KMbeing

Knowledge Mobilization (KMb): Multiple Contributions & Multi-Production Of New Knowledge

Tag Archives: career

Point Your PhD Beyond The Academy

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I recently attended a meeting to discuss recommendations from York University’s Academic and Administrative Program Review (AAPR) – an attempt to measure and quantify the state of the university with a focus on quality education and sustainability, similar to other institutional “pulse-checks” being done by several other universities. The many challenges within the past few decades have created financial and graduate enrolment struggles for universities now requiring evidence-based reform.

One of the surprising (or perhaps not so surprising) views to still be expressed at the meeting was that the role of the university in terms of graduate education is to somehow ensure there’s a career in the academy after finishing a PhD. University faculty have long considered tenure to be their right – something they deserve as dedicated researchers and hardworking teaching professionals – a right that is also enshrined in faculty collective agreements. Yet a new generation of graduate students are finding it not so easy to get on the tenure “track” due to greater competition and sometimes misguided expectations of “success” post-graduation.

Is it any wonder with this type of “old-school” thinking the expectations of graduate students remain similar to these? Fortunately, the voices expressing this view at the meeting were very few, but the fact that they were still expressed is concerning.

We must continue to tell our graduate students that there is still value in getting a PhD and using it beyond academia – as this value can be applied to so many other career choices outside the academy.

Alternative Careers in Science: Leaving the Ivory Tower, edited by Cynthia Robbins Roth is a valuable example of the many career paths available after finishing a PhD – and highly recommended reading for current PhD students, regardless of academic discipline. The publication of this book is more than a decade old but shows that this is not just a current problem – it remains a current reality.  Another great source is Non-Academic Career Options for PhDs in the Humanities and Social Sciences in assisting graduate students to think beyond an academic career post-graduation.

The Globe and Mail recently published a further insightful piece titled Faculty jobs are rare, but Canada still needs its PhDs – showing the value of a graduate degree. The editorial states “universities need to ensure graduate students are well trained in their specific disciplines. But universities also need to ensure students recognize and can make use of all the transferable skills they acquire along the way, so that students can succeed regardless of their ultimate career path.”

Supporting students is “the bottom line” of any university. Student learning opportunities and research contributions depend of course on the goals of specific professional development efforts of the university – particularly at the graduate level. In addition to these goals, knowledge mobilization efforts may result in important unintended outcomes and benefits – such as greater network opportunities to extend their research during and beyond their academic program, as well as meeting potential employers leading to post-doctoral or other non-academic employment opportunities. Indeed, according to York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit, 25% of the 44 knowledge mobilization graduate student interns supported by York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit were hired by the internship partner.

So what can we do to help graduate students get a job outside of academia when they finish their degree? First off – step into the new university paradigm and let go of the “old-school” academic thinking.

Graduate students, eager on completing their Masters or PhDs, need to be made aware that they must become team players and better communicators, and develop knowledge mobilization strategies into their current research.

Another factor discussed at the recent meeting was the often too flexible deadlines in academia that can reinforce a culture of indifference to the value of time and a certain lack of realism that doesn’t work outside of academia. Getting graduate students to finish their degrees within the usual timeframes is not only important for finally obtaining the degree but also for teaching the value of maintaining a deadline.

The pressure to get results and publish is intense in academia. Graduate students need to be supported by supervisors who instill a sense of properly managing projects over time-frames with specific deadlines – while also learning to network and develop knowledge mobilization strategies.

I have enormous respect for the work our faculty and graduate students do. I admire their dedication, creativity, intelligence and resilience. They tend towards developing communications skills and internal academic networks because they often work together in groups at the university – but they are still often geared towards academic-style communication.

To be sure, some aspects of graduate work is challenging and needs a high degree of commitment, creativity, enthusiasm and support. These are also the skills and attitudes required for any career – both academic and non-academic. Making research useful to society is what knowledge mobilization is all about. We need to start thinking about post-graduate careers in terms of adapting the skills acquired in graduate school for a variety of pathways to make the research and education useful to society beyond the academy.

Knowledge mobilization involves much more than merely translating knowledge. It’s also about the effective learning of communication skills to network knowledge. In the workplace telling someone a fact is not enough; effective communication not only involves good speaking but also active and diplomatic listening skills as well. Graduate students must learn to use their knowledge to network with effective communication skills. Graduate students do not usually have such skills because they get used to dealing with people who think the same way they do within their own disciplines.

Everything about graduate studies is designed to generate more academics – not people who can also use their research skills to work in other career settings. If universities do their jobs well, by the time graduate students graduate they become very good academics – which means they are likely to be less adept and adaptable to other career settings despite the transferable nature of the skills they have gained during grad school.

According to a Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario 2013 report “about two-thirds (65 per cent) of Ontario PhDs pursued their degree with the intention of becoming a university professor, and the proportion is even higher in the humanities at 86 per cent.”

The reality of comparing the number of Ontario doctoral graduations with recent tenure-track and non-tenure track academic postings is sobering:

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The report states that “according to Statistics Canada research, the decline in the availability of tenured or tenure-stream positions across Canada was even more pronounced for professors under the age of 35. In 1980-1981, one-third of professors under age 35 (35 per cent) held a full-time tenured or tenure-track position; 25 years later, this was true for only 12 per cent of professors in that age category.”

This means (even 25 years later) that graduate students need to think about moving outside of the academy into external careers and be prepared to transfer academic/research skills to other sectors.

This doesn’t mean there’s less value in getting a PhD or that you shouldn’t pursue a PhD – as argued by the above-mentioned Globe and Mail article, and also by York University PhD Candidate, Melanie Fullick in another thought-provoking Globe and Mail article.

Developing long-term strategies for post-graduate career paths involves commitment and greater cooperation from all bodies of the university – staff, students, faculty, deans, vice-presidents, and governing councils; and most importantly from the university president. It’s about multi-disciplinary and inter-departmental conversations to provide varying capacities to inform and educate graduate students to think about careers beyond the walls of the university, and move beyond the continuing “old-school” thinking to a new university paradigm of the value of graduate studies in a variety of career sectors.

Knowledge Mobilization Post With The Most 2014

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It’s amazing to think that I will now be officially a staff member at the Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) at York University!  After months of doing contract work this past year – starting out the year preparing for and supporting the 2014 Knowledge Mobilization Forum, doing temp work collecting and entering initial data for York’s Academic and Administrative Program Review (AAPR), and doing contract work for FGS – 2014 was a year of making great strides in a career path I’ve long been working towards. Time has gone by so fast and yet I await, with great expectation, continuing to contribute to the important FGS work supporting our graduate students at York.

But first, as I do every year on my KMbeing knowledge mobilization blog, I want to reflect back on the 2014 “post with the most” – as I’ve done with year-end blog posts for several years in a row.

One might think that after writing this blog for almost 5 years – exploring and sharing my thoughts on, and participation in the world of knowledge mobilization – with a more permanent career path, it might be time to focus my energies elsewhere. Not so!

This past year working at FGS, I’ve been focusing some of my recent KMb blog writing on how graduate students can adopt knowledge mobilization strategies into their research. I’ll continue to do so. I’ve also been working to incorporate KMb thinking into FGS programming by setting up meetings with FGS staff and York knowledge brokers to explore more collaboration between FGS and York’s KMb Unit.

Every year I gain more life experience and more knowledge – and firmly believe in the importance of exchanging our knowledge to make the world a better place. But what has also been accumulating up to this point since I started working on campus is insight into the aspirations of our grad students and the importance of instilling in them how we can exchange our knowledge to make the world a better place now and in the future.

While thinking about the New Year ahead and the new career path I’m focused on, I want to review this past year (as many of us do) to reflect on all the incredible new colleagues and contributions I’ve made throughout 2014.

I finally feel like the career path I’ve been working on for the past decade (with a few starts and stops along the way) is starting to feel like I’m home. I feel like I have such a great fit at FGS with the people and the academic environment for the first time in such a long time.  FGS feels like home – and although I’m sure some of my co-workers who’ve been around York for several years will be tempted to say “wait until the honeymoon period is over” – I’ve already “cut my teeth” on the fast-pace and high-pressure environment that assists our grad students to achieve great success.

I’m looking forward to continuing my FGS work in 2015 being a full-time member of the FGS team – and I’ll still be putting my knowledge mobilization experience to good use to continue writing my blog – perhaps with a little more focus on motivating grad students to think about and adopt knowledge mobilization initiatives into their research.

But now a look back at the post with the most for 2014 – and expectations of a phenomenal year 2015 will be!

The most popular 2014 KMbeing blog post is A New University Paradigm in which I challenge universities to rethink how research is being done by establishing knowledge mobilization units within universities and combine them with research services and industry liaison offices to engage with both community partnerships and business innovation opportunities. There were almost 18-thousand views from 151 countries.

Again, I applaud all who made the wider dissemination of this blog possible using Twitter while recognizing the importance of getting researchers to use social media and knowledge mobilization as part of the research process.

 Thanks again to all my followers who have made this year and the KMbeing blog so successful – and thanks to new followers! I look forward to continuing to mobilize knowledge with you all in 2015!

 

 

A Thank You For Knowledge Exchange On The Job

Thank you

This week I had to say goodbye to a great job and a great team because my work contract has come to an end. What an amazing opportunity to work in the Knowledge Exchange (KE) Unit at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). I knew coming into the position that it would only be a temporary one, but I took the contract anyway, and the chance I was offered was a further step in a new career path to leave another behind – and I’m so very glad I took the chance. It’s said that if you can find a job you enjoy, it no longer feels like work. I say if you can find a team you enjoy, your colleagues no longer feel like colleagues and more like friends, and then your job no longer feels like work – no matter what that job may be.

After a few hugs, handshakes, a farewell lunch and some very touching greeting cards and emails (along with a potted plant – thanks Stephanie!) expressing how much my contribution and talents were appreciated as part of the KE team, and how much I would be missed, I was very moved and sad to be moving along. But I know our paths will cross again given our common interests in knowledge mobilization. And I know that I will have opportunities to stay in touch.

There are many people in the world who are much more comfortable preaching than they are practicing.  There are many people in the world who are much more willing to complain than they are to take action. There are many people who don’t take chances to make change in life but constantly talk about making a difference – yet never do. There are many people who never share their knowledge because they’re too afraid or feel too “stupid” to do so.

We don’t have to be like that. Knowledge mobilization is about listening to a diversity of knowledge voices, taking action and making change.

As long as we’re aware of the need to maintain consistency between our words and our actions, between sharing our knowledge and being open to the knowledge of others, we have a very good chance of making our life – and that of everyone on this planet – something we want it to be.  Our values, our beliefs, and our desire to sincerely share our knowledge to help our fellow human beings as best we can is what makes a difference. I believe when we are open to sharing knowledge and listening to a diversity of voices to connect our knowledge and create new knowledge for social benefit, we begin to make the world a better place – in whatever space we live or work in.

When we practice without preaching to others, when we share our knowledge with sincerity to make a difference, and truly give others a chance to do the same, people can sense our authenticity. They know that we’re being ourselves and not expecting them or ourselves to live up to some artificial expectations of “intelligence” or knowledge that we’ve created and built up, and they can relax around us, be comfortable with us, work well with us, learn from us – and we can learn from them.  When we move our own lives and actions to a higher level in whatever job we have, when we are open to sharing knowledge no matter how “limited” we may think it is – then we don’t even need to preach to others – our very lives will be all the message that we want or need to send to others as moments of shared knowledge.

Our lives become what we make of them.  They don’t just happen.  We do have a choice.

Our knowledge is what we make of it. Knowledge needs to be shared. We all can make a difference.

I have to admit that my CAMH job got off to a bit of a rocky start and there were some embarrassing mistakes that were made. I admit that I had fears, frustrations, and my critical side saw fault in others. But I had a choice to move forward, learn from the mistakes – or continue to blame by negating, cutting down or criticizing. I chose to move forward and learn from the mistakes – and recognize the same in others, creating greater team building along the way because of this choice.

Fundamentally, that’s what knowledge mobilization is all about. Knowledge is always moving forward to learn from mistakes, continue to create knowledge exchange and not barriers, to collaborate as a team to seek the best evidence to improve and make our jobs, our work teams, our lives, our world a better place.

Thanks again for giving me that chance as part of the knowledge exchange team at CAMH. I am very grateful.

Change & Uncertainty For Gaining Knowledge

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If we can recognize that change and uncertainty are basic principles of gaining knowledge, we can face the future with the understanding that we do not know enough but can make a difference by being open to learning something new, taking chances, sharing our knowledge – and in due course create new knowledge to pass on to someone else.

Currently, I’m wondering about my future career direction in my life. I currently have a great job as Knowledge Exchange Events and Resources Planner with an amazing team in the Knowledge Exchange Unit at The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) – but it’s a contract position, funding is coming to an end, and so is my employment. I left a long career in hospitality (over 15 years), making a big jump and decision to take a chance, make a change and face some uncertainty to take a temporary job. I left the security of a guest service career, with the full knowledge that my new job was only a three-month contract. In so doing I enabled a new, but unknown future outside the hospitality industry.

I faced change and uncertainty, yet gained new knowledge. I’m contributing my own knowledge to the job at CAMH, while also meeting and working with some great professionals as we exchange further knowledge. And I am thankful to those who gave me that chance.

A few years ago, I couldn’t kick the feeling that the former 15 year career path I was on was just an extended detour for the path I should really be on. While still working as a flight attendant, I went back to school, graduated with a B.A. in Psychology – got on the Dean’s Honour Roll – did a lot of volunteer work, increased my skills, networked with a bunch of people in knowledge mobilization (KMb), started writing this KMbeing blog, was named among the top ten knowledge mobilization influencers in Canada in 2011 and 2012 – and changed the direction of my life and my resume.

For those of you who have been long-time readers of my KMbeing blog, you’ll remember when I made my first jump out of the hospitality pond to work at Kobo, learning valuable skills as an Executive Assistant, and the difficult challenges I encountered when I had to work supporting someone (think of Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada) who is no longer working for Kobo (too late for me).

Devil Wears Prada

I loved the job and the chance to support others in this environment – and I gained some incredible knowledge (perhaps the hard way). The personality of the person I was supporting wasn’t the big problem for me. I can deal with different personality types. The problem was that this person kept expecting me to do some personal, non-work related things that interfered with what I was expected to do in the job, and because of this person’s position in the company there was little recourse. I still have friends from Kobo who recognized the situation and supported the reason I decided to leave.  I was disappointed, but, had I not taken that chance, I would not have gained that valuable knowledge to deal differently with such a challenge in the future.

I was fortunate to land on my feet and find a job working for a great hotel as a guest service agent at The King Edward Hotelback in the hospitality industry. You have to pay the bills somehow – and hospitality is what I know, not necessarily what I wanted to do. I started getting that detour feeling again, and wondered if all of the effort I had put into moving out of hospitality had gone to waste.

Don’t get me wrong. The dedicated hotel staff and my ability to provide excellent customer service along with some sincerely caring, and hard working people (some who have since become friends) made me feel so much at home. With my love of history and writing, the King Edward Hotel was an ideal subject for another interesting blog that I started writing while working there, trying to get management to recognize some of my further skills. I tried to see about transitional opportunities within the hotel from hospitality to administration or communications; unfortunately, no opportunities presented themselves.

Then the CAMH temporary contract position came along, working back in an academic/research environment. More change and uncertainty, but I took the chance. And now more change and uncertainty, but an opportunity to gain more knowledge and contribute some of my own.

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So now, I’ve started sending out my resume again, and when I don’t receive an acknowledgement of it, I don’t take it personally. I don’t think there must be something wrong with me that will prevent someone from even wanting to interview me for a position. I don’t start second-guessing myself and my valuable skills, or wonder if I made a mistake to leave the security of hospitality and guest services behind. Fortunately, I also have a connection with an employment placement agency to ease some of the insecurity.

I know, it’s the deep feeling of confidence in me and the passion I feel about my choice in wanting to change my career path that assures me – I haven’t made a mistake. I recognize that change and uncertainty are basic principles of gaining knowledge.

The paradox is that gaining knowledge takes time but gaining knowledge also happens in every second.

I really don’t know enough about a potential employer’s situation to allow myself to be negative or depressed after I’ve sent my resume off.  I don’t know if an internal candidate was chosen before all others, or if someone with more specific experience or education was chosen.  I don’t know if there was a lot of discussion about me, or if others thought I should be interviewed, or if, ultimately, the boss wanted someone else for reasons that have nothing to do with my own skills and experience. And besides, it’s a great, big world out there with plenty of other people with valued skills and knowledge. I just need to continue to have confidence and show my passion, continue to put it out there, and when given a chance – be thankful when that chance finally happens.

crystal ball

I don’t believe in crystal balls to see into the future. I don’t know what lies ahead in a few weeks or months from now (perhaps I’ll write about it in a future blog to let you know) – but I do know there will be more change and uncertainty. I also know that had I not jumped into taking this temporary job – and changed my career path – I would not have had this chance to gain more knowledge that will make it possible for me to accept another longer-lasting position that’s much more suited to me and for me in the future.

We must recognize that we always face change and uncertainty and that our knowledge should never be scripted, for our knowledge scripts are always altered everyday. If we can relax and let life take its course, we can get much more out of life and living, and we can be optimistic enough to know that we can gain knowledge from change and uncertainty if we take a chance. As Dale Carnegie once said…

Take a chance! All life is a chance. The person who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare.