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Internships and the PhD

Internships and the PhD

There's often a lot of pressure on doctoral students to gain wider experiences outside of the PhD itself, whether that's teaching or conference organisation, and increasingly, given the competitive nature of the academic job market, that also involves work experience in industry.

With this in mind the Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities have introduced a doctoral internship and artist-residency scheme. This scheme gives PhD students the opportunity to undertake a short internship or residency with a company, in order to complete a specific project, gaining new skills and applying the skills gained from their PhD in a different context.

I was really keen to take this opportunity. Throughout my Masters I worked with an edtech and publishing company, Giglets Education, and this work experience definitely had a positive impact on my time management and organisation skills as well as helping to develop some of the technical skills which are increasingly in demand in academia. I was excited to develop these skills further and so kept my eyes open for the perfect internship.

Funnily enough, it turned out to be right under my nose - an internship with SGSAH itself. I had a quick chat with Jude and Lindsay at the internship showcase and soon realised that the position was exactly what I was looking for. The role involved working on an AHRC-funded training workshop aimed at PhD students interested in using their research to influence public and cultural policy: 'Policy Stories'. It was a good combination of 'digital', 'education' and 'doctoral training'.

The internship involved working 6 hours a week from November to April, often from home. Alongside another doctoral intern from ECA, I initially helped with running the training workshop which took place at the Scottish Storytelling Centre and the Scottish Parliament back in November. I ran the @policystories Twitter account and spent a lot of the two days live-tweeting, taking detailed notes around the workshops for the legacy materials and collating blog posts from the workshop attendees.

We then set to work building a set of resources featuring video recordings of the talks, discussion points and workshop ideas for anyone wanting to either recreate the training event in their own institution or work through it by themselves at home. You can see what we came up with here.

It was lots of fun! I got paid to do something interesting and challenging and I gained and cemented a lot of new skills, technical and event management. I feel much more confident working with YouTube, Wordpress and MailChimp now and I've gained experience working with InDesign, something I've been meaning to do for a long time. All of which, I'm sure, will be useful skills in the future - whether in academia or not.

I'm still sure that I want to pursue a career in academia but, given the state of the academic job market, it's not unwise to keep options open and build other transferable skills. The internship was a nice change from PhD research and I would definitely recommend it in your second year if you get the chance.

Has anyone else taken an internship or made work experience part of their PhD life? What kind of experience is particularly valuable for doctoral students?

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