21 March 2012
By Tennie Videler
I wrote a post on running a workshop on internships at a Vitae event on doctoral training centres (DTC). This was last week and here is what I learned. Internships are a compulsory part of a doctorate in a DTC, but there is nothing stopping anyone doing research from arranging the experiencing of a placement for themselves. There was a lot of emphasis on ‘self-generated’ internships, where doctoral researchers find their own host for a placement. It is a really useful experience to arrange this yourself and it would put you in control. (It was agreed that it shouldn’t be compulsory for researchers to find their own opportunities and that DTCs should organise some internships). Things to think about, whether you organise your own or take advantage of opportunities generated for you, are:
It is worth looking into whether it is possible to use (existing) funding or make use of external internship schemes such as the ESRC’s. Also, be creative on ways to reduce the costs which may be associated with internships such as room/ house swaps.
• Where to go for a placement.
Don’t just think about large corporate employers, also consider
o Self employment
Be creative about what ‘internships’ mean. It could take many forms such as a long-term one day a week consultancy arrangement to six month employment and many other forms on that spectrum. Also be creative about your internship’s subject. It does not need to be directly related to your research, although you may be more likely to gain your supervisors’ enthusiasm if it is. For DTC internships, the different research councils have different expectations with regards to relation to thesis subject.
• What if it doesn’t go according to plan?
Remember there may be valuable learning even in bad (or less than optimal) experience…. But it may well be useful to have some form of formal contract in place between host, university and yourself.