PhD Diary: The Lancaster Award

I’ve just recently completed my submission for the Lancaster Gold Award. The Award tracks extra-curricular activities and contributions to campus life and the community, as well as work experience and other activities related to employability.

Many of you reading this will probably wonder why I decided to bother with the Lancaster Award – after all, I have loads of work experience, and am not perhaps the target market for the Award, which is mainly aimed at undergraduates who perhaps don’t have all that much on their CV. But then I thought: why not?

The more I think about it, I’m not sure I know any postgraduate, and certainly no PhD student who has completed the Lancaster Gold Award, so that in itself is a minor ‘plus’ to my CV. Sure, it may not be the be all and end all in the academic jobs market, but it does go to show my hard work and contribution to University life while I’ve been working on a full-time PhD. The fact I’ve been able to balance my PhD alongside paid work and other related activities is actually a skill in itself and is testament to what I hope makes me a highly employable academic.

Video interviews

One of the elements of the Award process that was particularly useful I felt was the chance to do a video interview at the end of the process. While I’ve certainly had Skype interviews before, I’ve never had a video interview, so the experience of sitting down and recording short answers to questions that flash up on the screen was an interesting challenge that I started to enjoy once I got over the first few questions that felt a bit strange.

I admit, I felt a bit trepidatious before the interview, but the experience was a good one, and in all honesty it was worth doing the Award just for the opportunity to try out a video interview, as it might give me that slight edge should I ever come up against one in the future.

Library books

Employability matters

About 10 years ago now, I remember sitting in a packed lecture theatre at Brunel University thinking ‘my gosh, there are a lot of English Literature students here’. The more I thought about it, the more I realised this was true across the country and beyond, with literally thousands of students studying English Literature and related subjects, all of whom would soon graduate, and all of whom would soon be competing for similar jobs.

This realisation soon led me to seek out ways to boost my skills and set myself apart from the crowd. It started with this very website, which I have developed over the years to include a portfolio of my work. It then led me to complete all of the Microsoft Office Specialist exams while working for the IT department at CCCU, and to apply for the Gold Award while here at Lancaster. Though each item on its own may not help me get a job, it does add to my overall skillset, and is a useful means through which to demonstrate to employers my ongoing commitment to self-improvement and being the best I can be at what I do.

While I am now embarked upon an academic journey somewhat set apart from the private sector, I don’t really see there being much difference when it comes to employability. There is still just as much need to demonstrate your skills and take efforts to stand out from the crowd as there is in any other jobs market. For this reason I’m always keen (and will continue to be keen) to add little things to my CV as I go along, as I know how important it is to have an edge to your CV.

In the competitive academics jobs market, I’ll take any advantage I can get.

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