Five Steps to Visibility

Written by Dr Emma Williams. Emma works towards illuminating a wider career choice for early career researchers. Trainer, consultant and coffee lover. Find out more at www.ejwsolutions.co.uk 

Embarking on a postdoc or working in another research role? You are discovering that the life of research staff is not just research. Teaching, committees, looking after amazingly young-looking undergraduates in your lab … all add into the rich mix. Don’t you just want to raise the drawbridge up and ignore the wider university from time to time?

Once we could hide in our ivory academic tower and descend (or condescend) to tell our London Society about how marvellously we were doing. If you are now imagining a Victorian gentleman scientist, it is time to drag ourselves into the modern age!

Our next steps, academic or otherwise, depend on being successful in your current role and having a wide network who can provide you with skill opportunities, references and a heads up on interesting jobs for you.

Visibility is the key to unlocking the future. Here are my top five research staff tips – all of which are making the most of the things you need to do anyway. I’m a big fan of ‘double counting’ when it comes to saving time and effort!

Follow your passion

Exploding bananas with school kids might be some people’s idea of fun but not all profile raising needs to involve children (or bananas). If you are doing something in concert with your values and motivations, it will be easier and feel much less like ‘work’. You will also meet like-minded people to create an authentic network.

If communicating your research is important – do it. If you want to champion underrepresented groups then student inclusion, Athena Swann and similar schemes are always looking for research staff to get involved. If you want to channel the impact of your research into a social enterprise, King’s can help you.

Play to your strengths

This is not just sensible but time saving! We are much faster at things that come easily so chose a visibility route that channels your talents. Writers could blog, contribute to newsletters or contribute to the wider public press. If public speaking is your thing present your work at a variety of places or set up an interest group. Those with great people skills might consider committee work, steering groups or working with research stakeholders (patients, companies or charities).

Not all of this needs to be academic. Perhaps you are involved in charity work or university sporting events? Your personal back story might be an inspiration to future students or current research staff.

Don’t be a bad news fairy

Yes, we all know research doesn’t work all the time but a constant flow of negatives will paint you in a bad light too. Simple proactive, positive actions to take are:

  • List successes in meetings with people as well as problems.
  • Offer solutions to set backs
  • Be part of the solution

Do not hide your successes – promote them. Be proud of what you have achieved. No one else (apart from perhaps your mum) will prioritise your career. It is up to you.

Say yes (and sometimes then no)

Be on the lookout for opportunities to raise your profile. This will mean reading department / university emails! Or perhaps your discipline’s learned society has a need for committee members or volunteers? Which undergraduate courses are looking for TAs or guest lecturers? Be proactive and manage your time well. If you have sat on a committee for a year time to say no and give the opportunity to someone else.

Visibility starts at ‘home’. People at King’s have worldwide connections. A colleague in your department may just have got an email about an academic position that might be suitable for you …

Take part instead of being a cog

Research staff sometimes blame the great university machine for their woes. Being reactive and pointing the finger rarely achieve great things and have a very negative impact on your mental outlook.

Be proactive and take part to influence the debate (whatever you are passionate about).

Your research alone is not enough for you to be visible. Let’s learn a lesson from another Victorian. Wikipedia describes the plot of H.G. Wells’ “The Invisible Man”:

 “He demands to be left alone and spends most of his time in his rooms working with a set of chemicals and laboratory apparatus, only venturing out at night.”

Getting Your Voice Heard. Our Challenge to You!

Written by Dr Kathy Barrett, University Lead for Research Staff Development 

Is there anyone out there who does not want to be heard?  As an academic finding a way to engage others with your work is vital.  When we sit in a research seminar listening to an eloquent and illuminating speaker we typically enjoy the experience so much more than we do with those who haven’t quite mastered the art.  When we read a beautifully crafted description of research, be it a paper, monograph or book, we derive almost as much pleasure from the writing as we do from the content.  My experience of such papers, and yes, even as a scientist I have read some like this, is that I have instantly wanted to meet the author. How many of us wish that we could be that speaker or writer!

The Research Staff Event 2017 is all about finding the secret to effective communication, with fellow academics about your research, with others within the university setting about how we work together and with the wider world about the work we do and the benefits of that work to society.  There will be workshops at the event addressing a wide variety of areas and modes of communication.  There will be something to suit all, and also to explore new methods that could be your key to unlocking the door to more effective communication and new audiences.

To add an extra challenge and enhance your opportunity to put your learning into practice we are including a competition for the best communication produced on the day.  The challenge is to produce an example of communication that gets the message across succinctly and effectively.  In the afternoon workshops we invite you to work towards producing this example.  It could be a series of tweets, a blog, a film, a written text, a busk, a public address, a film or anything else that can be submitted and viewed in two minutes or less.

The criteria for judging your competition entries are that your communication piece be engaging, informative and compulsive.  Judging will happen at the event by our panel of experts and prizes awarded to the winning team.  After the event we will upload all competition entries onto the event website so you can all view them.  We may even run a people’s choice version!

Workshop places are limited.  To ensure that you are able to submit an entry in your preferred medium, register for the Research Staff Event and your choice of workshop now!  Deadline for registration is 10am on Wednesday 23rd August.

After the event we will be offering up to £2,000 through our King’s Community Fund for projects aimed at getting your voice as research staff heard within King’s.  This could be, for example but not limited to, research into how we communicate, events or policy making.  More information about the fund and a workshop on internal communication that will be held before the application deadline will be posted after the Research Staff Event on our website and in our newsletter.

What to Expect at the Research Staff Event 2017

Written by Nudrat Siddiqui, Research Staff Development Officer

Getting your voice heard and understood is a fundamental part of life for most of us. As a research staff member, it couldn’t be more essential as your ideas, views, and the research you are undertaking will not only leave an imprint on King’s, but also on communities and societies across the UK and beyond. The Centre for Research Staff Development is delighted to welcome you to the Research Staff Event 2017, an event dedicated to inspire you to express your views and expertise creatively and effectively in a broad range of contexts.

What can you expect at the Event?

  • Keynote talks on various topics including historical contributions that researchers at King’s have made to society and how their voices were successfully and less successfully heard and how experts and universities are responding to the current post-truth climate in which individuals and groups that are most effective at misleading are often the ones to come out triumphant.
  • Workshops that will encourage you to consider different areas that you can apply your voice in, including ensuring that research staff are represented in communications across King’s, public engagement, consultancies and entrepreneurship, building your academic profile, and debates.
  • Workshops that will help you grasp novel skills to express your views and knowledge in a variety of ways, including using social media, writing for non-expert audiences, film, public speaking, and creative channels, such as competitions, fairs, festivals and busking.
  • At the core of the event will be a debate on the motion: This House Believes that King’s Listens to its Research Staff.  One team will debate for the motion, while another team will debate against it. If you don’t sign up to participate in the debate, you will still have the opportunity to view the debate as a member of the audience and ask the debating teams questions.
  • Working with colleagues from across disciplines to test your newfound communication skills gained in workshops to create an entry for the Event competition and enter the running for the competition prizes.

Why should you attend the Event?

  • It will offer you novel perspectives on areas you can promote your voice in using tools and communication streams you might not have considered before.
  • It will allow you to learn ways to amplify the collective voice of you and your colleagues as King’s research staff community.
  • It will hone your existing skills and allow you to gain new transferable, communication skills that you’ll be able to apply to whatever career path you pursue.
  • You will have the opportunity to build your network by meeting colleagues from different disciplines and engaging with professional services staff from various departments at King’s to find out how they can support you.
  • To break up your day-to-day routine and have fun! With the chance to mingle with new friends and potential future collaborators over lunch, participate in (or observe) an exciting debate, and challenge your skills in the competition, this event will offer something of value for everyone, no matter what your strengths or interests may be.

Learn more about the event and register here. The deadline to register is 10am on 23rd August. Workshops will be filled on a first come, first serve basis so you are encouraged to register early to get a place in your choice of workshops.

In case you need additional incentive to attend, here are some highlights from last year’s event to give you a taste of the enjoyable and stimulating day that we have lined up for you.