engaging with academic citizenship can also give you an understanding of how the university works, an insight that can prove very useful when you are trying to make things happen.
There are a multitude of opportunities at King’s to help you build your self-esteem and contribute to academic life, both small and large. We highlighted some of these in the exhibition3 at the recent Research Staff Event 2017. As a minimum, just responding to surveys such as the Careers in Research Online Survey (CROS) can result in the Centre for Research Staff Development being able to provide you with more relevant activities and better support for you in your role. We have recently run a workshop on impact as a result of your contribution to the CROS and are gearing up, in collaboration with the Research Staff Representative Committee, to implement policies that raise the profile of research staff within King’s. Chances are we will be offering you the opportunity to take up your role as an academic citizen and contribute to this project. Who knows, this could even put you in the running for a King’s Award for the Most Outstanding Contribution to the Research Staff Experience4 next year!