Going Solo – The theory behind self employment

Opportunity

Earlier this month I wrote about the potential benefits of self employment. Now I will consider the theory behind why completing a PhD or being post-doc or Early Career Research puts you in a great position to take the next step to going it alone.

How many of you would say you have expertise in any of the following areas?

  • Analysing
  • Synthesising
  • Critical Thinking
  • Evaluating
  • Problem Solving
  • Inquiring Mind
  • Innovation
  • Enthusiasm
  • Perseverance
  • Self confidence
  • Self reflection
  • Preparation and prioritisation
  • Responsiveness to change
  • Responsiveness to opportunities
  • Networking
  • Income and funding generation
  • Project planning and delivery
  • Risk Management
  • Ethics, principles and sustainability
  • Legal requirements
  • IPR and copyright
  • Society and culture
  • Enterprise
  • Communication methods
  • Team working
  • People Management
  • Influence and leadership
  • Collaboration 

In a recent article from entrepreneur.com Stephen Key lists 5 qualities of successful entrepreneurs. I have mapped Stephen’s advice to the enterprise lens of the RDF and found all of the highlighted attributes are covered in his qualities

1. An unwavering passion. Being an entrepreneur demands commitment and dedication — more than most jobs do, I’d argue.

The Enterprise Lens highlights these attributes

  • Enthusiasm
  • Perseverance

 2. Open-mindedness. The most successful entrepreneurs never forget how much they can learn from others. They ask for advice. They’re flexible. They soak up the best practices around them like a sponge.

The Entrprise Lens highlights these attributes as

  •  Analysing
  • Synthesising
  • Critical Thinking
  • Evaluating
  • Problem Solving
  • Inquiring Mind
  • Innovation
  • Responsiveness to change
  • Responsiveness to opportunities
  • Networking
  • Collaboration 

3. The desire to be an expert. Entrepreneurs like a challenge, but as exciting as it is to consider a new field, high-achieving entrepreneurs know the benefits of staying in the same industry for a while are immense. Learn an industry’s  history. Knowing what’s been done before can help you identify how it can and should move forward. In the meantime, you’ll build a network of relationships to support you in future endeavors, especially when times are lean. Those relationships are invaluable.

The Entrprise Lens highlights these attributes as

  • Society and culture
  • Enterprise
  • Team working
  • People Management
  • Influence and leadership
  • Networking
  • Collaboration 
  • Analysing
  • Synthesising
  • Critical Thinking
  • Evaluating
  • Problem Solving
  • Legal requirements
  •  IPR and copyright
  • Communication methods
  • Income and funding generation

 4. A forward-looking approach. Successful entrepreneurs are always thinking ahead. They may stray from their roadmap, and that’s okay, but they have one in mind. Having a clearly established set of goals will keep you from getting stuck. Your goals may be constantly evolving, but if you don’t know where you want to go, chances are, you won’t get anywhere

The Entrprise Lens highlights these attributes as:

  • Project planning and delivery
  • Risk Management
  • Ethics, principles and sustainability

 5. A constant flow of ideas. Having one project that’s doing well is great. But the successful entrepreneurs I know don’t rest on their laurels. Instead, they’re constantly asking themselves, “What’s next?” They understand that being a successful entrepreneur is a lifestyle choice, not a destination.

The Entrprise Lens highlights these attributes as

  • Evaluating
  • Problem Solving
  • Inquiring Mind
  • Innovation

 Taken and edited from http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/227776

If this has inspired you to think more about self employment or entrepreneurship why not have a look at What do researchers do? Career Profiles of doctoral entrepreneurs

Going it alone…

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I was encouraged to hear that, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the UK economy grew by 0.7% in the last quarter of 2013 – the fastest rate since 2007. 

So if the state of the UK economy has been the reason stopping you starting your own business perhaps now is the time to seriously consider taking the plunge.

As the wife of an ‘inventor’ who quit his job in 2007 to follow his dream of setting up his own company, I can assure you, life is not always a bed of roses, especially when you launch your new company on the eve of a financial downturn. But, for every day that we have wondered was this a good idea? How will we pay the bills this month? There have been some pretty impressive benefits. I have never seen Rod more happy and it means he is able to spend time with us as a family, collect our son from school and attend all the school performances and open days that just wouldn’t be possible if he had continued with his 7am – 5.30pm Monday to Saturday job. Suddenly, we have our weekends to do things we want and weekday flexibility to avoid all the stress of Saturday morning supermarket shopping.

Self employment for me came in 2010.  After the birth our first son I took the decision to go part time in my ‘day job’ to help with childcare. A happy up-shot was that I was able to develop my own business in my ‘spare time’. This halfway house between working as the Midlands Hub Manager part-time and also running my own training company has meant I haven’t taken the ultimate plunge – yet! For me I enjoy the Vitae side of my job and the variety it provides but also love the freedom my ‘self-employed’ 2 days per week gives me. With both my husband and me having elements of self-employment in our career we can be flexible with our holidays, we are no-longer limited to 2 days at Christmas to fit in with other members of staff. If we want an ad hoc weekend away we can. Normal working patterns are out of the window. Need to take the morning off…? no problem, just work later in the evening instead! Need an excuse not to visit family – Oh you are busy working!

This flexibility is something that comes up again and again when you ask people what the best bits about self-employment are.

It’s the FREEDOM!! The fact that if I want to have a long lunch or take a day off and go to the beach because the sun is shining, I can do it if I want to (even though I know I have to make the time up later…might as well do it when it’s raining outside)…” Tracey Stead, Independent training consultant, facilitator and coach

Variety also features highly on the list. As you are now head of finance, HR, marketing, operations, strategic planning, catering, estates and staff development, you can be sure there will be something different that needs doing everyday. There is also variety in the opportunities that you can get involved with. No more asking your line manager if you can attend a seminar or business lunch that is not quite related to you role. As Tracey says “you never know what opportunities are round the corner, and if you don’t like some of the things you end up doing, you don’t have to do them again

Jo Gilman of JoG Ltd  adds “I also enjoy working on a range of different contracts because then you start to get paid more than once a month  which is all rather nice.”

The variety associated with being your own boss can mean you are no-longer at the beck and call of those colleagues / bosses that can cause you ‘stress’ –  you don’t have some of the cumulative annoyances that build up when you work in an organisation for a long time, the lack of meetings and bureaucracy features highly on the benefits of working for yourself. “When you work in lots of different places, you know that you probably won’t have to deal with the same issue again (at least not very often), so I have found that I am much calmer and more buoyant, as I can now shrug off some of the things that used to irritate me as I know the next day I will be somewhere else

For Rod, he is his own boss. He decides the mark up of his products, who he wants to do business with and who can and can’t tell him what to do. His creativity is no longer stifled. If he sees a better more efficient way of working he can implement it – no need to take his idea to the board for consultation.     

With the exception of  HM revenue and Customs, there is no-one telling you when you have to do things by. Tracey gives the advice of  being disciplined about putting your money away for your tax bill. “When I get an invoice paid, I don’t see the tax proportion as ‘my money’, I see it as belonging to someone else, so it feels like stealing if I dip in to the tax savings!” You are freed from the unending cycle of “things to do” which comes with a 9-5 – normally imposed upon you by someone else, and instead get to choose what you do, when you do it, and also where you do it which is far more exciting. “There is also that tingle of anticipation when a new opportunity appears and you start to  consider how you might do the work – along with that really affirming high when you either win work or are asked to do work” says Jo.

Of course there are downsides to self employment. The flip side to the flexibility can mean at times you might feel a lot pressure to accept work, even if the timing isn’t great, or it isn’t quite your thing, because you never know when there might not be any. But be honest and say no if you really can’t do something or if you don’t have time.  It is so tempting to say yes to everything you are offered – but in the long run your credibility will suffer if you start to over-commit and can’t deliver. If your new found freedom and flexibility now involves frequent travel and over stays you may find the novelty soon wears off. One self employed consultant commented: “I have no idea why people would ever say they enjoy travelling. They clearly never travel on Cross Country trains, via Birmingham New Street, nor on budget airlines. And they never stay in Ibis hotels…

There will be times when working for yourself means you require more self motivation and discipline than when you are working for someone else, after all, if you don’t do the work who else will? However, as PhD graduates you know the pitfalls of being your own master but have successfully navigated your way through at least one project where you have decided outcomes, managed budgets and managed a vast workforce of one.

Looking at the Researcher Development Framework and the skills and attributes developed as a result of working as a researcher it is not surprising that many PhD Graduates find their way in to self employment or entrepreneurship. If you want to know what these skills and attributes are then take a look at the RDF Enterprise Lens

If you want to know more about starting your own business have a look at:

 Good luck.

New Year, New Job?

Curriculum vitae  concept in word tag cloud

So, it’s the start of another year and for some the end of your current contract may be looming faster that you care to imagine, for others you have decided it is time to look for a new challenge in your career and perhaps for others it is the year when you will take the first step on the career ladder with a new and shiny PhD certificate under your belt.

Whatever boat you are in there is lots of help and advice out there for you.

The Career Blog from the University of Warwick provides a great starting point when it comes to applying for jobs including a salient reminder that “finding a job is a pretty time consuming process: don’t take the path of least resistance by applying for any and everything.”

 As researchers we should know not to skip the most important stage of our job search: research. “Until you know what’s out there and how to get it, you’ll simply repeat the same mistakes or see your efforts wasted” says Helen Stringer, Careers Consultant at the University of Warwick. “Don’t cut corners and apply for something that isn’t right for you.  Take small practical steps instead that will give you a firm anchor until you have the time and motivation to fully commit to your job search.”

When it comes to CVs there is also a wealth of information and tips out there. Vitae and Prospects both have example CVs and advice about the type of CV to use. If you are starting from a completely blank sheet the National Careers Service has some helpful advice including a generic CV builder. One word of warning from ‘The Careers Blog’ which is particularly important to remember is;  as productive as it feels, firing of  hundreds of CVs is little more than application spamming and potential employers can tell. Other useful places to look include the Guardian, which recently published an interested article on refreshing your CV.

For some jobs, you are more likely to need to complete an online application form than send a CV. There are a number of key things to remember when completing your application including drafting your answers offline to avoid losing work and of course grammar and spell checking your text before inputting to the system and pressing ‘submit’.

Whatever your career plans for 2014, we wish you the best of luck.

 

Getting Started in Research

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If you are new to research or just overwhelmed with what makes a successful researcher you may like to consider using one of the Vitae Researcher Development Framework lenses. Vitae recently published a Getting Started in Research lens to help those who are new to research begin their development journey. The lens focuses on the descriptors required to start out in research and to begin developing as a researcher.

Using the Getting Started in Research lens,  or our other lenses, may also help to alleviate the sense of complexity that some researchers experience when they first encounter the RDF.

The most important things you should know about Research Staff Associations (RSAs)

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Vitae recently organised their annual Research Staff Conference. This year the event drew researchers from across the world! We heard from those who had carved out a career in academia and from those who had moved out in to research related opportunities in senior government roles. The Midlands Hub was involved in running a discussion based workshop on Research Staff Associations.  

The Midlands Hub Manager was joined by a panel of researchers actively involved in running local RSA and also involved in the UKRSA (Alex Tarr, Midlands Research Staff Association Chair; Rebecca Elvey, University of Manchester; Patrick Hadoke University of Edinburgh)

So, what are the most important things I should know about RSAs?

There are many benefits for members and for organising committees of RSAs, these include

    • Networking and finding people to work, discuss and collaborate with from outside of you department/school
    • Potential interdisciplinary opportunities
    • Professional Development opportunities
    • Opportunity to find a formal or informal research mentor
    • Ability to take control of your own future
    • Being involved in a grassroots organisation
    • Being involved in an association that has access to senior committees and members of staff at university management level
    • A greater understanding of formal committees and how to change things through a committee organisational structure
    • Develop skills in event organisations, networking, budget management, people management and striking the balance between work/other work/ home life

These benefits seem great I hear to say, so how do I get a RSA started at my university?

The overwhelming piece of advice was to start small (or at least not worry if you start small!) then it was important to:

    • Find out the issues and identify topics that will engage research staff
    • Invite members to suggest areas and themes for the RSA
    • Find a dedicated group of ‘doers’ to help push things forward – but don’t ask them to do everything, rotate their roles
    • Bring people together to talk about their issues but always remember to advise that an RSA is not a HR union or counseling service – signpost to other departments and organisation that offer this support
    • Make the benefits clear to members to encourage them to promote the RSA in their departments and networks
    • ‘Sell’ the benefits of committee members to encourage them to remain and recruit new members
    • Remember that an RSA is a communities, therefore, it should not take over just one persons life – share the responsibility with other community members

 

Some helpful organisations and places to find further information

UKRSA

www.ukrsa.org

A Guide to Research Staff Associations

http://www.vitae.ac.uk/CMS/files/upload/UKRSA_Guide2010_Dec13.pdf

Midlands Research Staff Association

http://www.vitae.ac.uk/policy-practice/596901/Midlands-Research-Staff-Association.html

Are you looking for something new?

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Did you know that Vitae has a number training courses for you to use with your research staff?

Whether you are looking for a one or two day course, or are looking for something you could run over a number of sessions,  this is your opportunity to come and hear more about the range of courses on offer, and in particular to get a taste of a newly developed course:

Making your Mark – Introduction to Impact and Engagement

To book your FREE place go to www.vitae.ac.uk/researcherfuturestaster

Have you considered what excellent research is and the impact that it can have?

Excellent researchers understand that their work can change the world. They know that how they go about the work, and talk about it, can have a huge impact on how both their work and they, are viewed. They know how to stand out from the crowd.pencil_standing out

Vitae is running a number of professional training courses across the UK to help you consider how you can make your mark, conduct excellent research and consider the impact your research will have.

The Vitae Midlands Hub is hosting one of these courses on December 5th at Keele University. The course will draw on the current agendas of research impact demonstrated by the funding bodies and grant holders, but with specific focus on you and how you work. Through discussion and practical activities you will consider both the impact of your research, and the impact you have in the research environment in which you work.

The Vitae Midlands Hub has 18 places on this course available, and unlike other courses, this professional training is free of charge. If you would like to be considered for one of these highly sought after places then please apply through the Vitae website.

Themes, initiatives and discussions at the Vitae Researcher Development International Conference 2013

A number of new initiatives, research and projects are being announced or discussed at the Vitae conference this year.

These include:

Countries which will be represented outside UK include: New Zealand, Czech Republic, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Estonia, Germany, Denmark, Japan, Ireland, Australia, The Netherlands and Spain.

Best-selling author Professor Damian Hughes will close the conference. Damian is the writer of Liquid Thinking, Liquid Leadership, The Survival Guide to Change and Change Catalyst as well the founder of LiquidThinker, the inspirational consultancy which takes the methods used by great leaders and achievers and shows, in easy steps, how these can be applied to business, teams and individuals to achieve success.

The Vitae conference will be ‘amplified’ online, including Twitter as an official back-channel for the conference. The conference hashtag is #vitae13.

Other initiatives which will be discussed at the conference include:

  • Exploring the Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES) which ran in 122 UK institutions in spring 2013, and was answered by a record 48,401 postgraduate researchers
  • The launch of the UK aggregate analysis of the Careers in Research Online Survey, run by over 50 UK institutions
  • The launch of the UK aggregate analysis of the Principal Investigators and Research Leaders Survey, run by over 40 institutions
  • An update on the Vitae Researcher Development Framework implementation including the use of our new online RDF planner by UK and international institutions
  • Exploring the career motivations, choices and tracks  of doctoral graduates is key to understanding how careers provision should be shaped. Workshop sessions will explore recent work of Vitae, the Wellcome Trust and the Research Councils cohort study
  • Presentation of research findings covering:
  1. research findings that examine the relationship between attending research training and factors that are seen as positive outcomes of doctoral education, such as timely thesis submission, fewer thesis corrections and academic papers submitted
  2. an overview of the Vitae Impact Framework, and how it informed evaluation studies at Imperial and Cambridge
  3. a range of international perspectives at the conference in the plenary, workshop sessions, including Australia, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands
  4. an update on Vitae’s plans and future developments.

The conference will explore strategies and practice to enhance the professional development of doctoral researchers and research staff. The workshops, in particular, will cover:

  • Embedding training and development in the research environment
  • The impact of researcher development and researcher careers
  • Implications of policy developments for higher education institutions
  • Developing the ‘global researcher’
  • Key transitions between academia and industry/other sectors, including employability and work experience and internships
  • Developing researchers for knowledge exchange, enterprise, public engagement and research in policy making
  • Developing researchers for leadership, multidisciplinary and collaborative working
  • Developing a pipeline of research talent, including widening participation and attractiveness of research degrees
  • Equality and diversity issues for research careers
  • Change to ‘equality and diversity in the research environment’

 

 

Supporting Researchers to make career choices

Career opportunities for researchers cover a wide range of sectors including HE; manufacturing; finance; business and IT, health and public administration. Recent trends demonstrate that over half of researchers on completion of their doctorate will go on to pursue a career outside academic research or teaching (What Do Researchers Do? First Destinations of Graduates By Subject’, Vitae 2009). Funders of research both nationally and in Europe recognise this trend, and the importance of ensuring all researchers are supported by their institution in their professional and career development, whilst still taking responsibility for this themselves.

ImageManaging a career today is less about having a determined plan, and more about taking a broad and organic approach to employability: leaving the door open to grasp opportunities (and sometimes creating them), taking planned risks, coping effectively with unexpected changes, and crucially adapting ideas to evolving interests and experiences. (More about careers for researchers)

The Career-wise Researcher has been designed to give practical tips to help identify and build the pieces of the career puzzle. It includes the steps needed to understand skills and capabilities; increase awareness of job opportunities and what employers are seeking; setting career and personal development goals; taking a proactive approach to development opportunities, and ensuring every potential employee is presented in the best light to get the job they want.