Categories
Soft skills development

Marketing your Research by Lennart Wesel

As researchers, we are deeply invested in our work, yet presenting our findings in an accessible and engaging way to diverse audiences, both online and offline, can be quite challenging. Striking a balance between avoiding overly technical language and not oversimplifying the significance of our research is essential.

During this 4-hour workshop, PhD candidates and Postdocs participated in a series of dynamic exercises that integrated group discussions, writing tasks, and creative thinking activities. They practised delivering self-introductions in a speed-dating format, identified the fundamental values of their research and discussed what platforms are useful for scientists to engage with the public on.

You can find more information about Lennart Wesel on his website: https://expertexpert.nl/

“Communicating with the general public is probably more important (and more easy) than one thinks!”

Anonymous participant

“I liked that the workshop was tailored to what the participants requested.”

Anonymous participant

Categories
Soft skills development

Presenting yourself in your CV and motivation letter by Marieke Hohnen

Apart from research, it is important to think about the next career step after you finish your PhD or postdoc. Your CV and motivation letter allow you to make the first impression on HR manager and get your foot on the door of the company.

In the 3.5-hour on-campus workshop on “Presenting yourself in your CV and motivation letter”, Marieke Hohnen from Hakuna Matata gave tips on how to structure and tailor CVs and motivation letters to a particular job offering to the VU PhD candidates and postdocs. There were a lot of group discussions where the participants could learn from each other´s experience of writing CVs and motivation letters. More importantly, in this workshop, the participants had a unique opportunity to get personalized written feedback from the trainer.

You can read more about Marieke Hohnen at: https://nl.linkedin.com/in/mariekehohnen

“I liked the structure of the workshop and the variation in listening to the trainer and talking with the other attendees.”

Anonymous participant

“I gained some valuable tips for tailoring my CV/motivation letter”

Anonymous participant

Categories
Soft skills development

Time Management with Jeanine de Bruin

One of the significant advantages of being a PhD student or Postdoc is the flexibility to plan your own agendas. However, this may pose challenges for time management, which is essential for reaching your goals. In a workshop tailored specifically for PhD students and Postdocs, we explored strategies to optimize time utilization and minimize stress levels.

The workshop, given by Jeanine de Bruin, began by defining time management and identifying factors influencing our schedules and stress levels. Delving into Steven Covey’s time management quadrant, we gained insights into effective prioritization regarding email management, supervising students, holding meetings, writing and reading articles, and much more. Drawing on Jeanine’s expertise, we collectively devised personalized agendas, integrating practical tips to tailor schedules based on individual preferences and work styles. At the end, we shared our resolutions for the upcoming period that we want to apply in our researcher’s life!

After the workshop, participants shared their newly acquired insights over a drink, enabling supportive thoughts and comments and allowing participants to connect with other researchers.

or more information on Jeanine de Bruin and her contributions, visit Hakuna Matata’s website at https://hakunamatata.nl/

“It gave me insight in one of my biggest pitfalls: having a too big task to oversee. And it gave a practical solution: divide a big task in smaller pieces. Sounds simple, but for me it was one of the most enriching experiences of 2023.”

Anonymous participant

“Interactive. Tips and tricks how to properly time manage and deal with work stress”

Anonymous participant

“Jeanine manages to teach a lot without tiring the audience. Also like the interactive exercises.”

Anonymous participant

Categories
Soft skills development

Engaging in Public Conversations by Sem Barendse

As a scientist, one of your responsibilities is to report your findings and communicate them to your desired audience. This is often done through scientific articles published in journals. However, sharing your science with a non-scientific community can be challenging. It requires simplifying your findings, omitting important nuances, and negotiating your position as an expert, which may risk engaging in "false balance" conversations.

The workshop provided valuable tools to address these dilemmas. Initially, we explored various roles of a science communicator. Are you inclined to be a "fact-maker," solely reporting new studies, or would you consider participating in talk shows, podcasts, and engaging in public debates? Subsequently, we identified crucial factors, including uncertainty, values, emotions, framing, and more, essential for delivering your message effectively. Finally, the workshop concluded with a discussion on current opportunities for becoming a science communicator, highlighting the VU's significant efforts in acknowledging science communicators and education.

“Good informal setting! Lots of interactions”

Anonymous participant

“Interactive discussions/"games" ”

Anonymous participant

Categories
Soft skills development

Supervising Students by Jeanine de Bruin from Hakuna Matata

As a Postdoc or PhD student, one of your tasks may include supervising students. While we all have been students before, taking on the role of supervisor can be new and give you the feeling of being lost. This does not benefit you or the student that you are supervising. Fortunately, the workshop given by Jeanine de Bruin aimed to give us some practical tools to become more comfortable with the role of being a supervisor.

The workshop gave several insights about better communicating with your student. We first learned about the importance of discussing expectations between you and your student – a process that goes both ways. Also, we discussed and practiced the concept of situational leadership, which is crucial for guiding students according to their skills and motivation. Finally, the last part of the workshop was about giving feedback in a deliberate, meaningful way without offending each other.

After the workshop, we were able to share our newly learned practical tips over some nice drinks!

You can find more information about Jeanine de Bruin at Hakuna Matata’s website https://hakunamatata.nl/home/over-hm/46-jeanine/

“Concise information in short time”

Anonymous participant

“It helps researchers in many levels”

Anonymous participant

Categories
Career orientation

Meaningful networking by Astrid ter Wiel from BHertz

As researchers, we know that networking is important to boost our academic careers. However, sometimes we don’t really know what networking entails. It becomes even harder when we feel uncomfortable discussing our research with others, especially those who are not within our field.

During the workshop, we started by realizing that we all had different ideas about what networking was. We then worked in pairs and become aware of the relevance of our online presence. We also talked about practical strategies for networking that we can use in academic settings, like conferences. Finally, an important portion of the workshop was used to work in groups by presenting a 1-minute elevator pitch.

After the workshop, the PhDs and Postdocs who attended felt like they gained practical insights to share their expertise and skills with others.

You can find more information about dr. Astrid ter Wiel at BHertz’s website https://www.bhertz.nl/trainers/

“Very practical and engaging without pressure”

Anonymous participant

“Discussing how to solve the problems that you bump into now while networking”

Anonymous participant

“It is interactive and informal”

Anonymous participant

Categories
Soft skills development

Marketing your research by Lennart Wesel from Hakuna Matata

As researchers we are passionate about what we are doing, but presenting our research with unfamiliar audiences in a clear and engaging manner in online and offline settings can be a very challenging task. How do you avoid sounding too complex, but at the same time not downplaying the value of your research to the lay audience?

In this 3-hour workshop, the PhD candidates and Postdocs performed a number of interactive exercises, which combined group work, writing, and abstract thinking. They did a self-presentation in a speed-dating format, reflected on the core values of their research, practised writing a researcher’s bio for the website, and created a lay story of a scientific paper for LinkedIn.

These exercises helped the researchers to get out of their comfort zone, activate creative thinking, and come up with non-trivial ways of presenting their research.

You can find more information about Lennart Wesel on his website https://expertexpert.nl/

“It was a real workshop. Nice activities. And not too much talking on ‘how it should be done’ but rather let us work and find out.”

Anonymous participant

“Very practical and useful expertises that get you results, not just vague fundamental concepts with no way to apply them to your own situation.”

Anonymous participant

“What we work on during the workshop we can reuse in real life.”

Anonymous participant

Categories
Emotional well-being at work

Emotional shadows: overcoming inner obstacles in the PhD journey by Dr. Claartie van Sijl

Doing a PhD can be a rollercoaster of emotions. It happens often that a PhD candidate experiences negative feelings. It’s important, yet difficult to know what to do.

In this on-campus workshop on “Emotional shadows: overcoming inner obstacles in the PhD journey”, Dr. Claartie van Sijl focused on disarming those “have-to’s” and “should-nots”, as well as those moments of inner doubts and other hindering emotions. The workshop started with PhDs sharing and discussing with peers about their own inner obstacles. Then, they were guided to identify and transforming the disastrous convictions in them. For example, “I want everything to be just right before I can start” was transformed to “I began making one tiny, little start”. Next, PhDs played an interactive game with peers on how to use resources (e.g., social connections, on-line resources, professionals, co-workers) to lighten our emotional shadows.

In this way, participants gained some insights about the role that those negative feelings play in their life and work and developed easy tools to lighten our emotional shadows.

You can read more about dr. Claartie van Sijl at https://vansijl.com/

“Very fun and informative workshop.”

Anonymous participant

“It gave me not just the encourage but also the tools to face with and solve the emotional problems I have.”

Anonymous participant

Categories
Soft skills development

Talk like TED: confidence in public speaking by Jan Scheele

During the “Talk like TED” workshop, PhDs and PostDocs had the chance to experience what is like to give a TEDx talk from an expert, Jan Scheele. Jan has organised multiple TED events, and he has given countless presentations and talks in a variety of environments and occasions. He shared tips and tricks on how to gain confidence during presentations, and how to avoid the fear of public speaking.

The 3-hour workshop was a great opportunity for participants to ask questions and have personal feedback about their communication and presentation skills. It has also allowed participants to share their obstacles and to develop together techniques on how to overcome their fear.

You can learn and read more about Jan, and his “Talk like TED” workshops at http://www.talkliketed.nl/

“I found the speaker was well prepared and the topic was in a good way and in deep discussed”

Anonymous participant

“Nice speaker, small group, chances for colleagues to practice their own presentations”

Anonymous participant

“Enjoyed the tips given for confidence and clear message”

Anonymous participant

Categories
Career orientation Emotional well-being at work Soft skills development

FYS Social Event

We finally organized the first social event for the FYS community since the pandemic started! It was a real pleasure to see you all networking, enjoying drinks and snacks at Bar Boele. The evening became even more ‘gezellig’ once we discovered that one of the PhD candidates had his birthday on that day. What a coincidence!!

We wish everyone a good start of the new academic year and we look forward to seeing you in the forthcoming FYS workshops. We have a lot of exciting workshops planned!

Categories
Soft skills development

Transferable skills by Thierry Delatte from bHertz

In this 3-hour interactive workshop, PhD candidates and Postdocs did a series of practical exercises to re-discover which transferable skills they already possess. It is hard to believe, but there are around 52 transferable skills, such as relationship building, idea development, assertiveness, ability to write clearly, to delegate, to say ‘no’, and many others!

The workshop gave a great opportunity to reflect on the participants’ capabilities and competences. It also allowed participants to identify their strongest transferable skills that they may showcase during their job interviews in the future. The workshop ended with a nice lunch to share experiences.

You can read more about Thierry Delatte at https://delattecoaching.nl/

“Thierry Delatte did an excellent job in including everyone, creating a safe space for exchange and discussion, and giving great first-hand advice for specific challenges”

Anonymous participant

“Great interaction and the workshop leader was kind”

Anonymous participant

“It showed me in a simple and intuitive way how to talk about my skills”

Anonymous participant

Categories
Career orientation

CV building and motivation letter by Laura Norci

Your CV and motivation letter can be a make-or-break factor in a job application. PhD candidates and Postdocs are in a position where they likely have to apply for different positions.

In this on-campus workshop on “how to showcase yourself”, dr. Laura Norci from Appathways taught Early Career Researchers how to showcase their work as a PhD or Postdoc through their CV and motivation letter. During the workshop, participants learned to tune their CVs for a certain job within and outside of academia. Also, they discussed what to write in a motivation letter and to identify strenghts and skills. Participants shared their opinions with each other about what matters in applying for a job and actively asked Laura for tips and tricks in the application process.

You can read more about dr. Laura Norci at: http://www.appathways.nl/

“It is nice that it is oriented towards researchers instead of a general course”

Anonymous participant

“I have more of an idea what a research-related CV should look like and how it should be composed. So the explanations regarding different sections with examples were nice”

Anonymous participant

Categories
Soft skills development

Scientific storytelling for grant writing by Marieke Hohnen

Writing grant proposals is challenging. Your readers are not specialists in your topic, you have to show why your research is interesting, and you have limited space. This requires specific writing skills. 

In this 2.5-hour workshop, Marieke Hohnen from Hakuna Matata taught participants how to engage readers by writing memorable introductions and avoiding common pitfalls. Together with the group, Marieke talked about the aspects of grant writing that they need to keep in mind, such as avoiding technical concepts or being direct and concise when expressing ideas. After this, PhDs and Postdocs from different disciplines worked in pairs sharing what motivates them about their respective research topics. Finally, Marieke gave individual feedback to each person. In the last section of the workshop, participants worked on integrating these comments into their documents to develop stronger proposals.

You can read more about Marieke Hohnen at: https://mariekehohnen.com/en/

“I liked that it was personalized (we got to practice right away / feedback) and overall information and tips were very clear and useful!”

Anonymous participant

“Exchange with other peers from different areas of research. Tips to improve the story for a grant application. I now see myself closer to be able to do so :)”

Anonymous participant

“It was very clear that Marieke has experience on grant application, and her practical approach made it much more useful compared to theoretical approaches”

Anonymous participant

Categories
Emotional well-being at work

Imposter Syndrome by Ellis Vyth

What is “imposter syndrome” and how does it impact you? These are the questions that attendants were asked at the beginning of the Imposter syndrome workshop provided by Ellis Vyth (Hertz).

“It is the feeling that ‘I don’t deserve it’.”

“I think my peers are smarter and more talented than me.”

“I don’t feel people’s compliments to me are genuine.”

“It demotivates me to do my work.”

…….

After attendants shared their personal stories about “imposter syndrome”, trainer Ellies Vyth pointed out that imposter syndrome is very universal in academia among both male and female researchers. Therefore, don’t feel alone.

To beat the imposter syndrome, three main steps are suggested and practiced in an interactive way during the workshop: First, notice your success and ask/accept positive feedbacks; Second, stop comparing with peers and remember that each person has their own strengths and expertise; Third, speak out mid- or long-term dreams, name the potential barriers, and take small steps to achieve the goal.

You can read more about Ellis Vyth at https://www.ellisvyth.nl/

“Today, I was told that I have a lovely smile. Yes, I should smile more often”

Anonymous participant

“Hearing stories from peers, I realised that I am not alone”

Anonymous participant

“I really enjoyed the three hours workshop”

Anonymous participant

Categories
Soft skills development

Time Management Workshop by Jeanine de Bruin

The academic journey can be seen by many as a marathon. PhD candidates, especially at the beginning of their career, often struggle with managing tasks and workload efficiently. In academia, many tasks are often required to be performed in a limited period of time and many can start feeling overwhelmed. 

This online workshop on “Time Management” provided by Jeanine de Bruin from Hakuna Matata (https://www.hakunamatata.nl) helped young researchers to understand how to assess the time needed for a task and how to set priorities. During the workshop, Jeanine also covered ‘how to deal with stress’, discussing the five origins of stress: 1) lack of concentration and focus, 2) no control over the situation, 3) reluctance for vague and difficult tasks, 4) having high expectations, 5) unclear assessment criteria. Participants learned techniques and tips to help with time management, and had the chance to share experiences with each other.

You can read more about Jeanine de Bruin at: https://www.hakunamatata.nl

“Very structured, nice balance between instruction and exercises in break-out rooms”

Anonymous participant

“I liked that we needed to actively participate and that we started to actually write short paragraph”

Anonymous participant

Categories
Career orientation

Professional Networking for Early Career Researchers by Ellis Vyth

PhD candidates often prioritize research activities and overlook the power of connecting to others both inside and outside academia. However, networking is key for gaining visibility in the job market, learning about open vacancies and expectations of the employers.

This online workshop on “Professional Networking for Early Career Researchers” provided by Ellis Vyth from Hertz (https://www.bhertz.nl/) helped early career researches appreciate the power of networking. During the workshop, the participants learnt do’s & don’ts of networking, practiced visualizing their network and identifying networking opportunities. The workshop also emphasized networking strategies suitable for science and industry, for online and offline environments. The participants also had a chance to practice networking conversations.

You can read more about Ellis Vyth at https://www.ellisvyth.nl/

“It’s interactive, we do role-playing and it’s hands-on”

Anonymous participant

“The coach was very enthusiastic”

Anonymous participant

“I enjoyed interaction between participants”

Anonymous participant

Categories
Soft skills development

Supervising Students by Jeanine de Bruin

PhD candidates and postdocs have many responsibilities besides working on their research. Supervising students is one of them. As young researchers, we are expected to know how to provide constructive feedback or how to negotiate expectations with bachelor or master’s students. This, of course, is not an easy task.

This offline workshop with Jeanine de Bruin of Hakuna Matata combined theory and practice. The goal was to give a solid foundation on relevant topics, such as influencing styles and strategies to provide direct and clear feedback. At the same time, Jeanine gave concrete tools to be effective while supervising students. These tools were discussed in a collaborative environment by PhD candidates and postdocs from different disciplines.

You can read more about Jeanine de Bruin at: https://hakunamatata.nl

“It was concrete and gave specific tips, being able to learn from my peers”

Anonymous participant

“The teacher and her style was really excellent”

Anonymous participant

“I learned a lot of useful tips and got to know many things I never paid attention to”

Anonymous participant

Categories
Soft skills development

Science Communication: how to effectively blog? by Marieke Hohnen

As PhD students and postdocs, we have to be able to present our research to different audiences. While we are used to talking about our projects to peers in conferences, sometimes we are faced with the challenge of discussing our findings with the general audience. Many questions appear in this process: How technical should we be? How in-depth should we go? The goal of this workshop was to learn the basics to write an effective blog post. During the 3-hour session, Marieke Hohnen from Hakuna Matata, presented the advantages of scientific outreach. Researchers from various disciplines learned about the multiple options on the web to write about their project. 

After the introduction, Marieke introduced the benefits of blogging. Relevant aspects, such as the audience (who are you writing for?) and the content of the post (what are you going to write about?), were discussed through group activities. Participants were asked to write the first lines of their post and provide feedback to each other. Finally, Marieke gave tips for starting (or continuing) their writing journey.

You can read more about Marieke Hohnen at: https://mariekehohnen.com/en/

“Very structured, nice balance between instruction and exercises in break-out rooms”

Anonymous participant

“I liked that we needed to actively participate and that we started to actually write short paragraph”

Anonymous participant

“Marieke has a lot of knowledge and she was able to keep my attention!” (translated from Dutch: “Marieke heeft erg veel kennis en ze kon goed mijn aandacht vasthouden!”)

Anonymous participant

Categories
Emotional well-being at work

Recognizing and neutralizing stress and burnout #2 by Claartje van Sijl

As an academic, we all want to be productive and achieve results while enjoying what we do with a clear outlook on a purposeful and fulfilling career. However, the reality is often different, and too many of us are being hindered by the increasing amount of stress we experience.

We all know the feeling of being stressed and express it in a variety of different ways, yet not many of us know how to deal with and neutralize stress to ensure it doesn’t result in negative effects. This second session of ‘Recognising and Neutralizing Stress and Burnout’ with Claartje van Sijl touched on the topics of stress and burnout (or boreout), raising awareness about the different stages of stress and when they are a cause for concern. After providing an overview of the mechanisms behind stress, Claartje taught us practical skills on how to recognise our stress signals and consequently take action on to prevent and lower our stress levels.

You can read more about Claartje at http://vansijl.com.

We fully understand that these past couple of months have been extremely stressful for many, and want to point out that there are multiple sources of support available should you feel the need to speak to someone about what you have been feeling.

  • You can speak to your fellow PhD candidates/colleagues, they can often provide informal support and the mere sharing of how you feel can already feel like a huge relief.
  • Discuss your feelings and needs with your surpervisor so that they can support you through the process.
  • If you would like to talk to someone outside of your department yet still within the VU, you can contact the Studentenombudsman; Lies (E.J.) Poesiat. Email: studentenombudsman@vu.nl. Phone: 020 598 5313.
  • You can also contact the HSE Front Office to arrange seeing a social worker, the company Dr. or a Psychologist. Email: secretariaat.amd@vu.nl. Phone: 020 59 89008.
  • Lastly, you can also go to your GP (huisarts) should you wish to speak with someone not affiliated to the VU.

If you need further help or guidance, please don’t hesitate to contact us as well via forumyoungscientists@vu.nl.

“I liked that the audience was from like-minded people, who think alike and are struggling with similar problems”

Anonymous participant

“Very useful input, tailored towards early career academics, nice sense of community (despite the online format)”

Anonymous participant

Categories
Soft skills development

Presentation Skills by Marieke Hohnen

Speaking in front of an audience is an essential part of being a scientist. Presentations can be formal or informal, the amount of time that you are given can vary, or, especially in these times, you might have to speak in front of a computer screen. Regardless of the setting, talking in public can be scary. But it is also a skill that you can practice and improve, and even learn to enjoy!

During this 3-hour workshop, Marieke Hohnen presented some of the tips and tricks to prepare and give a convincing (online) presentation. Participants from different disciplines worked in breakout rooms to practice different exercises. They also gave each other feedback to create strong openings and closings for their presentations.

You can read more about Marieke Hohnen at: https://mariekehohnen.com/en/

“I really took very important tips with me”

Anonymous participant

“Dynamic, engaging, well facilitated”

Anonymous participant

“I liked meeting and talking to other people than the ones I usually talk to”

Anonymous participant

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