Brilliant Club

Boosting Transferable Skills for Early Career Researchers

14 Feb 2024

Rosa Smith and Dr Katrina Roberts

How sharing your research with school students can help your future career

As part of the New Deal for Postgraduate Research, both the UKRI and universities are paying more attention to the skills PGRs need to develop during their PhD study to allow them to thrive as they take the next steps into their careers. As well as an emphasis on effective careers support and guidance, and upskilling supervisors and academic staff in these areas, there is an increased recognition of initiatives that allow PGRs to learn valuable transferable skills outside of academia.

Tutoring school students is a practical, inspiring way to gain experience and develop expertise that will support you in any profession you progress to after completing your PhD. This article will examine how sharing your research in schools can boost your professional development and help your future career.

Mastering Communication

Being able to communicate your research to non-expert audiences is a skill all researchers are encouraged to master. Whilst you may have other public engagement opportunities, teaching complex concepts to school students will accelerate your communication skills in multiple ways.

Firstly, rather than just imparting knowledge, tutors are responsible for assessing learning. To do this, you need to know your material well enough to adapt explanations and address misconceptions. Secondly, your communication needs to be innovative so that you can respond to diverse groups of students – there might be varying abilities within or between groups that prompt you to think of new ways to convey ideas. Finally, young people are naturally curious and will ask you surprising questions about your research that you may never have considered! Your ability to think on your feet and provide through accessible, thorough responses will be tested and developed.

But what if you don’t want to go into teaching or research communication? Well, these are key skills for any career: in the workplace, you might need to explain a complex dataset or project workflow. Honing your communication skills as a PGR will enable you to identify key information quickly and provide the toolkit to communicate it in an adaptable and innovative way.

Evidencing Resilience

Completing a PhD is a masterclass in resilience. Most people who have successfully conducted an independent research project, written and defended a thesis can rightfully claim to be robust. Yet, it can be hard to articulate this to those outside of academia.

Teaching young people about your research concretely evidences your versatility as a resilient professional. There are many ways teaching young people will challenge you and teach you how to bounce back from difficult situations. You might have planned a fantastic tutorial full of engaging activities, only to find that the students need more support with a fundamental concept, and you must adapt your lesson plan to support this learning. Or, students in your group might not engage with an activity you had meticulously planned, and you need to pivot your delivery to meet your intended learning outcomes. Thinking flexibly, and not being thrown by these last-minute shifts, will develop your resilience in new ways!

Developing Pedagogy

Pedagogical skills aren’t just for classroom teachers. Whether you want to progress into the broader education sector, remain in academia as an inspirational university lecturer, or work in an industry outside of it, being trained as a tutor will help.

At The Brilliant Club, our tutors learn evidence-based strategies for planning sessions, structuring activities to meet specific objectives, and checking students have made progress towards them. These are skills you’ll need whenever you teach a concept, process, or even share a strategic approach.

We also support our tutors to practice techniques to increase engagement in your sessions, as well as effective assessment and feedback. These skills will transfer well into any setting; every profession will involve assessing work and feeding back to colleagues and stakeholders constructively.

Making a Difference

Tutoring for a charity showcases a commitment to social justice and challenging educational inequality. Most researchers are encouraged to engage with their university’s civic mission or public engagement priorities. Indeed, this is important when considering an academic career, particularly when thinking about wider university priorities, including the REF. However, it is also an important factor for non-academic careers too as it demonstrates your ability to collaborate to achieve a common goal, act as a role model, and enrich society with your research expertise.

As well as boosting your CV, working as a tutor in a school will allow you to inspire the next generation of researchers. You will also have conversations with curious young minds that will contextualise your work and ultimately make you a better researcher.

There are many ways that Early Career Researchers can get involved with The Brilliant Club. Get in touch today to boost your transferable skills.