Responding to change or setbacks | The Careers Service Responding to change or setbacks – Oxford University Careers Service
Oxford logo
Opening the conversation

Creating change in your work patterns, or setting, can help you move on in your thinking and create new, unforeseen openings.

At some point in your life, perhaps while you’re at Oxford, you will need to do something that feels quite radical in order to step off a familiar track that is no longer good for you. Sometimes change is forced upon you: a supervisor moves to a different university, funding runs out or your research group is re-configured.

While there is truth in the familiar saying “be the change you want to see”, it requires courage and a willingness to bear some less comfortable experiences along the way.

The Careers Service is here to support you in planning for change, and going about it.

We recommend reading how others have responded to the particular challenges that exist in academia. You will see the weaknesses in professional systems more clearly, put your motivations in context, and, quite possibly, be inspired to try new directions or even fashion a role that fits your talents and priorities. You may then want to book an appointment with a Careers Adviser to discuss these.

Ibarra’s book ‘Working Identity’ is useful for anyone thinking about moving on from academia after a post-doc, or similar mid-career transitions. It contains case studies and a framework to evaluate your experiences when trying out new directions. Reference copies are available in the Careers Service resource room.

Other helpful sources include pieces by PhD students and postdocs: An experienced Oxford DPhil student shares tips on exploring your work preferences and options beyond academia in a Nature article. And one Canadian postdoc recounts what she learns about academia through her attempts to get a permanent position and why she decided to become an independent professor and consultant researcher, as well as her life story.

Senior academics are also starting to identify the structural problems within academia and make clear strategic suggestions to PhD students and postdocs.

Talk to your peers, departmental administrators and faculty to see what you can do together to create an open conversation about change and build a culture of support.

Overcoming a sense of academic failure: Podcasts & Workbook

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. We recommend that you take some quiet time to listen, perhaps with a pen and paper to hand.

The Workbook

You can download the workbook here.

This initiative was developed jointly by: 

Podcasts on experiences of failure

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.

  • 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; Research Associate, 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.

Give us your views on our sense of failure resources
Do you need more help?

New to Oxford?

Join the Oxford Research Staff Society (OxRSS) to meet other researchers, join in on social activities in and around the city, and ensure your voice is heard in university decision-making.

Your partner or family will find a warm welcome at Oxford’s Newcomers Club, an organisation, run by volunteers and hosting regular gatherings. The club’s aim is to help those accompanying newly-arrived visiting scholars, graduate students or newly-appointed academic and administrative members of the University to settle in and to give them the opportunity to meet people in Oxford

Facing redundancy?

Your first line of advice and support is the staff-member in your department responsible for Human Resources (HR). If you are unsure who this is, or want advice from someone with a wider perspective, we recommend talking to the HR team in your Division. More details on how to get advice plus University policies and procedures are on the OU Personnel Services site.

Need more support?

The Counselling Service is here to help all Oxford students gain understanding and insight into any difficulties they may be experiencing, to develop emotional resilience and put into effect real change, enabling the fulfilment of academic and personal potential. The Service offers free and confidential support, but it is not an emergency service.

Research staff members can call on the support of the Occupational Health Service (OHS). This team comprises specialist clinical staff that provide independent advice to employers and employees concerning the relationship between health and work, and the effects one has on the other.

This information was last updated on 13 December 2019.
Loading... Please wait
Recent blogs about Responding to change or setbacks

China Job Fairs 2020

Blogged by Julia Hilton on 21/01/2020.

With more than 1,000 Chinese students currently studying at Oxford and a significant Chinese alumni group, the Oxford Careers Service is committed to supporting Chinese students and alumni with their job search. We know that navigating the job market in China alongside studying in the UK is extremely challenging. Whilst we see many Chinese students keen to stay to work in the UK, we are fully aware of the need to identify opportunities back in China too. For these reasons we are offering a series of China Careers events in 2020 exclusively for Chinese students, research staff and alumni to attend. The Careers Service is working closely with the Oxford University Chinese Students and Scholars Association and the Oxford University Chinese Society to raise awareness of these China focused events. We are grateful to both groups for their support and hard work.

Warwick China Fair 2020

WHEN: Saturday 22 February, 10:00-15:00
WHERE: Oculus building, University of Warwick

BOOK YOUR PLACE NOW >>

Organised by Warwick, plus partner Universities (including Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Bristol, Bath, Oxford, Lancaster and Aston Universities), it will enable you to meet both UK and China recruiters with graduate roles in China.

The event includes a panel presentation about the current Chinese job market; a session on visas; plus a series of employer presentations.

Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong Careers Fairs 2020

Organised by the London School of Economics (LSE) in collaboration with partner institutions (University of Oxford, Imperial College London, University of Cambridge, Columbia University and University of Chicago) to bring you Careers Fairs in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong in August 2020. Full details will be updated on our China Careers pages as soon as we have them later this spring.

If you are fluent in Mandarin and would like to gain some social media marketing experience, we are also offering a China Fairs 2020 Marketing Assistant micro-internship at the Careers Service at the end of Hilary term. To find out more and apply visit CareerConnnect.

Finance Careers: Women’s PhD Mentorship Program

Posted on behalf of Morgan Stanley. Blogged by Julia Hilton on 13/01/2020.

Morgan Stanley are inviting current PhD students to apply for this great opportunity to participate in a one-year mentorship program, which will educate you on the financial services industry and how your degree could apply to a career within Quantitative Finance!

Selected mentees will attend two program events throughout the year, and will be paired with a mentor within the Morgan Stanley Quantitative Finance division. Event sessions include speed networking, job shadowing, mock interviews, and programming tutorials! Don’t miss out on this exciting opportunity for mentorship and networking.

Applicants must be:

  • pursuing a PhD in a field such as Engineering, Mathematics, Physics, Statistics, or related Quantitative field.
  • completing degree in December 2020 or later.

Selected mentees will be notified in early February. Questions on this program should be directed to Agata.Bartnik@morganstanley.com

To register your interest please visit the following Morgan Stanely web page.

 

AstraZeneca Postdoctoral Programme

Posted on behalf of AstraZeneca . Blogged by Claire Chesworth on 13/11/2019.

AstraZeneca will be advertising approximately 40 new postdoctoral positions in February which are available for anyone completing their PhD in 2020. More details about their programme can be found on the AstraZeneca postdoc careers website.

You might also be interested in attending their Postdoctoral Programme Open Day in Cambridge on 31 January although there are only 30 places available so please register as soon as possible if you are interested. Register for AstraZeneca Postdoctoral Open Day here >>

Merck Innovation Cup Summer Camp 2020, Germany

Posted on behalf of Merck Group. Blogged by Claire Chesworth on 13/11/2019.

Between 20-26 June 2020, Merck will be hosting the 10th Anniversary Innovation Cup Summer Camp, an initiative designed to support the professional development of PhD students/postdocs interested in the pharmaceutical and chemical industry.

Participants will learn how R&D in the industry works by lectures from Merck managers and scientists and will also work in teams on innovative  projects in the areas of: Oncology, Immuno-Oncology, Autoimmunity, Drug Discovery Technologies, Digitalization, Electroceuticals and Lithography.

Applications are open to life scientists working towards a PhD in biology, medicine, biotech, bioinformatics, computer science, data science, biochemistry, chemistry, pharmacy, engineering or related fields. Postdocs are also welcome to apply, as are MBA students from a life science background who have an interest in this sector. They are offering shared prizes of €20,000 for the winning team and €5,000 for the runner-up team. Your travel, accommodation and food expenses are paid for by Merck.

Closing date: 31 January 2020. Further information and application details are available through the Innovation Cup Summer Camp website.

Alternative Internships with Baillie Gifford

Posted on behalf of Baillie Gifford. Blogged by Rebecca Ehata on 11/11/2019.

Looking for something to do next summer?

Answer a question on change in any aspect of contemporary life in less than 300 words, and you could win a grant of £5,000 to spend the summer travelling the world, testing your hypothesis and carrying out research to support your argument, followed by two weeks at Baillie Gifford‘s Edinburgh offices where you will write up your research before presenting it to their investment teams. The Baillie Gifford Alternative Intership is open to all students (undergraduates, Masters and DPhil).

The closing date for entries: Friday, 22 November 2019. Find out more and enter >>

This page displays current related blog posts. If none display, you can still stay up-to-date with our newsletter sent regularly to all Oxford students.

Older posts can be found in our archive of past blogs.