HDR Career Conversations

Supporting research student career development and employability at UOW

August 3, 2020
by whitneys

Missing the Monkey: The Post-PhD Blues

Intro: I have known Dr. Conor West, as a HDR student, a project collaborator and now we are lucky to have her as a UOW colleague at Learning, Teaching and Curriculum.  I love this honest account of her experience and feelings when finishing her PhD and working out what to do next. I think most readers will relate in some way…

Like many of us, the doctoral-shaped monkey on my back seemed to gain weight as the years of my PhD passed by. By the end, it was only my innate stubbornness and fear of disappointing others that kept us together.

I spent much of those four years riding waves of passionate curiosity and troughs of seething disappointment. Not that it mattered, as regardless of how I was feeling, my monkey always required something from me. Time away from it filled me with guilt. I convinced myself that a break could wait until the tables had been re-formatted, a new article annotated, or the next page of feedback was applied. Life happened in the space it left; I always gave my monkey the attention it screamed for. Until, unceremoniously, my monkey was gone.

Photo by MESSALA CIULLA from Pexels (license)

It was an ordinary Tuesday, working alone from home when I realised the monkey had run out of tasks to throw at me. I had suddenly found myself looking at a submit button, with my full dissertation attached to the box above it. I clicked submit almost as a reflex, akin to accepting terms and conditions. I messaged family and friends and posted about my almost-completion. In silence, I got up to wash the dishes and heard the ping of an automatic email from HDR administration with their congratulations and estimates for examiner feedback. It was all very underwhelming, as I knew my monkey would be back.  Continue Reading →

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May 22, 2019
by whitneys

Are you career ready?

Introduction:  UOW Higher Degree Researcher Amy Boyle first wrote on this topic as part of her online reflections for the zero credit point subject Career Ready Learning for Higher Degree Researchers CRLH900.  Her proactive and organised approach and examples of career development activities were too good not to share more widely, so I asked her to rewrite her experience as a piece for the blog.  Though we can’t all be so naturally organised, I am really impressed with the incremental approach Amy is taking to her career development activities and her ability to find opportunities as she progresses.  

Coming into a PhD, I think a lot of people are so focused on their research that they forgot to think about what comes after. Having a PhD doesn’t necessarily get you a job in your field, but with a little bit of planning you can increase the likelihood. Your supervisor’s main focus is your thesis work and they may not have the capacity to help with your career. Consequently, I participated in the HDR Careers workshops last year as part of the optional careers subject CRLH900: Career Ready Learning for Higher Degree Researchers. I was in the first year of my PhD and the learning acquired through these workshops was incredibly useful to rewire my thinking into approaching my PhD as an apprenticeship, rather than just another stage of study.

My participation in these workshops encouraged me to take initiative for my career development, develop long-term strategies and be cognizant of the changing workforce, specifically: Continue Reading →

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February 20, 2019
by saryan

Confessions of an Early Career Researcher: lesson one – “showing up”

Guest post by Dr Rachel Loney-Howes, Lecturer, Criminology, School of Health and Society, University of Wollongong

16:03” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by marksdk

Introduction: In recent years, career development researchers have focused on the role of chance and luck in career development.  They’ve found that, although on reflection we have a tendency to ‘reframe’ our career success in terms of luck, there are certain behaviours and attitudes that contribute to taking advantage of ‘chance’ events.  Dr Rachel Loney-Howes a Lecturer from the School of  Health and Society here at UOW was ‘lucky’ enough to start an ongoing academic position 6 months after her PhD (yes – 6 months!) In this blog post, she talks about one of the behaviours that helped make that happen.

I still can’t believe my luck. Six months after graduating from my PhD from La Trobe University in Melbourne, I was offered an ongoing position here at the University of Wollongong as lecturer in Criminology in the School of Health and Society. Six months. I was under the impression that I would be casually or contractually employed for at least three – maybe even five years – before I would be gainfully employed, as so many of my friends and colleagues were and currently are. At an HDR Panel for post-graduate research students in the School of Health and Society, which ran in October 2018, I was asked to speak about how I got so lucky. What was it about my experience as a post-graduate research student that made me a competitive candidate for my current role? And what pearls of wisdom could I share with emerging ECRs that might help them as they enter the academic job market. In this blogpost, I discuss some elements of that “luck” I encountered during my candidature as a PhD student – most of which came about because I literally “showed up.”[1];[2]  Continue Reading →

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January 9, 2019
by saryan

You are getting a PhD, so what’s next?

rnolReflections from School of Health and Society Research Student Careers Event 

Introduction: As HDR Careers Counsellor I recently contributed to a career development event at the School of Health and Society (HAS) which included a panel discussion followed by some interactive career exercises. You guessed it – we asked for a volunteer to write a blog piece. Faysal Kabir Shuvo, a PhD researcher in HAS volunteered to share his learning from this event co-ordinated by the Head of Postgraduate Studies, Associate Professor Xiaoqi Feng.


Dr. Iain Butterworth (far right) sharing his career story, pictured alongside Dr. Rachel Loney-Howes and some of the HAS research student audience.

The objective of this workshop was mainly to guide post-PhD career planning. The workshop was an excellent mix of professionals sharing their career journeys. Dr Iain Butterworth is the Head of professional services in the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute. Dr Rachel Loney-Howes, has recently been recruited as Lecturer in the School of Health and Society. And finally, we had Ms Sarah Ryan, our on-campus resource for all matters HDR careers. The workshop was nicely moderated by Associate Professor Xiaoqi Feng, Head of Postgraduate Studies, School of Health and Society. Motivated by my participation in the Careers Central Career Ready Learning for Higher Degree Research (CRLH900) subject, I have started to explore a range of post-PhD career options. Therefore, personally, I was intrigued Continue Reading →

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November 1, 2018
by saryan
1 Comment

Exploring your research career – 15 minutes at a time

Introduction: Exploring your future career options can seem like just another item to add to your long list of research tasks – it might be tempting to procrastinate and put it to the bottom of the list. Corinne Green, a PhD researcher in Education and a current student of ‘Career Ready Learning for Higher Degree Research Students’, shows us it doesn’t have to be overly time consuming, by using research career podcasts, one of which she reviews below.  


How much time do you spend thinking about your future career? Maybe it is something that plagues your mind constantly, or something you would rather not think about, or perhaps something you have not yet considered. Whatever stage of your studies you are up to, it can be valuable to consider what is coming next and how you are going to get there.

Earlier this year the ‘15 Minutes to Develop Your Research Career’ podcast Continue Reading →

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March 27, 2018
by saryan

When things line up… Securing your first academic post

Guest post by Dr. Travis Holland

Introduction:  There is no doubt the academic sector is increasingly competitive, or that its the sector many HDR students aspire to.  I loved Travis’ original blog post on LinkedIn describing how he managed to get things lined up in such a competitive academic sector.  I’ve known Travis as a project colleague, a contributor to our HDR conference and as a job-seeking HDR student.  As the latter, he struck me as clear and confident of the value he could add in a range of target sectors– an element essential to employability.  His advice will be useful to many students looking to get ‘things lined up’ for their future careers.


Source: Charles Sturt University

For most PhD students, the likelihood of landing an ongoing academic role is low, with increasing rates of casualisation, budgetary pressures on universities, and an oversupply of candidates. However, I managed to successfully land a role that I’m very excited to take up at a progressive, community-focused University before I had finalised my PhD.

There are a series of factors that converged to make the right role for me and to make me the right candidate for that position. Continue Reading →

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February 21, 2018
by saryan

Longing to belong in academic culture: Exploring the experiences of HDR students

I was excited to hear about this research project being carried out by UOW researchers Dr. Janine Delahunty and Dr. Kathryn Harden-Thew.  It has real potential to give useful insights to academic and professional staff who support HDR students (including careers).  Take some time to give your views and experience…

Have you ever wanted to share your experiences of HDR study?

Researchers from the University of Wollongong are seeking HDR students at any stage of their studies for their perceptions and experiences of HDR study. The project aims to explore how HDR students move into and through academic culture, navigating the explicit and implicit expectations of others and self. We are interested in finding out about your experiences of becoming and being an HDR student; what you have struggles with; what you wish you’d known before you began; your supervision experiences; where you find other support and your aspirations for the future.

Dr Janine Delahunty & Dr Kathryn Harden-Thew



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