As a PhD student I’m expected to engage in professional development activities. I’ll admit, at first I rolled my eyes and got worried it would be boring or take time away from my research. But I’ve actually learnt a lot of useful academic skills and personal skills.
3 things I’ve learnt this semester
1. How to double my reading speed
Like most of you, I have piles of reading to get through. In order to sort out what articles I should invest my time reading and which ones aren’t so relevant I learnt to speed read. One simple technique is to use your finger as a pacer- run your finger along the line of text in front of your eyes quick enough that you can only just keep up.The idea is to get the gist of the article, not be able to remember it all. This technique you can double your reading speed with only a short 15 minute practice.
If you want to learn more sign up for the course at 301 Student Skills and Development Centre.
2. There is a point to group work!
To be honest I’m not the biggest fan of group work after several bad experiences at undergraduate level involving lazy group members or even worse, totally domineering members with questionable ideas. But a Sheffield Teaching Assistant course taught me that group work is valuable for:
– building your understanding of a topic by explaining it to others, or helping to highlight what you’re not sure of
– getting feedback on your ideas from others in the group
– practicing working in a group
– learning to problem solve
– getting to know other people
which leads me onto…
3. Workshops are a great place to network.
‘Networking’ might sound scary but for me it literally means talking to people and finding out what you have in common and if you could help each other. It might be as simple as getting friendly enough with them that you could sit with them if you met at another workshop (no one likes to have to go in and sit on their own). Or it could help you professionally or personally.
For example, in one workshop I met Wasim Ahmed, a social media researcher and consultant. We got chatting and it turned out that only days before I’d read his article on ‘using twitter as a data source‘. We added each other on twitter (@was3210, @Healthyandpsych) and I was excited when he re-tweeted about a new post on my health blog, especially since he has 27 times more followers than I do!!
If you’re studying a PhD and haven’t taken part in many professional development activities I’d encourage you to give them a try. You never know, it might be fun as well as educational.