12 May 2017 - 3:38 pm

Leadership Development Day: Helping Doctoral Students to unleash their enterprising potential!

Although having a PhD degree can boost the chances for a future career, a truly insightful researcher acknowledges the tremendous importance of possessing transferable skills and qualities in order to secure a job and find success. One of the most valuable traits to make researchers stand out to employers is having what it takes to be a great leader in their area. It may surprise you to know that most postgraduate students already develop many of the skills that makes such a leader while doing their research. Most, however, either underestimate their abilities, lack the self-confidence, or simply fail to acknowledge their strengths when attempting to promote their work to others. That is why we felt the need to create the Leadership Development Day Program, a full-day of workshops for doctoral students from across all faculties.

The first leadership development event was held in November last year, with support and funding from the University of Sheffield Enterprise (USE) and Think Ahead. It aimed to focus on developing skills outside of the research subject. It was planned initially as a one-time event, however, the strong response of postgraduates to the program, and the demand from for more similar events have shown the need to expand on it. This led to the delivery of the second Leadership Development Day in March this year, which included more talks and activities, supported by USE and the Doctoral Academy, with 50 students registered to attend.

The day started with a networking session, followed by welcoming the students to the event, and an introduction to the activities, events, and support available for doctoral students, delivered by Charlotte Williams, Manager of the Doctoral Academy.

The first session was then delivered by Phil Wallace from the TUoS Leadership development team, where the students were introduced to the modern definition of the efficient leader in the workplace. An interactive approach was used thought the session to enable researchers to reflect on their own experiences and achievements to improve their leadership capability.

The next session then aimed to develop and practice different negotiation strategies and tactics for conflict resolution, which postgraduates can use to handle issues encountered during their research and beyond. Students practised during the session the ways to identify elements and behaviors which contribute to a successful negotiation. The session was delivered by Dr. Ali Riley, (USE).

After the lunch break, Dr. Kay Guccione (Research & Innovation Services) helped students to explore the questions of self-leadership for PGRs in a practical and usable way, by using peer coaching and other techniques to reflect on student’s capacity of navigating their studies, in the aim of planning strategies for positive change in the PhD journey.

Rachael Roberts (The Careers Service) demonstrated the importance for researchers to not only develop effective leadership and management skills; but to also be able to highlight and promote these skills to employers. Students were able to explore the specific leadership and management skills sought by employers, and also get a glimpse into aspects of the recruitment process from submitting a CV, to interviews and assessment centers.

The last session of the day was delivered by Anna Nibbs (USE). Students were introduced to new ways of problem-solving and creative thinking through interactive exercises. Students were able to practice analysing a variety of problems and scenarios, taking a 360-degree view and making sure to fully consider all aspects of their decisions.

As part of the program for the day, images depicting life as a Doctoral Researcher were shown on the walls of the Alfred Denny conference room, where the event took place, as part of the “Images of Doctoral Life Competition”. The aim of the images was to show the often-unexplored human side of students’ life beyond the scope of their research, and illustrate the joys and challenges of the doctoral-student life.

A dynamic and active atmosphere was felt throughout the day and towards the end, as students were actively participating in the discussion and activities of the sessions. The day was concluded by thanking the speakers and researchers for their time and participation, the students left armed with a range of new information and resources to help them manage their research, plan their future career, and most importantly, become effective leaders whatever they decide to do.

If you are a PGR student, keep an eye out for future Leadership Development Days!

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  • About the author

    Tareq Omairi

    I am a final year PhD student in Molecular Biology, on a quest of searching for life in high places (the stratosphere!). I also have a strong passion for supporting the development of academic abilities, professional learning, and leadership skills for doctoral students, through collaborating with USE for developing such opportunities.