PhD students typically do not market themselves very well.
PhD students are typically modest about their abilities.
PhD students do not always believe in their achievements.
Training programmes for research postgraduates now include a number of courses and events related to career development. These include CV workshops, presentation skills, interview skills, and so on. These messages, imparted from the courses, are their raison d’être, and they strike a strong chord.
It is a relief that these deficiencies affect a much broader cross-section than just me. But a concern of much greater weight is that scepticism about the value of this long-haul degree and where it will lead means a struggle to climb out of this bracket. How can one believe in their strengths, abilities, and the weight of your achievements if the growing concern is how weak their current course of life will leave them?
To an extent, this is going to revolve around occupation and personality. Some people recognize their aptitude for sales. Some recognize their aptitude for caring professions. The difficulty is in traversing boundaries, which is where the most-accosted ‘transferable skills’ come in.
My search for work has implied that I am either severely underqualified, or that I need to radically change the way I market myself, which I have always been terrible at. I observe PhD students with the confidence to fashion their work and themselves as professional researchers; copywriters who accurately promote their sublime abilities and remain thoroughly decent people; and journalists with an admirable portfolio proudly displayed online. Then there is me, reluctant to engage in these aggrandising practices which, applied to myself, seem only expressions of arrogance, even though they should prove no harm.
Copywriting is a useful example. Recently I was asked, tongue-in-cheek, about entering the copywriting business. However capable I might be, however, is secondary. First and foremost, one must market himself as an exceptional creative and an expert of locution. A trial last year for a significant website proved unsuccessful, even though they liked the material. I can only believe that this is because I was not convincing at portraying myself as a professional of the trade.
It is hard to change the long-engrained habits of a lifetime. I was not prepared to say openly in public that I had won a position in Geneva at the age of 23. It is hard enough to say that even now, a world below, three years later.
My professional adult years have been spent within a community where confidence in ability is not universally welcomed, even if it is supported by actions rather than empty rhetoric. 2010 brings new significance to my place in that community, however, as I adopt a new role that many would savour. I have kept my work completely secret, dealt with it privately, and, in the face of a potentially Promethean public exposure, have come into it so quietly that I am struggling to find a voice that might reposition or refashion myself to the developments. It is a very good opportunity, however, to build confidence, to add to a portfolio of material, and to add a new corner to a shadow of a CV.
In the circles within which I operate, to exude confidence and success is to risk the security of community. Yet, the work I might expect to do in the future requires the impression of confidence and expertise, however false that may be. Whether I am capable is one question. Whether I can break the hold of community over me to start living outside its boundaries is another. The people who have built success, by and large, have not held community as their top priority. It is a slightly haunting dilemma in the making.