Written by Leah Henrickson.
Teaching is a key part of many a DR experience. Demonstrating in labs, leading seminars, assisting with the occasional undergraduate lecture…
And then there are those other teaching opportunities when you’re not just speaking to undergraduates – you’re speaking to your peers.
I was recently a co-tutor for two of the Careers Network’s ‘Networking Practical’ sessions, led by the University’s Career Adviser for Researchers, Eve Uhlig. In these sessions, DRs and research staff learned how to write effective elevator pitches (summaries of their research), how to speak to people outside of their own disciplines about their research, and how to refine their interpersonal skills in professional settings.
In this co-tutor role, I prepared and delivered a section of the workshop about the importance of sustaining relationships made through networking. This section included suggestions for ways to keep in touch with contacts both formally and informally. I emphasised the personal side of networking over the professional, as well as the two-way ‘give and take’ nature of any meaningful interpersonal relationship. Moreover, I helped Eve lead the practical networking exercises, facilitating discussion amongst participants and offering them feedback on the elevator pitches they had prepared.
Eve and I met prior to each workshop to ensure that we were both on the same page, and her guidance made me feel confident in my ability to co-tutor. Eve and I also met after each workshop to reflect on how it went, which allowed me to recognise the positive – and less positive – aspects of my performance.
While I already had some experience teaching undergraduate students, presenting in front of my peers was a new challenge. As a co-tutor, I got to hone my peer-to-peer presentation skills. Further, the nature of this workshop encouraged me to reflect upon my own networking experiences to determine what has worked for me, and what hasn’t. This experience therefore helped me develop both professionally and personally, and the resultant skills and self-awareness will undoubtedly benefit me in future presentations and networking events.
Not-so-typical teaching roles like this do come up at the University, and they’re worth considering. You can also design and lead your own sessions with the Doctoral College’s new Peer-2-Peer initiative. Despite any uncertainty or anxiety you may be feeling about teaching, it’s good to push yourself past those feelings to seize these kinds of opportunities! It’s normal to feel uneasy about trying new things – and it’s definitely normal to feel awkward about presenting in front of your peers – but we learn by trying. You’ll get to master the art of public speaking, and add something great to your CV.
Many thanks to Eve and the Careers Network for this opportunity! It has been such a valuable addition to my doctoral experience.