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Overcoming a Sense of Academic Failure | The Careers Service Overcoming a Sense of Academic Failure – Oxford University Careers Service
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Overcoming a sense of academic failure

Many of us have phases where we have no idea what we’re doing, or everything feels like it’s going wrong: that we are failing, or even that we are failures. Sometimes such phases feel less like phases than a permanent default. And often we assume – wrongly – that no one else ever feels the same.

This is an initiative intended to help make it OK to think and talk about failure. It grew out of an event held in June 2016 which brought together DPhil students, early-career academics, and researchers at later stages of their careers in academia or beyond, for a frank conversation about academic failure and success. The event made clear how powerful it can be to acknowledge perceived failures, talk about them, reframe them, and learn from them, rather than bottling them up and pretending they never happened.

The resulting resources currently include a series of five audio podcasts and a workbook.

The workbook offers prompts to reflect on your experiences, alter your perspective on them, and take action to continue learning in the future. It also includes CVs of failure from some of the event speakers.

The podcasts explore things in a little more depth, with the help of contributions from some of our speakers plus other people at different career stages. The podcasts are not short (around half an hour each) and will reward focused engagement, so we recommend that you take some quiet time to listen, perhaps with a pen and paper to hand.

You can download the workbook here.

This initiative was developed jointly by

Dr Rachel Bray (Careers Adviser for Postgraduate Research Students and Research Staff, Careers Service, University of Oxford)

and Dr Emily Troscianko (formerly Postdoctoral Training Coordinator in the Humanities Division, now Research Associate at The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH), University of Oxford)

Our podcast contributors are:

Susan Blackmore: psychologist, lecturer, and writer researching consciousness, memes, and anomalous experiences; Visiting Professor at the University of Plymouth

Julia Bray: A.S. AlBabtain Laudian Professorial Fellow in Arabic, Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford; Fellow of St John’s College, Oxford

Rachel Bray: Careers Adviser for Postgraduate Research Students and Research Staff, Careers Service, University of Oxford; Associate Member, Department of Social Policy and Intervention, University of Oxford

Chiara Cappellaro: Research Fellow in Linguistics, University of Oxford; Knowledge Exchange Fellow, The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH), University of Oxford)

Barbara Gabrys: Academic Visitor, Department of Materials, University of Oxford

Adam Hart-Davis: photographer, writer, and broadcaster

Jaz Hill-Valler: DPhil student, Department of Physics, University of Oxford

Leanne Hodson: Associate Professor of Diabetes and Metabolism, Radcliffe Department of Medicine, University of Oxford

Dan Holloway: Head of Administration and Finance, Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics, University of Oxford; founder of Mycelium

Ritchie Robertson: Taylor Professor of the German Language and Literature, Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, University of Oxford; Fellow of The Queen’s College, Oxford.

Chris Wickham: Chichele Professor of Medieval History (emeritus); Emeritus Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford

We thank all our contributors for talking so openly about their experiences and what they have learned from them.

Podcasts

Podcast 1: The Feeling of Failure

What does failure feel like, and what happens when you sit with it?

Podcast 2: Failure and other people

Other people (or our idea of them) can induce feelings of failure and alleviate or transform them.

Podcast 3: Failure and the farewell to academia

Why does the idea of leaving academia so often feel like professional failure?

Podcast 4: What to do about it all: Personal attitudes

How to change your own attitudes to failure and success, and how failure relates to regret.

Podcast 5: What to do about it all: Personal actions

How to take action to change the role failure plays in your life.

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This information was last updated on 11 June 2018.
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