Beyond Your Research Degree

Episode 2 - Dr. David Musgrove, Publisher at Immediate Media Co

February 27, 2020

Welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast from the University of Exeter Doctoral College! The podcast about non-academic careers and all the opportunities available to you... beyond your research degree! In this episode Kelly Preece, Researcher Development Manager talks to Dr. David Musgrove, Publisher at Immediate Media Co.

 

Music from https://filmmusic.io ’Cheery Monday’ by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com) License: CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses

 

Podcast transcript

 

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Hello and welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast by the University of Exeter doctoral college

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I'm Kelly Preece, researcher development manager in the doctoral college at the University of Exeter.

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And I'll be your host today. Hello.

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Hi. Hi. OK. So my name is Dave Musgrove and I studied here at Exeter.

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I did my B.A. here in archaeology and I went on to do a PhD in the archaeology department.

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There was a year in between times when I went out and worked for a few companies doing various temping jobs.

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But I came back. I was very, very grateful to be asked back and be given a funded opportunity to do a PhD

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All about the mediaeval landscape archaeology of the Peet Moors of the Somerset Levels a title I remember well from doing it.

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And I did my PhD in three years and then I left and did not carry on into academia.

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So the my career since then has been I've been essentially working in the media, specifically in magazine publishing,

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but also latterly in online publishing because of the realities of the print magazine publishing world.

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And the fact that online is is clearly an important place in which publishing happens.

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So how did I get into that role?

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Well. So whilst I was doing my PhD It became fairly clear to me that I probably wasn't going to become an academic.

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So I think it was really in the second year of my PhD, actually, that I thought I ought to be thinking about what else I could be doing.

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So I chatted to my supervisor and said that I was thinking I was quite interested in publishing.

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I've been doing some work for her, editing some of her manuscripts and doing some page, lay out some of her books.

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So I'd been developing some skills. There getting a bit of cash and that had sparked a bit of interest to me.

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So she suggested I go along to the University Press here at Exeter and see if they had any volunteering work experience opportunities,

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which I duly did. And and I enjoyed that and must have be reasonably proficient because they offered me some part time work.

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They're just doing general admin and a little bit of light editing.

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So I did that for the latter part of my PhD

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And I met somebody there who had some contacts in the magazine publishing world.

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So when I finished my Ph.D., she very kindly put me in touch with some people at a company called Future Publishing,

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which is based in Bath, which produces lots of, still going, produces, lots of computer magazines and other things.

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And I had also, whilst I was in my PhD, I had taken an interest in the Internet, which at the time I was doing my PhD.

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That was a few years ago the Internet was only really starting off and I learnt how

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to do HTML coding and I was able to get a job on a magazine about the Internet.

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Well, I applied for it. And with the contacts that I had been given by this person at the University press, I had a little bit of a step in.

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And so I got a job while working for as a very base layer level on this magazine for a couple of years.

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I was very lucky to get on a training programme there for magazine journalism, and that got me into into the world of of magazines.

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I worked on various other computer and Internet magazines at Future Publishing for a few years and then

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heard about a History magazine launching at a rival company in Bristol called Origin Publishing.

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So I applied for a job there. Got it. And obviously played off my doctoral skills to get that.

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And I've been with that company ever since. It's been through various guises and was bought by the BBC.

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And I ended up working on BBC History magazine, which is a very popular History magazine, the most popular History magazine in the UK.

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And I've essentially been working on that for the last few years,

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as in various roles as the editor for about a decade and then subsequently as the publisher and content director.

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So I'm now in a managerial capacity, but still within a media company.

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So that's the story. Fantastic thank you so

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You say things that spring to mind and about the importance of some of that.

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Experiences you picked up alongside the PhD. So you talked about having had a year gap before and doing various like temping jobs.

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Were any of those things related to your subject area or to publishing or were they kind of just General? Nope

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They were a variety of jobs, working in a postroom, working.

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I ended up working for a market research company, and I think we'd probably be described as a graduate level job, as a market research executive.

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Which to be honest I didn't particularly enjoy.

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And that was what led me to think, well, maybe I'll have another crack at academia for a bit.

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I think all those all those positions, you know, you can pull out some skills from them,

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some experience which is helpful in getting the first real job that you want to do.

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And definitely, I think for anyone who's looking to enter the job market, you know, you know, in a professional capacity,

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you need to draw on any any possible skills you can think of from from Part-Time work or temporary work that you've done and just,

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you know, make sure that you can you can flag up one thing that you learnt from that.

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So when I worked in a postroom for instance sure, I would have said that it helped me develop my people skills because I was dealing

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with a lot of a lot of um trubulent individuals who wanted their post

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I don't remember exactly what I said. But, you know, there were you can always find something.

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Some even from the most uninspiring sort of job. You can always find something that she can allude to in an interview or in a CV.

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So when you were applying for those that the first role and at the at Future publishing in Bath

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you talked about kind of drawing in quite a wide range of interests. And obviously you're relying quite heavily on your writing and editing skills.

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And what else did you draw on in applying and by doing the role in particular in regards to having done a PhD, having done a research degree?

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Well, I think one of the one of the things that I particularly draw on for that first role was the was the fact that it wasn't specifically related to

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my PhD but that I done during my studies, which was learning to code websites,

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which only had the opportunity to do because I had some time in my you know, in my in my research calendar.

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And there were some facilities here to enable me to do that.

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So I was clearly able to draw on that, to give me this sort of specialism that they were interested in for that particular magazine.

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In general, I'm sure I would have said, and I would have meant it,

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that my my doctoral studies had given me an overarching sense of responsibility in the

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understanding of the importance of personal responsibility in all aspects of work.

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And I would have played quite heavily on the fact that I've shown that I have the

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ability to do a project and carry it through to completion on my own volition.

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And I think that's me. That's one of the really big things you can say from from from doctoral research is to say,

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you know, you clearly have the capacity for independent work.

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What you need to then do is to demonstrate that you also have the capacity and the flexibility

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to work in a team environment where you're not working solely to your own agenda.

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And that's probably one of the things I think maybe is a more difficult aspect for people coming from transitioning out of academia into the business

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world or or even into into the public sector is to demonstrate that you have

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the facility to work in an office environment rather than just on your own.

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And there are numerous ways to do that.

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You can allude back to your employment experience if you've worked in a, you know, had a temporary job in an office or in a pub or both, which I did.

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Then you can demonstrate that. But I think that's quite important.

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I think that's a start is a potential stumbling block for people who who see you may be actually on to see.

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They think, well, that's great. Can they can they work in an office?

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Yeah. And I do think and we know from research that's quite prevalent perception of but from employers,

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of people coming from academia or having done the PhD, it's the idea that that quite solitary and detail oriented,

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very focussed on themselves and their own work and perhaps lack those kind of team working and interpersonal skills and increasingly with the kind of.

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Environments that we have in the university and from shared office space to some of the leadership roles are available to our students.

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Like being a PGR representative or various different things. Actually, there's, you know, even just organising a conference with a group of people.

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There's some real opportunities to pick up on and draw in those skills.

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Yeah, I'd say that's super important. I don't think for one moment think that doctoral candidates or PhD students are lonesome.

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Weirdos No, I wasn't. Maybe I was, you know, but I think that is that soon.

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I think you're right. That is a perception from employers that that's something that some perhaps goes with the territory.

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And I think there are, as you say, there are lots of ways that you can demonstrate that you're not that you have team working skills.

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You just need to make sure that you've thought about that and you've got some answers,

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but not down pat that that's that's going to alleviate that concern.

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Do you think they for somebody that's been through that process for also thinking, you know, where you are now as an employer and as a manager?

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Are there other areas that you would see that you think a particular kind of stumbling

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blocks are people who are looking to move from doing PhD to beyond academia?

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I suppose there's always the sense that is, it is the person who's kind of who's coming to you.

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Are they actually interested in the role you're doing or are they simply because they haven't been able to get an academic job?

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And I think that is quite a thing that would be a concern for some employers to think, well, you know this person.

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They've gone down. They've gone this far down a route of research.

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Why aren't they weren't they carry on? Weren't they doing what one assumes they wanted to do?

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So I think that's key. Again, is easy to counter that.

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You just need to think about it. You just need to be clear about what you're doing and you need to express.

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Well, this is this goes for any job.

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You need to have a very good reason why you want the job and you need to be keen and enthusiastic and have a good answer.

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I mean, if you're in in an interview situation and you're not asked why you want the job, then that's a bit odd.

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I've never been in an interview, not been asked. So you have to expect it and you have to have a good answer.

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And and you have to be able to demonstrate that you really want that job.

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And perhaps it builds on what you did in your in your doctoral studies.

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Perhaps it's perhaps it's some in some way linked to or if it's completely ensconsed then that's fine.

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But you just need to demonstrate that you are fully committed to that.

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And the reason why you are no longer carrying on academia is whatever it is.

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And just make sure you've got that nailed down, say, just picking up on it.

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What was it like for you to do those three really intensive years on that one project

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and then to leave that project for also research and for a certain amount of time,

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history and archaeology behind me on something completely different? Did you find that difficult?

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Did you find it quite exciting?

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So I was I was very pleased to put away my books about mediaeval Peet Moors and my struggles with the paleo graphy of mediaeval Latin.

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Glastonbury Abbey rolls briefly.

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I was pleased. And then I was yeah, I was I was pretty gutted that I hadn't hadn't carried on with it.

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But with the wave, a realisation of a practical realised realisation that I wasn't gonna be a great academic.

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I think I sort of clocked that that, you know, in seminars.

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I wasn't the person coming up with the, you know, the really insightful grasp of the topics and stuff.

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So I was aware that I was never gonna become a great professor.

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But, yeah, I was it was I was sad that I wasn't or wasn't involved in that environment anymore.

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But on the flip side, it was a really, really interesting role.

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I was really fascinated in what I was doing. I was learning a lot of skills.

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I was under a completely different sort of pressure. I mean, I've been under a long, grinding pressure to get to the end of the of the PhD

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And then I was immediately shipped and it was pretty much immediate I didn't take a break.

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And I was skint pretty pretty much straight into into this job, which which was brilliant because I needed work and money and a new new focus.

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I think if I hadn't had that, then that might have been worse.

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If I'd just been sat around thinking, oh God, I've done this. PhD

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Now, I've got nothing. I was I was quite a long way behind my peers in terms of salary and position, which was a bit difficult.

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But some, you know, things tend to equalise out.

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So I wouldn't I wouldn't worry about that too much. But it was yeah.

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In terms of deadlines, it was like so I'd come from this long, long deadline into having a deadline every day,

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week, month, and it was unique sort of pressure really exciting. Working with a bunch of people who were really nice and who were all one of the great

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things was they were just all really interested in the fact that I done a PhF and,

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you know, I was politely mocked for being a doctor in the house.

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And I think you'd kind of you do have to accept laughs or traded on that over the years.

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You know, that the doctors here I. Now how I'm using.

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So but, you know, it was it was it was actually a really interesting experience.

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And, yeah, it was fun. So you mentioned about kind of entering in and being behind your peers in terms of salary, but that equalising out over time.

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Is that because you found that you progressed quicker even though you went in at a lower level?

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I mean, I don't actually know. I feel quite comfortable in one day and.

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Yeah, and and what I'm learning now, and that's that's fine, because I think I did progressed pretty quickly.

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I think I was pretty I was keen. I was enthusiastic and I wanted to get on with stuff.

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And there was probably people who didn't quite have that sense of urgency.

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And so that was so that was actually I was released what was good. And I pushed myself forward, you know, and I pushed for promotions.

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I insisted on promotions. I said, I'm doing this on, I'm really good and you need to give me a promotion.

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And yeah. And I got something.

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And then I guess when I blundered back into a role that was closer to my research studies, though actually still some distance.

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Yeah. And then I was able to play back off that.

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But now that academic background. Did that give me more of a platform for Payrise?

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I, I don't know. But I think it is certainly helped me in my career.

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And I've I've I've I've used the fact that I've done the research to to make a lot of contacts and to push myself forward.

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And so so I see I see practical benefits there.

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But I'm reasonably unique space in terms of of my career path going from academia and then finding something that's a little bit similar to it.

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But but actually still quite different. Yes. Say, you mentioned a couple of things partly.

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And I wanted to pick up on you mentioned about making contacts,

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and various different things that obviously that was really fundamental for you in getting that first that first role.

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What would you experience like of going through that interview process?

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And like throughout your career, how how fundamental have you found that kind of sense of contacts and networks to be in terms

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of moving forward or moving sideways or just essentially changing roles or changing path?

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I mean, you know, you would like the world to not be somewhere where you get by, by who you know.

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But reality is that is helpful to have people who can put in a good word if you say this person's good or work.

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And and that certainly helps. Yeah.

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I'm very grateful to that first colleague who I mean, they didn't didn't get me the job.

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They just they just, um, they just put me in touch with somebody and, um, put my name in the frame.

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And that was that was that was that was much appreciated. And also I just, you know, maybe I wouldn't have applied for that role if I hadn't been.

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So if it hadn't been mentioned to me, that  there was the role going at the interview.

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I mean, I think I think I've, in all interviews,

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always found the fact that I have PhD to be useful just in the sense that it does give you a conversation piece.

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And they say, you know, I see you've done a PhD and you say, yeah, I was on the mediaeval exploitations of Peet Moors in the Somerset levels.

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That sounds very boring, doesn't it? And and and and then but you can then say, well, I can say sorry.

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Mildly interesting about. Oh. But it just gives you it makes you sound Slightly more interesting than other people.

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And I think that is useful in a in an interview environment. You do need to sound interesting.

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And that gives you that gives you a little bit more ammunition. So if you have traded on that in every interview environment.

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I mean it. I don't recall doing much of interview practise when I was studying.

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So I think my kind of imagine my initial interview was a great success, but it was it was enough to get me the job.

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Maybe I should have done more interview practise. And I'm not sure I'm not sure how far that's the thing for positions these days to do.

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But I think that should be useful to make sure that you are doing a bit of that and have an idea about what might well might come your way.

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Yeah, there's quite a lot of support that if any institution through my team,

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but also through the career service about things like preparing for interviews,

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particularly if you get how much experience, job interviews or you have any particular anxieties around them, what they might be like.

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And we actually have them. We have this piece of software called Interview Stream where you can set up your own questions

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and kind of record yourself and do practise and get feedback on all sorts of things.

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It is really interesting to be very disconcerting for me to watch myself, but it does help people.

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Would definitely, definitely think those sorts of things. Everyone should take advantage of those.

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Even if you you're brilliant interviewere then I still think you should have a go and just

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I would just point out that fact that you have something interesting to say.

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So do make sure you and it will make you feel more at ease if you could.

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You know, if you have half a minute to say something that you are a real expert, take pleasure on don't take an hour, obviously.

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But just say something that sounds interesting.

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And it is if you to make the whoever is interviewing you think, oh, that's somebody whom I might learn something from, who I might enjoy being,

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you know, who isn't a strange weirdo who who actually has something interesting say and I guess is something really stand out about that,

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because it's sort only it's a slightly more unusual thing to be to have people coming in

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who do have a PhD or who have that level of expertise in something very specific.

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You know, you talked about that role and going on a training programme.

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So can you tell me a bit about what that was on and how that came about?

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But also what I think what it was like to go back to learning that sense once you've started a professional job.

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I mean, that was it was brilliant. It was basically a run a year long training programme for trainee journalists, essentially.

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And every week there was a half a day out for a few,

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a group of ten of us to go and be taught stuff by professional journalists and editors, which was actually fantastic.

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And I embraced it and and and loved it.

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And it was it was very different because of that.

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We have direct learning. It wasn't you know, I wasn't researching.

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I was being told stuff and being given tasks and, you know, being being told to told what to do and then trying to get ahead.

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So I suppose. That you might you might think you're better than that.

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If you've got to go to PhD, why? Well, I've already done all this training. But, you know, humility is a good thing in general.

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And in life. And I was. No, I didn't think that I thought was fascinating.

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And I realised I really needed to understand things. And I really needed to learn how to do the job if I wanted to progress

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I was very grateful for it. And it was it was excellent, I think, you know, government's phrase of lifelong learning or whatever.

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But it's true. You need to you do need to constantly be trying to progress and learn things.

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And if you're not doing that something, you you'll get bored anyway.

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But but you do need to do that for your career progression, whatever.

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So you talked about doing some editing for your supervisor, you know, for a fact they were working.

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And so you and you worked for the university press.

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You obviously have some kind of experience with publishing, albeit quite different kind of publishing.

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And when you you're doing that training course, how different did you find the approach to things like writing and editing and perhaps researching an

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article or a story where you might have used those fundamental skills when you were doing your PhD?

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But how different did you find the use of them in that context?

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Or did you find you kind of needed to relearn how to do those things in a different way?

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Yeah, probably because, well, the stuff those doing for my supervisor was to her standards, to her to to her convention.

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So that was fine. I was just doing on what I was told and and it was very useful, interesting learning experience.

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And then everyone has different conventions and and brings.

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But I think specifically in terms of the question of research and and using your research skills, what you need to do is,

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you know, work environment is you need to be able to stop once you've done it, once you've found something found out.

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I once thought we'd done something that's that's that's enough in a day.

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It's never enough. You always the next rabbit hole to go down in the next journal article to look at the next

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think to have a look at And you're trying to basically understand everything as much as you can about whatever it is you're looking,

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whereas particularly in a journalistic environment, if you can't do that, you've got half a half day, half an hour to do something.

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You've just got to get to the bottom of it as quickly as you can and be happy

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with that and and develop a sense of pragmatism if you haven't got one already.

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Did you find that quite difficult and moving from the kind of longer scale project

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and longer scale questioning to something that is quite discrete and quite quick?

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Yeah, I understand, but I had no choice because you've got deadline and you've got to you've got to deliver.

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I mean, there's you kind of I was I was really worried about all the stuff I did for a little while

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I thought, well i was only given this an hour. Listen, I can't possibly this can't be right.

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But you just got to rolle with it and trust that you've done as best you can.

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So you talked about obviously going on to a history based magazine.

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So you're closer to the kind of background you had in your PhD and that you've moved on to a more managerial role now

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So thinking about yourself as, I guess as an employer.

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What if you had a PhD got you or someone that's just come into the PhD interviewing for a similar role, kind of perhaps where you started?

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You and your team, your organisation, what what are you looking for from them?

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So I suppose it's a bit different, in fact, of my background.

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I would be I'd probably look more favourably on someone who's gonna see them, perhaps someone who hasn't.

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And I think you do need to view.

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Is it. That's it. But I mean. I interviewed yesterday for for a role and the person I interviewed had all the skills.

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I mean, clearly, you need to demonstrate you've got the skills for the job.

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So that was fun. But she was also. Shouldn't she?

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She I think she had an MA She she was enthusiastic, keen and had.

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Enough of a sense of how to describe it.

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She wasn't afraid to stop and ask for a bit of time to answer questions, so she was confident enough in herself to say, I need to.

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I just need to address this properly. So I saw a good level of maturity in her.

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She's quite young. And I think as a as a precondition, you could you could you could trade on that quite well.

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You could trade on that sense of maturity and sense of of self-worth,

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self-knowledge without appearing to be some sort of braggart or something that you've you've done extended research.

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And I think that that is a pitfall you definitely don't want to come across as someone who's, you know better than anyone else.

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And that's clearly would be a bad. Yes. So that kind of elitist.

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Yeah. Don't do that. Don't do that. But definitely, you know, I'm looking for someone who has who has great enthusiasm.

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I want somebody who wants the job. I want somebody who had the same sense of urgency as I had when I was 23

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24. Looking for a job. I want somebody who's going to be banging on my door saying, I want a promotion.

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I want to be better. I want to do this training course. You want those people in your in your in your teams.

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You want people you don't want people to just sit around waiting for wait for the bell.

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So so enthusiasm is is there is the absolute thing I look for, you know, and and confidence.

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I think confidence is is is it is it is great. So in an interview and.

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So. So you make sure you go out and.

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We've got any students listening who are thinking about going into into magazine publishing or online publishing as you are now.

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What advice would you give them in terms of perhaps some of the things to.

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Do alongside their studies or that particular kind of volunteering experiences you think would

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be useful or their particular skill sets that you think they really need to focus on developing.

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So if you're at Exeter, I would expect you to be writing for expose

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I would expect you to be contributing to that to that magazine in some format.

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You should have a blog. You should be you should be blogging. You should be on social media.

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I should be able to find you on Twitter and Facebook and not think that you're completely wild individual.

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But then I should I should be able to see that you are looking to promote yourself in those in those environments.

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You probably we're doing a podcast. I mean, those are all the things that a modern journalist needs to be doing.

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So I would I would advise you to be developing in all those areas.

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On top of that, there are numerous opportunities to do a bit of work experience or internship or,

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you know, apply for competitions, writing competitions, that sort of thing.

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You know, I think the person I interviewed yesterday had won a poetry competition

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So those sorts of things, I think they are they just make you think, but they are bothered

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They are interested that they are enthusiastic. They do care about this and they have a passion for it.

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And that's those would all be things that I would I would definitely try and do.

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So, yes, you need to show that you that you are actually interested in writing and editing if you are trying to get into a media career.

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And that sense of enthusiasm and passion has come across really strongly in all of the answers you've given,

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actually, that one of the fundamental things is about. Being interested and having that sense of motivation to move forward and find out more.

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And I certainly think from my experience working with our PhD students on our research degree students, that's something they have in droves,

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you know, because you need that to be able to pursue a project that is that specialised for that sustained period of time.

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That's real passion and care for something. And.

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And so there's something really wonderful that may have to maximise on on on those personal qualities.

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Yeah, totally. So you can you can trade on. You can trade on it on that as an as a as a as a marker of your enthusiasm and your passion.

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And you can you can really gauge talent. And I would definitely recommend that would be a good thing to do.

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I mean, I think that's what all employers really need and want is that sense of that's somebody who's who is has got a

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level of excitement and commitment that's that's going to make them actually want to do the job and do it well.

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Fantastic. Thanks very much. Pleasure. And that's it for this episode.

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Join us next time when we'll be talking to another researcher about their career beyond their research degree.

 

 

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