An ECR Review of the year


As it is December everywhere you go the shops are filled with people and the same CD being played on what feels like an eternal repeat of ‘simply having a wonderful Christmas time’. Along with all the frivolity this is also the time of year where people look back at what they have done in the last twelve months so I am taking the opportunity with this post to look back at what’s happened this year and suggest some topics that I will be discussing in the upcoming months:

Am I where I thought I would be and does it matter?

The answer to that is no; this time last year I had just started my first part-time position since then on a fixed term contract since then: I have had a job in academia, I have been a freelance consultant, I’ve worked for a professional body, all of these had one thing in common – they involved e-learning and looking at how technology and online spaces can be used for learning. Initially for a Geographer I thought this was weird but then I realised my PhD was about how communities of practice come together online so actually my research looked at how people use online space to learn / develop knowledge.

I found the move to Post-PhD harder than I expected as I couldn’t link my work to my PhD and after investing all that time in my thesis I felt I needed to use it. What I realised, with the help of my first boss, was that I needed to look at my PhD as a process and not a product. As a social scientist we have a great many transferable skills that we can offer a variety of sectors, if we think differently. It doesn’t matter that my work does not match my PhD exactly, I wouldn’t be able to do my job without the skills it taught me.

How does it feel on the outside?

Yes, I left academia relatively quickly. I had always expected that I would be an academic however, rather quickly, I realised that academia wasn’t where I wanted to be at that time and actually I needed a new challenge so I went to being freelance and then onto my first learning and development job on the outside. I noticed quite quickly that there was more autonomy or so I thought outside of academia. In fact what became apparent is that when your skills and your abilities are taken more seriously at the same time there is a new set of rules and structure that you have to perform in which is radically different to academia and in many cases more restrictive. This leads me to consider how much autonomy we have post-doc and how do we balance that autonomy with the support we need to develop our careers (I will return to this in January).

What have I learnt?

A lot! Would probably be the best way to sum that up! The different organisations I have worked for and the things that worked and the things that haven’t have helped me find myself as an independent researcher and I now know how far I will put my principles aside in order to conform. That is something that was particularly interesting, again will be referred to in January’s post. If I was to give you 5 top tips at the end of 2012 based on what I had learnt this year they would be:

  1. Spend the time establishing yourself as an ‘expert’ it takes time but it pays off
  2. Network – develop your social media strategy to engage with other professionals and make a name for yourself
  3. Gain experience in different areas – give presentations, guest lectures consider working opportunities outside academia
  4. When things don’t go right think of them as experiences not failures and take the positives from them and leave the negatives behind.
  5. If you are looking for a job the market in the UK seems to be picking up of the last set of 11 applications I put in I was offered interviews for 7

I am looking forward to 2013 to my new job and new exciting opportunities. One thing I wished myself at the start of 2012 was a full-time permanent job – I start that on January 7th 2013 when I become the Learning Technology Manager for Maudsley Learning.


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Sarah-Louise Quinnell

Dr. Sarah-Louise Quinnell is the E-Learning Lead Technologist for Floream Partnerships she works on a portfolio of e-learning projects in partnership with Google, International Olympic Committee and the Institute of Digital Marketing.

She is also a researcher affiliated to the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities.

All views are her own and do not necessarily represent her employer's views or policies.

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