Since September, I have been working as a Hive Scholar, supporting the PhD community at the University of Sussex. It’s been a really great experience and I think I have learned a lot from immersing myself in the PhD culture on campus, online and all over the country.
I’ve particularly enjoyed getting to grips with social media, learning more about Twitter and blogging. People post a lot of really helpful articles about academic writing, editing advice, and career advice (some of which have been collated in this post here), but there are also lots of discussion around academic well-being and mental health, as well as the precarious positions for those just embarking on their academic career. It’s really heartening to see more dialogue and more organisation around some of these issues across the UK and internationally. As an English student, I think Twitter is particularly suitable for people in my discipline, as there are more and more literary events happening online. If you are a fan of contemporary fiction, you can find lots of information on up and coming writers, as well as events and talks about brand new work. I would definitely recommend getting a Twitter page and following people in your discipline, even if you can’t get work up the energy for witty tweets as well!
The job as a whole has really shown me how important a community is for PhD students. I don’t often give life advice – I don’t necessarily feel very qualified to! – but one thing I would say is that whilst doing a PhD, it is absolutely essential to have a community around you. This could be online, through Twitter and blogs, on campus through your cohort, or through a research network or group of like-minded colleagues. For me, it has been other PhDs in my department and other PhDs working in London at the British Library: those people have helped me feel less isolated and have been the source of much support, info and help, as well as much laughter and fun. I would really say to go out there and find other students at events and talks and swap emails; the word ‘networking’ makes this all sound very awkward and uncomfortable but if you think about it more as getting to know people around you, then talking to people at events does not have to become a chore, but actually a real opportunity to meet like-minded people and make friends.