Work Placement – Peer Assisted Learning Leader for 2nd Year Linguistics Module – UWE Bristol

What? PAL Leader (Peer Assisted Learning) for Foundations in linguistics: semantics and pragmatics & syntax module at UWE, Bristol (University of the West of England)

Why did you choose this place? I wanted to get some work experience in teaching/mentoring and this seemed like a good opportunity. I also liked the fact that it was linked with my course.

How did you find the application process? I don’t remember much of it which suggests that it was probably quite easy. There was an online application to be filled out and during the summer they checked my academic results to see if I didn’t fail the module I was supposed to be mentoring.

What do you do here? I mentor a group of 3-12 second year students (depending on how many show up) who are on the same course like me but one year below (I am in my final year). I run a session per week to help them to reduce the workload and answer any questions they might have about the module and the course as a whole. I need to prepare my sessions each week and write a schedule. In the past we’ve done some reading and now towards the end of the term we’re focusing more on essay preparation. My role is not to answer their questions straight away but rather redirecting them towards the whole group and make sure that everyone is involved.

The good things: I get paid for the session which is good because we were told that it is not paid in the rest of the UK. It really challenges me in terms of time management and coming up with new ideas what to do in the sessions. I really enjoy working with the students, it is fascinating to see how everyone has a different style and pace of learning, yet how they all want to pursue the academic goals. PAL has also taken the nervous feeling off me whether I will ever be able to stand up in front of a group of people and try to transmit some knowledge to them.

The bad things: I don’t get paid for the time I spend on planning the sessions, which is about 1-2 hours per week. Even though I mentioned it as a challenge, time management is crucial and sometimes I am wondering how I am going to cope with PAL and my deadlines at the same time towards the end of the academic year. The trainings sometimes seem to be too long.

Anything else we should know? PAL is a really good experience. Even though it is not about “normal” teaching it still involves working with students and preparing a lesson plan. Don’t be put off by the trainings and how formal it all looks; at the end of the day, you will learn how to mentor and enjoy your sessions at the same time in your own way, yet being backed up by the PAL office team.

Volunteering – Creating UWE Linguistics Society

Contributor: Tom

Which Society?  UWE Linguistics Society

Why did you start the society? I tell people who I want to impress that I set it up because I passionately wanted to spread the good word of linguistics and increase student participation in extra-curricular academic events.

In reality I read this language log post about Edinburgh’s own LangSoc and thought “oh that’d be so cool if we had a society like that at UWE” and got a bit depressed that UWE didn’t have a linguistics society. A few days later I remembered that I was a lazy student who had loads of time to set up a society. I asked some students if they thought a linguistics society should exist, got some friends together to form a committee, a month later we were a proper official society!

What was your position? I was elected as president. To start with this meant I was responsible for nearly every aspect of running a society, but it got a lot easier as the committee grew.

Good things: We had some fantastic lectures and we went on some really fun trips. And I got to work with some brilliant mates and made even more brilliant mates too.

Also, because I ran a linguistic society, I was contacted by David Arnold, a student of the University of Edinburgh, who invited the society to the first Undergraduate Linguistics Association of Britain conference … but that’s another very long story… (click the link to find out!)

Bad things: People kept expecting me to be some kind of linguistics whizz-kid – which was a pity because I’m actually quite stupid. They’d be all like “Tom, you run the linguistics society, do you remember all the rules on Sanskrit morphology” and I’d be all like “no!” then they’d be all like “what about a brief history of marxism in linguistics” and I’d be like “how would I know that?!” then they’d say “oh but you’re the president of the linguistics society, surely you’d know” and then I would have to run away and hide in shame.

Also running a society (*cough* especially a twice-award-winning society *cough*) takes a lot of time – so you need to ensure you stay organised and not let it take over your life!

Anything else: If you’re at university studying linguistics and there isn’t a linguistics/language society near you, set one up! Make sure you’ve got some good people who are just as enthusiastic as you are to work with, and you’re good to go.

And if there is a society near you, get involved in any way that you can – it’s a great way to meet people and have fun, all while pretending you’re only doing it to beef up your CV.

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.

Publications

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.

Conferences

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!

 

Graduate Position – Corpus Manager – Cambridge University Press

Contributor: Claire D

What? Corpus Manager – Cambridge University Press

Why did you choose this place? Once I’d seen the job advertised, I just had to apply – there really aren’t many jobs that matched so closely to the degrees that I’d done. It seemed really interesting, and despite not know anything about ELT, I felt that I had enough knowledge about Corpus Linguistics to apply. At the time, I’d applied for a few academic teaching jobs but had had no luck, so I was interested to find out if a job in the commercial sector might suit me.

How did you find the application process? As someone who quite likes interviews, I actually quite enjoyed the interview process. I had an initial 45 minute interview in Cambridge where I gave a presentation about corpora in ELT. After this I was asked the expected range of questions about me, the job and the subject area. Before the second interview I had to complete a task detailing how (and what) I would collect in order to build the perfect corpus for ELT. The questions at the second interview were much more relaxed, and indeed the interview took place over lunch (which at the time was pretty stressful – trying to give intelligent answers and not choke on a ham sandwich!) But, it all worked out fine and I got the job.

What do you do here? I manage the development and collection of corpora needed for ELT publishing. The job is pretty varied and no week is really the same. The job involves three main things: collecting corpus data; showing others how to get the most corpus data; and using the corpus to improve ELT teaching materials

We work in partnerships with universities and other organizations on research projects in order to collect spoken and written data. This involves lots of project management: identifying what data we might need and what is possible to collect; arranging data collection and transcription (if applicable); drafting legal agreements and formatting and processing files for upload to our corpus software.

I also provide all of the training and ongoing support in using the corpus resources we have (e.g. by writing user guides and giving group and individual training sessions). This includes both editorial staff working in Cambridge offices around the world, and out-of-house authors, researchers and project managers.

I also manage and undertake project-specific corpus research. A huge amount of our ELT publishing is corpus-informed, and often editors put together a brief that raises questions about particular grammar or vocabulary areas that will be covered in their materials. I then either commission freelance Corpus Researchers to undertake this research, or carry out the research myself in order to provide a report to the editors and authors that they can use when writing their books.

The good things: I’m not sure I could have found a job more suited to my skills, so it’s great to feel that the years of study did have a point after all! The job is very flexible and there’s lots of room for new ideas and creativity. I also get to travel from time to time – I’ve been to the Cambridge office in New York to run corpus software training, and to a good number of conferences both in the UK and in Europe. While it is a commercial job, there’s still a good dollop of academia in there, and this is a nice balance.

It’s a great place to work – my colleagues here in Cambridge are really nice, there are lots of facilities (bar, gym, good restaurant, green space). Along with that, Cambridge is a really beautiful place to live.

The bad things: Sometimes I do get frustrated by the administration side of things and with the slowness of some of the processes and procedures, but I’m sure this would be the case with any job. The department I work in is very small, so there isn’t the same opportunity here for career progression and promotion (as compared to e.g. an academic job). I also finished the final part of my PhD while working in Cambridge full time – this is not recommended!

Outside of work, I’m a northern girl, and Cambridge is very different to and very far away from Sunderland!

Anything else we should know: Consider Corpus Linguistics as a career! While there may not be tons of jobs going, I’m proof that that do come along sometimes. If Corpus Linguistics is your thing, why not also consider working as a freelance Corpus Researcher?