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.
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.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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: email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Being a researcher can be very stressful nowadays: you have to conduct high-level scientific research in a given time, as well as writing academic papers, dealing with one ore more supervisors, having to teach courses, just to name a few tasks. Throughout this intense journey, you may have learned to develop tools to handle the associated pressure, but at times the stress seems to reach levels that do not allow you to work properly. Maybe you begin having trouble sleeping or perhaps you start feeling physical pain. These are important signs of stress and there are simple techniques that we can use to prevent it.
In the interactive workshop ‘Recognizing and neutralizing stress and burnout’, Claartje van Sijl created awareness of these personal stress factors that can vary between each person. She also showed us practical resources to help us regain a better balance. The workshop focused on three main elements: stress and burnout prevention, recognition of burnout and, finally, information on what to do in case you are facing burnout in your personal work environment.
Ingrid Scheijven from ‘De Groeizaak’ gave an interactive workshop on Job Application Skills. In this workshop Ingrid explained the how to tune our CVs and cover letters to the vacancy we want to apply for and how to prepare for a job interview. We also discussed which questions to ask and not to ask during a job interview. Participants gave each other feedback on their CVs and cover letters and the workshop finished with an interactive play role activity where we interviewed each other. In addition, one of the participants was selected for a free coaching session with Ingrid! It was a successful morning!
When you’re close to finishing your PhD or postdoc you will have to make a choice about your next career step. A common question is: to be in academia, or not to be in academia. If you so much choose to transition your career to industry, it can be quite unclear at first what your opportunities are, what strategies to adapt to find vacancies and what skills and competences you’ve developed which can apply to job functions outside your line of work. Especially understanding what your transferable skills are can help you feel more confident in applying for jobs outside your ‘niche’ research and, more importantly, outside your comfort zone.
In this workshop, Lisette from People in Science taught us how to recognize new job opportunities through various vacancy platforms. Additionally, as a recruiter herself, she explained how job recruiters look at your career profile, and how you can optimize your profile to increase your exposure. Moreover, we interactively practiced how to recognize your transferable skills and competences, and employed the STARR method to cinvincingly translate those, either in an interview or motivation letter.
Building up a network is crucial for a successful career in academia or industry. However, networking skills are not that easy to develop, especially for young scientists, who might feel like a small fish in a big pond. In this online workshop, Ellis Vyth from Bhertz discussed topics such as online and off-line networking and the differences between networking in academia and industry. Furthermore, through both individual and group assignments, we became familiar with the do’s and dont’s of networking and how we can build up a network ourselves.
Having the feeling that we don’t belong to a group or that we don’t deserve our success is unfortunately common in academia. Talking openly about this make can make us realize that we all face the same challenges, which already tell us how weak the fundamentals of this concept are – there is then no point of “disregarding our work” or “constantly compare it with others”. In this workshop, Ellis Vyth from Bhertz explained what the imposter syndrome is, how it can affect us and what strategies can be adopted to tackle it.
During this workshop participants interactively learned to take ownership of their success, embrace compliments and identify their qualities. In a first activity participants were asked to share a story and complement each other. Understanding what our ambitions and dreams are can help us find our place in the ‘now’ and pave our way forward. So, in a second exercise participants shared their future projects. The group had deep conversations and people were actively engaged in the activities!
Defending your dissertation in front of the opposition can be nerve-wrecking and stressful. Luckily, there are strategies to adopt to prepare yourself optimally for your defense. In this online workshop Daniël discussed and interactively practiced strategies to confidently work towards your defense. What questions can you expect the opposition to ask, and therefore prepare for it? How do you respond to difficult questions? How to deal with different styles of questioning?
The participants were invited to make a short two minute pitch of their defense to present to a colleague in 3 rounds – questions and feedback was given by the other colleague and roles were changed. Each round focused on one of the three key aspects, mentioned above. To successfully complete the assignment, participants had to focus on key points of their thesis, but the content was not everything – clarity, intonation and confidence were tested as well. The best practice is practice, practice, practice – so that’s what they did!
PhD-candidates and Postdocs often find themselves in situations where good communication skills are called for. Whether it is on deciding upon the right direction for the research, or negotiating on how many experiments to include, young scientists can find it difficult to pursue their own ideas while keeping a good relationship with their peers and supervisor. Researchers in the academic world are already negotiating without being aware of it! In this workshop participants learned how to prepare negotiations thoroughly and how both parties can book success. Daniel brought interactive activities in how to prepare negotiations thoroughly and how to identify our individual conflict style!
Many PhD-students and postdocs experience difficulties in maintaining a balance between all the different projects and tasks they have. This is not to mention the difficult balance between work and private life. It is all about making the right decisions, but these are often not very clear and are always very personal. In this workshop Ellis worked with us on deciding on the tasks to definitely pursue and those that could be discarded. We practiced different ways of convincing our colleagues and supervisors and learned to say no in an effective and friendly way.
Supervising and one-to-one support is an important part of professional learning. As a supervisor, how do we assure good guidance, structure and provide guidelines for communication during student projects? In this workshop Jeanine provided different styles to effectively guide students. How to deal with intercultural differences in communication, how to deal with project expectations and how to give constructive feedback were just some of the topics covered in this workshop!
Discussing strengths and qualities with your supervisor and colleagues is one of the best ways to build successful organisations. Acknowledging you own personal skills is the first step to be able put these into practice. Moreover it raises your self-esteem and enhances team spirit. In this workshop we identified our personal strengths in terms of (transferable) skills and qualities. We talked about strategies on how to communicate effectively about our strengths in order to put these into practice. We also identified and addressed our weaknesses in order to make better and effective decisions during our career.
Your head can be full of exciting and innovative research ideas, but without funding it might be difficult to start scaling your thoughts up to practice. Or maybe you’re just trying to find a payed extension for your PhD? What grants can you apply for, and how should you approach the writing of such an application?
Maartje de Snoo, from the VU grants desk, hosted this workshop to explain the ins and outs of applying for grants, for both PhD-candidates and postdocs. In this workshop, she explained which grants you can apply for, how an application procedure looks like and tips to structure your application manuscript to convince the comittee.
The stronger a team’s communication skills are, the better the outcome: studies have found that highly effective communicators are 32% more likely to meet the goals of a major project. This makes it crucial that we learn how to convey tricky but important messages in good time, with clarity, respect and patience. In this 2-hour session, we discussed
Bariers for good coomunication in you work environment
How to ‘tune in’ to (non)verbal signals we are giving to others, and how these may perceived
Ways to handle difficult conversations and give feedback
Reading ten papers a day, planning your academic career and looking for meaning and happiness in your research and not to forget the endless writing… On top, you’re not making the most out of it when you don’t have a relationship, found a grown up apartment without filthy flatmates and party as much as you can while you’re at it. As millennial, life is often just thrown upon you with numerous, paralyzing choices. And before you know it, you get burnt out. But when do you know when you have it? In this workshop we learned how to prevent a burn-out and how to stay energized throughout our careers.
Job application skills are essential for professionals in today’s society. The job market is becoming more flexible than ever and due to technology and globalization jobs are changing rapidly.
In this workshop Ingrid Scheijven from De Groeizaak discussed with us how professionals can stay attractive in this dynamic job market in order to create a fulfilling and meaningful career.
We gained insight in the essential steps of the complete application process via interactive activities. We discussed ‘building’ our profiles, how to find jobs and practiced job interview skills and salary negotiations.