Doctoral School

Dr Steve Colburn

Dr Steve Colburn, Placements and Partnerships Officer for the CHASE Doctoral Training Partnership, tells us about his PhD and how he got a job

Image of Steven ColburnTell us about your experience as a PhD researcher

I did my PhD in Media & Cultural Studies and finished in 2013. I was self-funded and studying part-time. I did a lot of teaching and also worked at the Careers & Employability Centre.

Halfway through my PhD, I realised I didn’t enjoy teaching enough to do it as a full-time job. It was marking that particularly put me off - 200 scripts to mark and return within 10 days! That’s the reality of being a lecturer. But I do enjoy working in HE.

What’s your current role?

I’m the Placements and Partnerships Officer for CHASE - Consortium of the Humanities and the Arts South-east England. It’s an AHRC-funded body that brings together 9 institutions, including the University of Sussex, in collaborative research activities. After failed attempts to get my research funded, I’m now working for a funding body.

My role is to develop training opportunities for funded students and encourage them to do placements. We have a number of strategic partners, such as the BBC, the British Library, and the British Film Institute. I look at the ways in which they might contribute to training or provide placements.

This work is needed because a PhD no longer leads directly to a faculty job and researchers need to consider other options. This is reflected in the Research Excellence Framework, where 25% of the score is based on impact outside academia.

Did your PhD help get you the job?

My role is a faculty-graded job - I wouldn’t have it without a PhD. My experience working in the Careers & Employability Centre also gave me a significant advantage. I had a combination of research expertise and an understanding of employability issues.

Do you have any top tips for doctoral researchers?

Do a skills audit using the Researcher Development Framework. Identify the skills that you might need to develop and also those that you already have. A simple exercise like that can be very helpful.

Use your PhD as an example of project management, for example planning and working with supervisors. Don’t forget public engagement - make sure you give conference papers and respond to any media enquiries. I contributed to a BBC article related to my research.

Keep your options open, and seize any opportunities.


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