Manchester and Salford New Researchers Forum in Linguistics – Careers Panel

Contributor: Claire

Two weekends ago  I attended ‘Manchester and Salford New Researchers Forum in Linguistics’, or, ‘#mancsafil’ as it was known on the social networking communities. I was a little daunted when I arrived as being one of only three graduates, who were not currently on postgraduate study but felt welcomed and accepted by all. The one aspect, apart from the research of course, is the networking and meeting people who are enthusiastic as you about your field.

After not encountering much Linguistics in the past 6 months, since graduating as I am focusing my attention towards Speech and Language Therapy, it was quite lovely to indulge in some of my favourite fields of linguistics, namely phonetics, phonology, sociophonetics and sociolinguistics!

This post  focuses on the outcomes of the Careers panel, consisting of the plenary speakers, all either recently finished their PhD, or in the finishing stages, and with recent teaching positions. Sam Kirkham (Lancaster University), Ingrid Lossius Falkum (Post Doctoral fellow at the University of Oslo), Laurel MacKenzie (University of Manchester), and George Walkden (University of Manchester) all discussed their experiences in job applications, interviews, publications, publishing PhD work, Conferences, Post Docs and Lectureships.

I must reinforce that this post is based on notes written two weeks ago – if I have gotten something wrong, it’s probably due to my bad handwriting and bad note-taking abilities, if anything should be changed or I’ve represented things incorrectly – please contact me!

How to present your PhD and long term future research while applying for jobs

George: Your future research should feed on from your PhD, but not directly

Laurel: There’s always unanswered questions that stem from your research, or others ways you could address your research question.

Sam: You should have a balance between short and long-term research aims, so that you have something concrete that you can achieve in the not so distant future.

Ingrid: Her PhD concentrated on polysemy, and as its such a huge subject, you cannot consider covering it all at once, you should always be looking for the next step.

Laurel: You should have plans for future work. Not for the rest of your life but where you want to go in the next few years. You should look at the broader implications of your study.

Sam: Had lots of ideas throughout PhD -> keep them for future research

Laurel: Keep a research journal and future project ideas.

George: had some insane and some brilliant ideas, he got some other publications out during his PhD because he couldn’t concentrate on one, but they were all related to his PhD somehow.

Laurel: If your PhD is not done while applying, you should have some concrete, just write something, like a chapter or a related topic, in a paper and send it somewhere, so at least you can say that it is under review.


Sam: Completing a PhD would be quicker without any publications, however he made a planned effort to submit a journal article to get a publication out and leave his PhD a little longer. He used his masters as a source for publication.

George: Getting something published takes a long time, he submitted something in the summer of 2010, and it is being published in Summer 2013, you may not hear anything for 6 months to a year.

Ingrid: You need one publication at least in the job market.

Sam: He made an effort not to go to a journal, but to go for  special issue, because it was quicker.

Publishing PhD Work

Laurel: would write working papers, then turn it into a chapter and then turn it into a conference article and then an expanded chapter.

George: Would write two standalone articles and turn them into chapters and then fit it into the grand scheme of the PhD.

Ingrid: Working papers are good – you’re forced to write a paper and then you make it into a chapter.

George: Working papers are not ideal, as they are not recognised everywhere, but you can get your research down and start to get recognised.


Sam: went to too many conferences and submitted a lot of undergraduate and Master’s work, and because it was all so different, people thought that he did different things. It’s not always helpful to resent.

George: If he hadn’t gone to conferences and networked, he wouldn’t have gotten his teaching job. You should ask yourself: what am I getting out of this conference?

Laurel: Her CV has formal and theoretical conferences, but also sociolinguistic conferences, it’s good to cross boundaries.

Sam: agrees with Laurel.

Ingrid: Went to too many conferences, but found it better to go to specialist conferences, because you get much better feedback.

George: Suggests going to LAGB because it gives you a landscape of the job market, and other research, also an excellent place to network and cross discipline.

Job Application Process

Laurel: Each job has different requirements. Regarding statements, you need to sit down, write down everything and then find your theme – the basis of a research statement should have a unifying theme.

Sam: You should have a consistent agenda, who you are and how it relates to your teaching and how you would fit into the university you’re applying to. There should be a coherent and consistent thread.

Ingrid: (regarding her post doctorate research proposal) she wrote different research proposals and contacted the staff, and collaborated together on a unified Research Proposal. It should be inline with staff interests.

Interview Process

Laurel: Used a lot of resources – careers centres etc., did a lot of research, didn’t do a practice interview, but wrote out answers to typical interview questions – LSA tips for job seekers, sample questions.

George: Questions he had: ‘Tell us your main ideas you’ve been researching and how can they be falsified?’, ‘How would you spend a grant?’, if all your work is in one theoretical framework: ‘what other frameworks could you use and how?’

Laurel: You’re asked, ‘Could you teach this’; do researching on funding groups, and what kind of money you could realistically get.

Sam: Was asked to give a teaching demonstration

Ingrid: Research the background of the committee members. Questions about a Research Proposal might be, ‘how would you do this from this point of view’, and it would be the point of view of one of the committee members.

Sam: Be realistic with timescales, such as when asked, ‘when will you finish you PhD’. Think about how you would prepare undergraduate and postgraduate work. What would you teach? Check what is on offer.

There were some questions asked and answers given, but notes on this part are even more wishy-washy!


Voluntary Position – Volunteer at the Bilingualism Summer School 2012 – Bangor University

Contributor: Callum

What? Volunteer for the Bilingualism Summer School at Bangor (University) 2012.

Why did you choose this place? My reason to assist with the Summer School was down to th experience it would give me, the Summer School had top names in the field of Bilingualism travelling into Bangor and this is something of which I wanted to be part. Names such as, Fred Genesee, Cheryl Frenck-Mestre, Ofelia Garcia, and Bonnie D. Schwartz were to attend, amongst many other experts in bilingualism research.

How did you find the application process? The application process was very easy, by this I mean there were no forms, or references to go around retrieving, Patrick Rebuschat (Summer School co-ordinator) asked students from the School of English Language and Linguistics to help with volunteering, we had around twelve or so helping which was around enough.

What do you do here? Throughout the two weeks of the Summer School the job of the volunteers was to make sure everything ran smoothly, and that visiting guests were content. Being more specific, these duties included helping lecturers set up their classes, escorting guests to lecture rooms, and taking them for lunch post-lectures, assisting with the set-up of events for keynote speeches and poster sessions. Furthermore, a top friend and I were asked to help a partially sighted student for the duration of the Summer School. As you may suspect, we aided this student around, making sure to keep her safe, though we did have her guide dog on hand also! This alone was an entirely new experience for both Fay (aforementioned friend) and I, but we both were able to make a new friend! Agata (said partially sighted student) remarked later that our assistance and care had made her stay in Bangor a very enjoyable one. So that was a very nice reward from the Summer School! The good things: Overall the Summer School was a great thing to have participated in; volunteering meant getting the tuition for next to nothing. Granted we couldn’t attend all advertised lectures, as we had to be in other places helping out and such. However, not just myself, but the rest of the volunteers did a great job, so it all balances out! All the same, to have been able to interact with a whole host of new people, from a vast range of different backgrounds all to unite and discuss and share ideas about bilingualism was a very worthwhile thing indeed! Though some of the talk at the pub may have sometimes strayed away from this, ha.

The bad things: If I’m honest, the schedule for the day was a little packed, which did result in long days, and if you add getting up at eight in the morning it made for a lot of tired people. Though it must be said it was the first time that this Summer School has been run at Bangor, so timing of the day may be altered for any future Summer Schools…that or I simply do not have the stamina to last a long day.

Anything else we should know: One additional thing I feel is worth mentioning is that early into week one I created a Facebook and Twitter page (though the latter was not a great success) to bring everyone together and to keep guests informed of events and ongoings throughout the two weeks. The Facebook page proved quite the success; as people made friends on Facebook as they do and can stay in contact with people they may have otherwise not had chance to see again.

Second noteworthy thing was that I was able to present my BA dissertation at one of the poster sessions, this was quite a unique opportunity that presented itself and I am very happy that I took it! Though my throat became hoarse from all the explaining that needed to be done, I was very proud to be presenting in the same room as people older than myself who had more years of experience in linguistics/ bilingualism.

Final thing to inform you of was that the second day of the Summer School was in fact my graduation from Bangor University (Linguistics BA; 2;1 for the record) safe to say I was unable to help out with most of the events on this day!

— If there is anything you have read from this you would like to know more about, feel free to email me at,, all the same you are very welcome to tweet me @CallumRobson

Volunteering – Conference Organiser – ULAB1 (2011)

Contributor: Richard

In 2011, the Undergraduate Linguistics Association of Britain had its first conference. I’m going to be talking here about that experience, and what went into it.

What conference? If you had asked either me or my friend, David Arnold, what ULAB was in 2010, you would have come up with some blank stares. The United Libyan Association for Bombers? The Ugly Lemurs And Bats group? The truth is, it didn’t exist yet. In January, 2011, Dave and I were getting a coffee in Edinburgh, where we were both students (and he still is) at the University there. The conversation went like this: “I wish there was some sort of organisation for undergraduates in Britain.” “Me too.” “Let’s start one.” “Ok.”

We may or may not have had a few more words to say on the topic at the time, but slowly, over the next couple of months, ULAB began to take shape. None of this would have been possible without the dozens of helping hands from the Edinburgh University Linguistics and English Language Society, LangSoc, which Dave and I had restarted after it went defunct, the year before. Together with our friends there, we started planning a conference – and that’s how ULAB 2011 came into being.

How did you get involved in the conference organisation?
So, in a sense, I’ve already answered this. But we didn’t get involved – we created it. I had already been president of LangSoc the year before, and knew a lot about organisation and the university, and what it would take to run a conference. I’d gone to a few conferences by this point, as that student in the background who asks incredibly dumb questions, and figured I’d like to ask questions around people who wouldn’t want to stare me down. I was also a member of the LAGB and the LSA student committees, and figured that I could rely upon their help if I needed it. And after some short work on a wordpress website, and a little creative naming, I was the coordinator.

What did your duties involve? Mostly chairing meetings and telling other people how they could help. We had one girl, Gina, who was absolutely excellent at putting in the hours getting emails and contact information for universities around Britain. Dave was fantastic at making logos; Kajsa was great at mobilising LangSoc to help out; the list goes on. I basically sat there, figured out with Dave what we wanted from ULAB, and tried to make that happen. Closer to the date, I made sure the website worked smoothly, coordinated with the organising team to make sure that everything from coffee to wheelchair exits were set to go, organised all of the peer review for the papers and dealt with emailing the participants who were coming, planned the schedule, and, on the days, sat around and tried to look important in a vest. Oh, I also gave a few short, extemporaneous speeches about ULAB.

How did the conference go? It went great. Something like 50 people turned up. There were two full days of Linguisticing around – following by two nights of going out, showing people Edinburgh, sometimes to Brits who had never seen it before. Many of the students had never presented at a conference, and the surroundings were welcoming, the questions fast and furious, and the after-talk tea hot. What more could you ask for? Presumably, a second conference – which did happen, this year, in Bristol. But that’s someone else’s story.

The good things about running the conference? You get that line on your CV, for one. But that’s not the only thing. You get to personally meet everyone you’ve only heard about while reviewing; you get to see their presentations; you get to see the university from the other side – you’re not sitting in the chairs dumbly, you’re driving the car and running the show. I learned a lot about committee meetings and different personalities and how a successful conference works. I also was able to make a lot of friends, and show them around. That might have been the best thing – the community.

The bad things about running the conference? Well, it can be damn stressful. One day you’ve just got your thesis to keep you company, and the next you’re staring down 50 dull eyes at 8:00am in the morning (why didn’t you just meet at ten, you ask yourself while brushing your teeth at 7:00). You’ve got to liven the room, and get people thinking about the talks, and make sure that everything goes to plan so that the five people who’ve actually read the schedule don’t freak out. This ranges from making sure the tea is plugged in, to making sure that you vacate the building when you do. Of course, none of this compares to the horror of trying to figure out where the funding is going to come from…

Any advice for those involved in conference organisation in the future? Don’t do a thing if you don’t have a good team with you. It’s almost impossible to run a conference on your own. I’ve seen some organisers break down in the middle, and no, I’m not joking. Make sure that you take into account vegetarians and disabled access and, horror of horrors, people who talk over their allotted time. But mainly – don’t get bogged down in the details! For an undergraduate or graduate conference, the main thing is networking. Let people talk, talk to some people yourself, and enjoy the show. Try and figure out what everyone is researching, and whether they’d be good coauthors. Or better, friends.

Volunteering – Organiser – UKC English Language and Linguistic Conference 2011, 2012

Contributor: Robyn

In 2011, I was one of three of the organisers for the Second UKC English Language and Linguistic Conference. I got involved with the committee, as I was already involved with the department through being Course rep. The Conference was made up of presentations from students at Kent, across all year groups, and students from other universities, including Edinburgh, Nottingham Trent, and Chichester. We also had Professor Jean Aitchison as our Keynote speaker, who did a talk on ‘English Today’. My main duties in the run up to the conference, were advertising and co-ordinating. On the day, I was able to make sure things ran smoothly. The conference was successful, and as a result we were able to acquire funding for a third conference.

In 2012, I was one of a larger group of organisers, where my main duties were to distribute tasks, and promote the conference to a larger audience than previously. We were able to get two Keynote speakers, Professor Maggie Tallerman and Professor Martin Conboy. The good thing about organising a conference is that it gives you the chance to get experience in events planning, whilst it being an event that you are interested in. It gives you the chance to interact with students from other universities, and learn about things which you may not have studied. The bad thing about running a conference, is that it was hard getting people involved so close to exam term, as a lot of people are preoccupied with revision, and it can be difficult to balance the workload yourself. For anyone thinking about being involved in the organisation of a student conference, I would definitely recommend it. It’s a great way to build on organisational skills, as long as you know what responsibilities you can take on.