Last November I took the leap and moved from a Research Postdoc role to a ‘research support’ Public Involvement and Engagement role. I won’t deny I was nervous about this move
- Had I just wasted 7 years of my working life focussing on research when I wasn’t going to do it any more? (Turns out no)
- Would my skills be transferable (absolutely)
- Was this the ‘right decision’ (yes!)
I was ditching research for good. Famous last words.
My move was in part due to the current project’s funding coming to an end, and an unwillingness on my part to ‘just join’ another research project, spending another few years doing someone else’s research with no ownership of the results. It was also due to a realisation that I enjoyed the communication and leadership aspects of my role more than the actual research I was doing at the time. I enjoyed learning and talking about research, whether it is mine or someone else’s. In this new role I get these ‘positives’ without the ‘negatives’ of doing research. This was an opportunity to explore other avenues slightly outside my comfort zone.
Whilst I had ‘moved’, there were still research projects and publications that were ticking along. Most of them still are. So I hadn’t totally left research.
I also took on a teaching role at the Open University which I absolutely love!! The module is a second year undergraduate course about mental health research, and a small research project…so there was still an aspect of research and academia in that part of my working life too.
I realised when I started my new role as Patient and Public Involvement Officer that I was taking a research approach to it, as this was a new role and I was relatively new to this area of research support. I took all the evidence and formed an opinion on what the plan going forward would be. Taking this approach, I noticed there was a lot of evidence missing from the research and public spheres of involvement information. So I set about looking at research evidence…and designing research projects to widen the empirical evidence base. I started an empirical review of our involvement practices…and have two research papers planned off the back of it. Looking at it, I really hadn’t ‘left’ research, but taken a side step.
In April of this year, after 6 months of being ‘research free’ (one paper published, two more in the works from previous projects, two more planned about involvement) my boss approached me to take on some extra ‘research fellow’ responsibilities. The project was about the impact of our funded research. Whilst this is not something I have done before, it is in line with engagement and involvement, and it seemed a lot of research organisations are doing this type of activity and no one has a clear idea of what they need or want. I said yes. I was stepping closer to research again.
This project now has 3 phases planned which will go on for at least a year…I am still basically doing research.
In the meantime I’ve had talks with a number of people outside my immediate network of colleagues about projects that interest me on a personal as well as professional level, both focussing on types of real-world applications of mindfulness for mental health and wellbeing. I’ve never done research in this area before, so this is another new aspect of research I’ve landed myself into after ‘ditching research for good’.
Do what you want, not what you’re supposed to do
Now I am doing a lot of things I really enjoy I’ve realised that whilst I did enjoy most aspects of previous research roles, in my Postdoc I was doing a lot of what I ‘felt like I had to do’ after gaining my PhD, rather than what I really wanted to do. After reappraising my career changes over the last year I realise I am much happier, despite not doing what I was ‘supposed’ to do! I encourage more research folk to do the same.