This was article is a companion piece to our video Career Advice for Sociology Graduates. It recounts my experiences as a postgraduate student attending the inaugural Postgraduate Workshop hosted by The Australian Sociological Association (TASA). This article was first published in 2004 by Nexus (p. 16).
Attending the inaugural postgraduate workshop of 2003 is likely to be one of the highlights of my PhD canditature [other than submitting my thesis and ending my long and glamorous career as a student, of course]. The reason for this is that the workshop was one of those rare times when I have been able to exchange ideas and share experiences with a large group of postgraduate students. One of the most often repeated lamentations that I have heard from postgraduate students is how the experience of writing a thesis can be an alienating one. I know that I have certainly felt this way at times. The postgraduate workshop is a positive initiative taken by the TASA executive, which goes some way to bridging the gap between postgraduate students who feel this sense of isolation.
The workshop included presentations on a variety of topics such as supervision, funding, and problem solving. The sessions I personally enjoyed most were those on publishing and networking. Before attending the workshop the idea of ‘networking’ would have made me convulse with fear and loathing. I used to think networking was a buzzword that described little more than people in suits exchanging business cards. The first time I attended a TASA conference was in 2001 and I remember my supervisor telling me it was a chance to do some networking. At the time, I had no idea how to do this and so I practised networking alone. Now I see that networking is not difficult or painful, but instead it is something that I actually crave: meeting other researchers, hearing about their work and creating ties with them.
Attending the workshop enriched my experience of the conference and it made the idea of presenting my own paper less daunting because of the students that I met. I was struck by the fantastic research being conducted by postgraduate students from around Australia. One interesting theme that arose from our group discussions regarded the organisation of postgraduate programs by universities from around the country. My university is small in comparison to other universities and so the wide range of ways in which postgraduate students are supported [or not supported, as is sometimes the case] by their institutions fascinated me. One thing was clear: most people wished for increased support from their universities, especially with organising forums to critically discuss their research with other students and faculty members.
The postgraduate workshop was a great success. Talking to some of the other students who attended the workshop, it seemed that people enjoyed themselves and found the experience valuable. The best aspects of the workshop were that it helped a group of postgraduate students create networks with other students and it also helped us feel more included within the wider sociological community. And now we all know that networking is not a dirty word.
Watch our Sociology at Work video: Career Advice for Sociology Graduates. I discuss the 2013 TASA Postgraduate Workshop, where I returned to speak about my career 10 years after having attended as a student. I discuss the panel’s suggestions on how to translate theory into practice, ethics in the workplace, professional identity, starting a business and using social media to market your skills.
I received a TASA Postgraduate Scholarship to attend this event in 2003.