The Postgraduate Contemporary Women’s Writing Network is currently recruiting new Steering Group members. The network is a cross-institutional and student-led initiative which aims to bring together postgraduate students working on contemporary writing by women. I’ve been on the Steering Group since 2010 and although I’ll be leaving when my doctoral studies finish it will be with regret because I have thoroughly enjoyed working with my peers.
I’m posting this to explain and reflect on the benefits of being involved in PG CWWN (in my case), but I strongly suspect it is true of any research network, group or association.
It is repeated time and again that doctoral students need ‘transferable skills’, and that even if you stay in academia, first class research often isn’t enough to secure that elusive first post. The nature of much literary research is that it simply doesn’t leave itself open to the kinds of activities which are necessary. I spend most days alone at my desk.
Being part of the network, though, means that I have experience in organising and hosting conferences and symposiums. I’ve built and maintained a website, run a blog and edited a newsletter. I’ve managed a mailing list and social media channels. I’ve applied for funding on both minor and major levels, and delivered the projects that funding was for. I’ve worked with my peers, represented postgraduate interests on a research association level and liaised with both literary writers and senior academics. I’ve reviewed abstracts and journal articles and edited a journal issue. I’ve also worked to find ways in which our network can build links with publishers and the public. These things, of course, don’t guarantee me a job. They do however make me feel a little better about my prospects in the market.
I’ve also had fun. Doing all of the above on top of full time research isn’t always easy but, call me a glutton for punishment, I’ve enjoyed (nearly) every moment of it. I’ve built close relationships with the people on the steering group and I count many of those I’ve worked with over the time among my closest friends. Working together on various projects while at different stages of the doctoral journey has allowed for support, hints, tips, and encouragement when required.
In a recent #ECRchat on Twitter, Charlotte Mathieson (@cemathieson) commented:
I quite agree. If it isn’t there – set it up. If it is there, make the most of it and in doing so make the most of your own research experience.