Tag Archives: Training

Ideas for Building Career Development into PhD Seminars

By Loleen Berdahl

Since the publication of our book Work Your Career: Get What You Want from Your Social Sciences and Humanities PhD, my co-author Jonathan Malloy and I have been asked for ideas about how to use the book in PhD seminar classes. I am delighted that faculty are looking for ways to help PhD students start thinking about their careers at an early stage, and that they are working to create a climate where students feel safe to discuss career options. Over the past couple of years, Jonathan and I have led conference sessions and workshops with PhD students, postdocs, and others interested in PhD career development that draw on the ideas we present in Work Your Career. Most recently, we offered a Career Corner session at the 2018 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, and we were pleased to see students across a broad range of academic disciplines enthusiastically engage with the topic.

For our sessions, we have led students in discussions and group activities. The discussions of PhD career development prompt students to think about the many career options—including but not exclusively academia—for which PhD students can prepare. The group activities are particularly useful to help students engage with the ideas; for these, we ask students to complete a self-assessment on a specific area for a short period, and then share their responses with each other in small groups of 3-4 people. This is then followed by a larger full group discussion. We conclude the process by asking students to come up with a personal “action plan” to develop areas they wish to strengthen. What we particularly enjoy about this collaborative process is that it helps students identify further strengths that they already possess. By developing an action plan students increase their awareness of how they can use personal agency to achieve their goals.

Building off these conference sessions, I have developed a list of activities for faculty who wish to use Work Your Career in their PhD seminars or in non-credit, stand-alone professional development seminars offered to students. For the group activities (Table 1), I suggest that students begin with individual work, followed by small group student discussions, and then full class discussion. For some classes, instructors might consider including students at other stages of their program. This can have the dual benefit of bringing in some different perspectives as well as prompting more senior students to reflect on their own studies. For the reading responses (Table 2), I suggest that instructors limit responses to 250 words, and assign grades on a complete/incomplete basis to avoid any perception that there are “right answers.” The reading response items could also be adapted to serve as seminar discussion questions.

It is rewarding to see that so many faculty—and particularly PhD supervisors, graduate program chairs, and department chairs—are deeply committed to advancing PhD student career success. For those who use Work Your Career in the classroom, I hope that you will find these activities useful as you guide and mentor your students. I welcome your ideas to expand this list, as well as any feedback on how the activities work in your classroom, at loleen.berdahl@usask.ca. And I thank you for looking for opportunities to prompt PhD students to engage with their own career development as early in their programs as possible.

Table 1: Group Activities drawing upon Work Your Career: Get What You Want from Your Social Sciences or Humanities PhD

Group Activity Reading and Material
Assess your current career competency evidence and strengths, and select areas where you would like to develop your evidence and strengths further. Chapter 1, particularly Table 1.2
Explore how you can build further career competency evidence through program activities such as classes, comps, and dissertation, and create a personal action plan. Chapter 3
Evaluate how you can build further career competency evidence through non-program activities, and create a personal action plan. Chapter 4, particularly Table 4.1
Create an informational interview action plan. Chapter 4, particularly pages 87-89
Assess and refine the significance of your current dissertation project idea. Chapter 5, particularly Table 5.1
Create a schedule for the remainder of the semester, strategically booking tasks into high energy and low energy schedule blocks. Chapter 7, particularly pages 142-149
Detail your current professional network, and select areas where you would like to develop your network further. Create a personal action plan to do so. Chapter 7, particularly Figure 7.1
Appraise which PhD activities you find most energizing and rewarding. Chapter 8, particularly Table 8.2
Develop a short narrative story that uses evidence to demonstrate one or more of your career competencies. Chapter 8, particularly pages 179-183
Formulate specific strategies to identify the problem that an organization is hiring to solve, and create a personal action plan for how to approach job applications. Chapters 8 and 9
Plan specific answers to the common questions raised during academic job interviews. Chapter 9, particularly Table 9.4

Table 2: Reading Response Topics drawing upon Work Your Career: Get What You Want from Your Social Sciences or Humanities PhD

Reading Response Topics Reading
What is your personal career goal? How does your PhD program fit into this goal? Chapter 1
What are the strengths of your current program for your personal career goal and how can you realize these strengths? Chapter 2
What factors should students regularly consider when deciding whether or not to continue their program? How can you make this a safe question for yourself as you move through your program? Chapter 3
What are the opportunities for you to use non-program activities to increase your experience and skills? (Examine your university’s doctoral professional development opportunities and be specific in your response.) Chapter 4
What are the opportunities for you to build your funding track record? (Search online for opportunities and be specific in your response.) Chapter 5
Identify one potential scholarly journal option and one potential non-scholarly publishing option for your work. Explain why these options are good fits for your research. Chapter 6
In what ways do you personally use graciousness, professionalism, and discretion to cultivate your own professional reputation? Chapter 7
What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of an “academia-first” mentality? Chapter 8
What amount of teaching experience do you feel would best position you to be competitive for tenure-track academic jobs? Chapter 9
Which of the identified faculty “actions” do you feel would most benefit PhD students? What other actions, if any, do you recommend? Appendix

Loleen Berdahl is Professor and Head of Political Studies at the University of Saskatchewan, and co-author (with Jonathan Malloy) of the book Work Your Career: Get What You Want from Your Social Sciences and Humanities PhD (University of Toronto Press, 2018). After completing her PhD, she worked for ten years in the nonprofit think tank world. Her research considers public attitudes, intergovernmental relations, and political science career development, and she is the recipient of three University of Saskatchewan teaching awards. Follow her on Twitter (@loleen_berdahl), where she tweets about political science, higher education, and opportunities for students, among other topics, and connect with her on LinkedIn.

The Story Behind Work Your Career: Get What You Want from Your Social Sciences or Humanities PhD

In the lead-up to this year’s Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, where authors Loleen Berdahl and Jonathan Malloy will be leading a Career Corner for graduate students, we are pleased to present some background information on their new book, Work Your Career: Get What You Want from Your Social Sciences or Humanities PhD. Pick up your copy at Congress or order it online today!

Jonathan Malloy, Professor and Chair, Political Science, Carleton University

The issue of career paths for PhD students has received increasing attention in recent years. As someone who has been engaged on this topic since the 1990s, I am excited to see this conversation moving forward and to add my voice to them with a new book, Work Your Career: Get What You Want from Your Social Sciences or Humanities PhD (University of Toronto Press, 2018). In this short and accessible volume, my co-author Loleen Berdahl and I offer practical advice to on how to navigate a social sciences or humanities doctoral program in Canada to lead to career success. It is both about doing a PhD and what to do with a PhD—and thinking about both from the start. One of the things that makes our book distinct is that we strongly advocate a seamless approach to PhD career development that does not require having to decide between “academic” and “non-academic” tracks.

We developed this approach based on our own personal experiences. While we only met in 2014, both of us pursued PhDs in the 1990s being open to the idea of non-academic careers and taking a proactive approach to publishing, networking, and overall career development. After finishing her PhD, Loleen worked outside academia in a public policy role, a career path she greatly enjoyed. For my part, as a PhD student I worked in government briefly and began to write materials for doctoral student audiences, authoring a guide for incoming students in my program and an essay for The Bulletin (the now-defunct official University of Toronto newspaper) on the need for more work and attention to non-academic jobs for PhDs.

I ended up in a position as a faculty member in a department with a large PhD program. Every year, I saw new waves of PhD students constantly struggling with the same issues over and over—not just about academic careers, but every aspect of their programs. I also realized that the mentality I had developed back in my own PhD years gave me a broad perspective and a lot of tacit and relevant knowledge that could be passed on. A particular moment for sharing this knowledge was in 2010, when “rumour blogs” became popular among many PhD students and junior academics, including some devoted specifically to Canadian political science (my discipline). These unmoderated bulletin boards responded to the genuine need and desire for career information and guidance in the sprawling and often opaque world of academia, but were ugly and disreputable—aggressive, often sexist, and defamatory. I decided to counteract this by creating my own blog, “Advice and Discussion about Canadian Polisci Jobs,” and for a year made weekly posts of career advice for Canadian political science PhD students and junior academics. The blog was well-visited and attracted commentary and discussion. I eventually ran out of fresh things to say every week, but the blog stayed up for years and continued to attract visitors.

Loleen was mostly out of the academic world for ten years and while her work connected her to other PhDs working in a variety of non-academic environments, she was not actively engaged in doctoral career mentorship issues. But she later returned to academia with her position at the University of Saskatchewan, and in 2014 we were both elected to the board of the Canadian Political Science Association (CPSA) and met for the first time. After discovering our shared mentality and approach to PhD education and job opportunities, I sent Loleen a link to the blog. Loleen has a strong applied background in knowledge mobilization, and saw the potential for the blog to be expanded and updated to help promote much-needed discussion on the issue. She suggested it could be the foundation of a book, an option I had not previously considered. The idea for Work Your Career came together easily at that point, and Mat Buntin at University of Toronto Press was instantly receptive and supportive.

Our engagement on this topic goes beyond the book to include research and outreach initiatives on career mentoring and development. Of particular note are our conference workshops for PhD students and recent graduates, doctoral supervisors, and interested faculty. After two decades of thinking about PhD education and academic mentoring, I find it encouraging to see a growing number of students and faculty looking at opportunities for doctoral students to prepare for multiple career paths. We will be discussing these ideas further at our Career Corner session at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences on Wednesday, May 30, and welcome all Congress participants interested in PhD careers to attend.

Doctoral students, individual faculty, academic disciplines, and universities are paying growing attention to the career training and futures of Canada’s social sciences and humanities PhD students and graduates. I am happy to have Work Your Career: Get What You Want from Your Social Sciences or Humanities PhD as part of the larger discussion.

Jonathan Malloy is Professor at Carleton University.

Counseling Diversity in Context

To mark the publication of Counseling Diversity in Context, author Jason Brown explains the political context within which counselors and psychotherapists work and how his book is intended to provide useful guidelines for those who wish to take a more activist role to promote social justice, equality, and equity.

Counseling Diversity in ContextCounseling and psychotherapy are political activities. I try to convince students of this. It seems strange to many of them that I would even mention politics in a micro-skills counseling practicum course. But really, just as everything a counselor does with a client is (or should be) therapeutic for the client, it is also political, whether this is acknowledged or not. Not only do counselors and psychotherapists practice in professions that are political, each is also a citizen, a status that comes with its own responsibilities.

The point of my new book, Counseling Diversity in Context, is to talk about the contexts within which psychotherapists practice and clients live. It speaks to something that is fundamentally challenging to many of us: despite best efforts to understand, own, and act in ways that are authentically ourselves, the environment has a lot of influence on what we do. This is a great thing when there is reciprocity and the right balance of support and challenge, but that’s not usually the case when we are struggling.

Consider, for example, a young adult on social assistance and looking for work. A dejected woman who has been applying for jobs for weeks, who cannot afford minutes for her cell phone to take and return calls from prospective employers, comes for counseling. While depression may be a “problem,” the “problem” may also be an absence of schools that accommodate parents or a lack of access to affordable child care. While income support is far below many poverty lines, fear of losing it if her partner lived with them (and helped out financially as well as with caregiving) keeps them separated. Counseling could help improve her energy and motivation, and may be supplemented by connecting her with free short-term childcare and providing a card for telephone minutes. However, the “problem” is also poverty, the welfare system, and how these reflect classism, sexism, and racism.

Addressing the full situation may sound idealistic, I know. But in the big picture, each person, group, organization, community, and nation influences others. Therefore, we each participate in the creation and maintenance of our sociopolitical environment. With equality as a goal and equity as a first step, the context in which clients live can no longer be viewed as benign—it must always be seen as part of the problem for which clients seek therapy.

A major barrier to acting on notions of social justice, equality, and equity—even if a majority of stakeholders actually agree that such action needs to be taken—is how to do it. That’s the emphasis of the second half of Counseling Diversity in Context. It takes a look outside of the psychotherapist’s office and into the communities where we practice and live. It offers a way to assess that community and identify potential changes, as well as approaches and tactics to bring that change along.

Counselors and psychotherapists need not be leaders of community change. In this book, a range of possible roles are outlined with pros and cons of each, where the principles apply equally well to institutions, agencies, and programs. In each chapter, case examples illustrate the connections between social issues and personal problems. They also point to ways these can be addressed both within and outside the counseling office, and, importantly, how clients themselves may be best positioned to advocate for, lead, or support community change.

Counseling Diversity in Context is for students in counseling and psychotherapy training in psychology, social work, medicine, and other allied disciplines. It may fit well within courses on diversity and culture, as well as supplement readings in professional and reflective practice or counseling theories and methods.

There are discussion questions for each chapter that can be used to identify different perspectives and positions on issues. Internet links to various social justice organizations and initiatives are included for further reading. There are also several frameworks that students may use to explore personal experiences with oppression and liberation, how these are experienced by their peers and clients, as well as how addressing them may be promoted within professional organizations and communities.

Jason Brown is Professor of Counseling Psychology in the Faculty of Education at Western University.

Tips for Staying Human During Residency Training – Part 3

Peterkin_StayingHuman_6eDr. Allan Peterkin’s Staying Human During Residency Training: How to Survive and Thrive after Medical School was recently released in its 6th edition. It is the ultimate survival guide for medical students, interns, residents, and fellows, providing time-tested advice and the latest information on every aspect of a resident’s life – from choosing a residency program, to coping with stress, enhancing self-care, and protecting personal and professional relationships. For this 3 part series (read part 1 here, and part 2 here), Dr. Peterkin has provided us with tips from his book, and information on why they are important.

Tips for Avoiding Trouble in Couple Life

Residency training can put a strain on couple life.  Factors include geographic moves (sometimes away from family and supports), less time for socializing, overloaded schedules (leading to more time apart), fatigue and irritability, and a growing imbalance in responsibility for household tasks and routines.

Here are some tips for keeping the lines of communication open, for actually deepening your relationship throughout your training, and for helping you avoid trouble in couple life:

• Remember that your partner is not medically trained and may need frequent explanations about expectations, scientific terms, causes of stress, procedures, and duties; however, avoid constant shop talk.

• Write out a schedule of shifts and rotations or online call schedules with probable hours, so your partner knows what to expect. Make a list of household tasks with your partner and discuss how to share them, taking into account each other’s workloads.

• Plan time alone together in advance, rather than hoping it will happen. Go out on a “date” at least once a week!

• Leave the job at the hospital. Avoid constant calls to the hospital or worrying about things you might have forgotten.

• If you’re both doctors, try to book the same calls.

• Acknowledge when you are tired, angry, or sad, and state the source of the feeling (the job, home, or elsewhere).

• Set aside a regular time to talk about your priorities and longterm goals as a couple, emphasizing things to look forward to.

• Call, Skype, or text home at least once a shift.

• Do things to increase closeness: have dinner together at the hospital on a call night, telephone each other, leave notes, arrange surprises, buy gifts, make playful gestures.

• Develop shared hobbies and activities: sports, gardening, home improvement, family visits, and so forth.

• Maximize support from family, friends, social events, and residency resources.

• Schedule time for sex – because of fatigue levels, if you don’t, it might not happen!

Tips for Staying Human During Residency Training – Part 2

Peterkin_StayingHuman_6eDr. Allan Peterkin’s Staying Human During Residency Training: How to Survive and Thrive after Medical School was recently released in its 6th edition. It is the ultimate survival guide for medical students, interns, residents, and fellows, providing time-tested advice and the latest information on every aspect of a resident’s life – from choosing a residency program, to coping with stress, enhancing self-care, and protecting personal and professional relationships. For this 3 part series (read part 1 here, and part 3 here), Dr. Peterkin has provided us with tips from his book, and information on why they are important.

Tips for Remaining Mindful

Residents often report that they ignore bodily cues (including the need for regular meals and bathroom breaks) because of their busy schedules and over-stimulation on the wards . It’s easy to split off feelings and bodily sensations in favor of left-brain activities like information processing. Constant movement to get things done doesn’t always allow for reflection. How many times a day do you check your phone?

Good doctors are able to be fully present to themselves as well as to their patients. Mindfulness involves bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience, on a moment-to-moment basis. This allows you to observe mental and bodily experiences more clearly and without judgment, and to put them in perspective.  Here are some tips for staying mindful throughout your day:

• Check your breathing throughout the day. Take 10 full, deep breaths.

• Watch your posture whenever you move from standing to sitting, lying down or walking. What is your body telling you?

• Check in with your five senses – what are you seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, smelling?

• Listen to others without interruption or judgment. When it’s your turn, make your point calmly, with your body relaxed.

• Check your muscle tone during the day. Are your muscles stiff, sore, tight, relaxed? Stretch out the tension.

• Whenever possible, eat slowly. Taste. Chew. Pay attention!

• Make a point of paying attention to daily, even routine, activities (instead of doing them on automatic pilot). Observe yourself brushing your teeth, washing the dishes, tying your shoelaces. Be present. Be here, now!

• Observe your thoughts and feelings in a given moment – whether irritated, amused, overwhelmed, happy. Name the feeling for yourself. Take a breath and don’t judge what you’re feeling. At the same time, don’t act on it or speak out without reflecting.