Interview with Emily McDonald of the Jockey and the Architect blog


In this post I interview Emily McDonald who writes the very good Jockey and the Architect blog. I met Emily when I was in Australia last year and started reading her blog. I’ve been meaning to post this for ages, but have finally managed to find a slot to put it up. So welcome Emily to Adventures in Career Development.

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Emily and I work as a careers advisor. I currently work in a university setting helping students from all walks of life to achieve their career goals and transition from study to graduate employment. Previous to this, I worked in employment services which involved case-managing individuals with injuries, health problems and other barriers back in to study or employment.

Emily McDonald

How and why did you get into career development?

My journey in to the world of career development started when I was at university for the first time as an undergraduate. I was originally enrolled in a social science degree because my best friend at the time was doing it, and I did not really know what else I could do at the time. For reasons I cannot recall, I decided to change to psychology. Again, I was not sure where it was taking me, but I had heard somewhere that there were a lot of jobs in psychology. I can still hear my mother’s voice in my mind saying “Choose a recession-proof career”. Having ticked the employability box, I was still at a loss as to where I could fit in to the world of psychology and counselling. I knew I did not want to be a clinical psychologist, organisational psychology seemed a bit too corporate at the time, and hating statistics, a career in research or academia was beyond me. So on the brink of an existential crisis, I saw the careers advisor so he could sort me out. He was a cool dude and I remember thinking to myself “I’d love to do your job”. In my final year at university, I got involved in the Career Mentor Program where students are paired with someone working in their field of interest. I was lucky enough to be paired with Alan McAlpine, head of the careers department at my university. Alan has been a great mentor ever since and has given me invaluable advice and support on becoming a careers counsellor.

What is the “jockey and the architect”?

I suppose it is more of a metaphor than a story; can it be both? Anyway, it came about during a short course I was undertaking in 2011, facilitated by a well-known personality in the world of career development, Professor Jim Bright. The subject of discussion was around the ‘stuck’ client. Typically, the stuck client might have barriers that prevent them from returning to traditional occupations/careers, ones that they have enjoyed before but cannot return to for whatever reason. Sure, the temptation is there to assess, test, probe and prod a client in to choosing a neat little careers box, a position that you can find on SEEK with a clearly defined occupational title, skill set and duties. But sometimes people do not fit in to these neat boxes, and why should they? Jim asked us to come up with career options for a jockey, who has suffered an injury and cannot continue their career as a rider, and who has managed to team up with an architect. Before we knew it, the class was coming up with some great career paths for this hypothetical jockey and his new business partner (e.g. Stable or race course designer, stud farm developer, building inspector etc). The lecturer’s exercise demonstrates that through a simple shift in perspective, some creative thinking, and a move away from ‘traditional’ job-person fit thinking, the ‘stuck’ client, or any client, has options. Good options. And so that was what caused a shift in my own perspective of career counselling. The exercise is elegant in that it demonstrates that careers are non-linear. Yes we can plan, set SMART goals and strategise our next career move, but through chance and unforeseen events (both good and bad) beyond the realms of control, new possibilities can arise that were previously unseen. Through chaos comes opportunity. Career development is about being prepared for change and thriving in uncertainty. As American preacher Charles Swindoll says, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”

Why did you decide to start a blog?

I felt like I wanted to become more involved in the career development industry and to provide a space for other people from all backgrounds to access information around careers and employment. The last thing I wanted was to come across as an ‘expert’ and tell people what they ‘should’ be doing in their careers – a lot of blogs and websites focus on the ‘should’ whereas I like to put ideas out there for discussion and feedback.

jockey website

What sort of things do you usually blog about

Content is mixed bag of trending articles, research, innovative ideas, re-posts from other sites, videos, observations and…something a little different ….the Non-Linear’s Corner. This is where unique career stories of individuals who took the back road, side road, fork-in-the-road and roundabouts in their career journey will be profiled. Hopefully this will provide a little bit of inspiration and fun.


So tell us more about “the non-linear’s corner”.

The underlying philosophy of the Jockey and The Architect is about being flexible, open, resilient and optimistic. In a way, it is also about recognising ‘failure’ as an important part of career development. That is where the Non-Linear’s Corner comes from – people who have taken risks, experienced setbacks, rejections, road blocks in their lives and careers and yet despite it all, they come out the other end OK. These stories are what most people can relate to because very rarely does everything in life goes smoothly and according to plan.

What do you get out of blogging?

Searching for content to post on the blog gives me the opportunity to keep on top of trends and to think critically about careers information that is available. It also allows me to keep in touch with what other people are sharing (career development professionals, clients, students, job seekers etc) and the issues people are facing in their own career journeys.

How important do you think new technologies like blogging are for career development professionals?

Being aware of new technologies is very important for career development professionals. We are in a digital age and participating online helps us to access and share information relevant to our field. Our clients are also using the online space more and more for advice and direction in their careers and to look for work. While blogging might not be for everyone, having an understanding of different technologies (e.g. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, crowd funding sites etc) and how they are being used in career development is essential.

What advice have you got for any potential bloggers out there?

I’m still quite new to the blogosphere and am still experimenting with different approaches, but wiser and more experienced bloggers have found success by knowing their target audience, posting content regularly and staying within their area of expertise. I would add that for anyone who is putting themselves online via a blog or other platform, always be mindful about who is reading your content and to keep it respectful and clean – never put anything online that you would not write on the front door of your house or say to someone in public.


Interview with Charlotte Frost

I’ve been spending a lot of time talking to researchers about how to use social media effectively, so it was a real pleasure to interview Charlotte Frost who has made her use of social media an integral part of her academic practice.

AiCD: Who are you?

My name is Dr Charlotte Frost I’m the 2011/2012 International Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Center for 21st Century Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. I’m a broadcaster and academic interested in the relationship between art and technology. My particular specialism is the impact of digital technologies on art historical discourse, but I’ve also been studying and writing about the developing field of Digital and New Media art for over ten years. I teach art contextual modules at Writtle School of Design and the University of Westminster. And I run a range of projects that support my research objectives while creating platforms for knowledge exchange and experimentation – particularly with reference to publishing. 


AiCD: Tell us a little bit about PhD2Published?

PhD2Published was started out of necessity. I didn’t know how to get my first academic book published, but I did know that it was something I needed to do. I began the site in a bid to find out about academic publishing. In line with many of the projects I’ve written about in the Digital and New Media arts arena, it came from an ‘open source’ ethos. That is, I felt that academic publishing was still very ‘closed source’, in the sense that methodologies were not being freely shared. I wanted to use myself as a ‘guinea pig’, and create some easy methods that others could use and pass on. More than that, I wanted to make a site that wasn’t just for reading, but could be actively used as a way of developing your career path. For example, post-docs can write for the site and get in touch with precisely the publishing entities relevant to their career path. They can get answers to questions important to them, all while introducing themselves to those entities well before they actually pitch their book. It’s a route to getting yourself on their radar. On top of this, I had planned that if the site worked and I landed my own book deal, I would let someone else lead it’s editorial direction and use it to repeat my results – and so on. So it’s a resource that’s built around peer-to-peer sharing, but it’s also an umbrella organisation early-career academics can strategically work under, and a peer-mentoring scheme.


AiCD: So what’s Arts Future Book then?

It occurred to me, while I was researching publishing, that the focus of my academic work could be summarised by the tricky relationship between Digital/New Media art and publishing. For a variety of reasons, books on Digital art forms are problematic: presenting and discussing dynamic work in print and to long deadlines contradicts the essence of a constantly fluctuating and fast-paced field. As a result, there are relatively few publishers that deal with Digital and New Media art theory. Those writing about it acutely feel the irony of doing so from the confines of print but are just as conscious of the lack of willing publishers and the impact on their careers. As with PhD2Published, I decided to work on this problem by thinking about how I could address this gap. First, I needed to research digital developments in academic publishing, and look into the range of options out there. Second, I needed to create the type of book series that would address these developments, and publish the type of book I (and others like me) wanted to write.

Through my research I uncovered a range of organisations that would make relevant partners in the project and, to my delight, they all agreed to come on board. So then I started talking to publishers: pitching them the idea for the book series and my own book as the pilot. Mostly publishers were interested in one component or the other, but when I met Anthony Levings of Gylphi (via PhD2Published and Twitter) I knew it was a good match. We had to discuss the nature of the project and work out an agreement for how I’d operate as series editor; then of course my own book proposal had to go out for peer-review. But eventually it all came together, and the first chunk of research was completed as part of a post-doctoral fellowship at HUMlab, a digital humanities laboratory in Umea, Sweden.

I always think it’s important to talk about Arts Future Book with reference to PhD2Published because in a sense it shows the next stage of my thinking. Also, although both sites have quite different objectives, they clearly nurture each other, and this is key to my strategy. When I’m asked to talk about publishing and career development, I use the related projects to demonstrate a particular way of working that allows you build the resources you need and enter into valuable dialogue with the organisations and institutions you’d most like to.


AiCD: What technology do you use for your blogs/website?

PhD2Published is a self-hosted WordPress site and it has a Twitter account and Facebook page. I also video blog for the site, and have my own YouTube channel to host these videos. Arts Future Book has a page on the publisher’s website, a Facebook page and a Posterous blog. It’s less discursive than PhD2Published and the Posterous blog is really just a way for me to double-up on broadcasting the resources I want to share. I don’t tweet for Arts Future Book because there’s overlap with PhD2Published and because, quite frankly, there are only so many hours in the day.

Actually, I was recently at an event, and someone very generously introduced me as a person who could ‘bend time’. If you get set up well and also use tools like Tweetdeck, you can certainly have the appearance of being able to bend time, but in reality I’m just as overstretched as everyone else. Although again, nurturing the different aspects of my work, I did make a set of videos with a-n magazine on how creatives can best approach blogging, Twitter and Facebook, just to share a bit of the time-bending magic.

AiCD: So, in practical terms, how is PhD2Published run?

While I was setting it up, I opted to use Google Docs to store all the files I was making. There’s one for the mailing list; one with a list of useful sites; one that describes the protocol for posting to the site; there’s even the document containing the huge number of Weekly Wisdom posts that I wrote in one 24 hour session. I had a wonderful intern work with me one day a week last summer, and we divided up tasks and used the Google Docs and Google Calendar to manage things. If either of us found a better way of doing something, the corresponding Google Doc was updated. This proved to be a great test case. It showed me that someone could run the site in line with its central aims and without having to have much prior knowledge of WordPress or blogging.

As soon as I landed my book deal I was anxious to find the site a new editor. So, when I met Sarah-Louise Quinnell, on Twitter (after she asked for Viva advice), I relentlessly chased her until she agreed to take part. I wanted someone from a different academic field, and with some understanding of social media, to put their own spin on academic publishing. To put it simply, Sarah is in charge of posting whatever content suits her career strategy. For example, she’s less interested in publishing a book right now, and much more concerned with how her thesis might be successfully presented as journal articles. As a result, she’s been running some fantastic series on how to choose journals and write decent articles – as well as looking into other publishing issues like too-good-to-be-true offers from publishers.

I continue to contribute to the site and Sarah and I are in almost daily communication. We discuss ideas, check we’re not duplicating anything, divvy up any requests for information, and make sure we’re keeping abreast of developments in publishing. We have regular meetings about the long-term aims of the site as well as our career goals, and if Sarah wants to run anything by me site-related or otherwise, she knows she can. Sarah already knew a lot about using social media for research and this has really benefitted the site. She’s now regularly posting for the fabulous Thesis Whisperer and we both recently took part in a Guardian Higher Education Network live Q&A on ‘life after a PhD’. And when Sarah’s ready to move on, it’s exciting to know that her own experiences will build on mine and contribute to the journey of a new editor.

AiCD: You’ve explained how the two projects came about, but why did you decide to base them around blogs?

My first blog was actually a knitting blog. As I’ve said, my background is Digital and New Media art and I was very familiar with blogging, but the first time it really made sense to me, at a personal level, was with knitting. This is because (as Ele Carpenter’s Open Source Embroidery project ably shows) there’s an interesting connection between crafting circles and open source culture. My knitting blog was not about me showing off what I had knitted so much as it was the way I learned to knit. There’s a huge international community of knitting bloggers (at least there was before other platforms took over) and being a part of this community was the perfect way to find new patterns, techniques, and swap anything from yarn to ideas. At the time, I think some of my friends seriously thought about disowning me: the idea of knitting and then blogging about knitting seemed too geeky for words. But as I say, it was like a global knitting tutorial. And after that, I had a much better idea of the way social media can be used not just to share the what of something, but also the how, and this was pivotal. I went on to set up other blogs like Digital Critic and when it came to researching publishing and really looking into methodology it was the obvious option.


AiCD: One of the things that you do is video blogging. How did that come about and what is the purpose of it?

Video blogging came about because, as every good teacher knows, people respond differently to different information formats. I wanted everyone to be able to find a channel of content that would work for them. I had the written blog planned with different amounts of content: short – the weekly wisdom slots; medium – the publisher and author tips slots; long – my own posts and guest blog posts. I also had Twitter set up for short content, links and passing material on through Retweets. And of course, offering people the chance to write for the site was the more interactive part. So it seemed logical to do something video or audio-based as well. On top of this, I wanted to honestly talk about the choices I was making and how they were turning out and, in the end, just saying it out loud seemed a good way of doing that.

I would say, however, that video blogging was the hardest part of the site. I had no video-editing skills to speak of and a whole mess of incompatibility issues with Windows 7, the Flip camera I was using and free editing software. I had a couple of crashes early on and lost material – not to mention that it’s actually really hard to edit when you’re cringing behind a chair. Combined with this was the fact that I wasn’t really sure how to measure what a successful amount of views might be. My recent (above mentioned) videos on social media quickly tipped the 1000 mark (as they were for a popular arts magazine) but my videos for PhD2Published only get about 100 views. In a way I’m comparing apples and oranges because of course they wouldn’t get anywhere near the same number, but it’s still hard to know if they’ve been successful. On the other hand, you could say that 100 views is pretty respectable for such a niche channel of information.

My inability to actually bend time has meant that they are too labour intensive for me right now but I would like to revisit video blogging in the coming months. Now that I am writing my book I’d like to talk about how that is panning out: the highs and lows of embarking the next substantial piece of writing of my academic career. Sarah doesn’t feel video blogging is for her, and that’s absolutely fine, but one day I’d love to have a site editor who’s really up for it and can teach me a thing or two!


AiCD: How often do you update your blog?

I prefer for PhD2Published to have at least a couple of new bits of content a week, but ideally it should have 3 or 4. My own blog,
Digital Critic, is much more sporadic because it’s more self-promotional so when I’m busy, that’s the one that suffers. Arts Future Book is more of a ‘re-blog’ in the sense that it doesn’t feature any dedicated content but re-circulates material that’s already out there and, again, this is sporadic.

AiCD: What sort of things do you write about?


 For PhD2Published I write about anything related to academic publishing and wider digital developments in the publishing sphere, as well as how to use social media for career development. My own blog has news of my events and publications and features a random stream of things I want to comment on relating to art and technology.


AiCD: Who do you think reads it?


Who knows? I look at Google Analytics occasionally to get a rough idea of things, but I tend to go more on the responses I get from people. I’ve had people come up to me at events who know my name because they’ve watched a video blog of mine, which is always unexpected but fun. I’m constantly surprised when people say something like ‘I was reading your blog the other day and…’. And receiving thank you notes about PhD2Published is great, and a wonderful way of finding out how the site is benefitting people or ways we can meet their needs better. But actually, I don’t like to over-analyse. Neither PhD2Published nor Digital Critic are businesses in any sense, so numbers or reader-profiles aren’t important; for me, it’s just about putting it out there for those who are interested. That said, either way, they’re probably academic because you’ll find little by way of celebrity gossip in my blogosphere – even if I do tweet about clothes and jewellery a bit more than I should.



AiCD: What is it about you that makes you think that people should listen to what you have to say?

I’d say with reference to PhD2Published – certainly at the start of its life a year ago – what made me worth listening to was precisely the fact I wasn’t worth listening to. What I mean is: I was openly admitting I didn’t know enough about academic publishing, and quickly discovering that neither did many of my peers. Blogging is not necessarily about being important or having new things to say so much as it’s about voicing something people connect with. In this sense (and referring back to the point I was making about using blogs to discuss how something is done) I’d say that some of the best blogging is instructional. Self-referential blogs like ProBlogger endlessly share method and that’s a winning formula. It doesn’t have to come from a place of authority, but at least a place of interest and energy.

When I teach my students about blogging, I try to get them to think about either what they’d like to know about – something they want to be able to do for example – or something they can do already and can competently share. This is a good way to start because the chances are, if you don’t know how to do it, somebody else does, and if you do know how to do it, somebody else doesn’t. Then there’s instant affinity. I remember with knitting blogs that the popular ones weren’t always run by great knitters, but by knitters who had an investigative streak. People would flock to them to be a part of the learning process. So much of what interests me about digital culture is the free and open public learning that goes on, and it remains the case that if you’re an engaged learner, you’ll inevitably say something of value to others.

AiCD: What have been the best things about blogging?

As I’ve just said, for me, blogging is about learning and, as I’m totally and utterly addicted to learning, I find it a hugely enjoyable way to get a fix! I think it’s such a great tool for research because, even though blogging still has the reputation of being a broadcast tool, it’s really about group discovery, and that’s so exciting. I also enjoy how blogs can connect you with people you might never meet, but with whom you have meaningful exchanges nonetheless. And then there’s the instantaneity of it all. You can put something out there so quickly and autonomously and talk to the people you want to talk to.

AiCD: What are the downsides?

It’s time consuming and sometimes guilt-ridden. I hate it when I feel like I can’t keep up. Also, I guess you have to form a bit of a thick skin. Like I said, I cringe at the video blogging more than anything, but I had to try it out as a platform, and that meant just sticking it up and not worrying too much about how I came across. That is easier said than done though.

Also, you should never forget the permanence of the internet. I’m fairly chatty through all social media but there are things I’d never share. With reference to using blogs as career development tools, you need to be really sure you’re not going to say something that might harm a later job application, for example. My rule is: don’t say anything online you wouldn’t shout out loud to a room full of strangers. It’s good to remember that, but I personally think that where academia is concerned, it’s probably wise to have a bit of a strategy in advance. What I mean is, have an idea before you start of the types of things you will and won’t be drawn into conversation on. And maybe it remains the case that if you really want to tackle some controversies, anonymity might be a better route – although they found Brooke Magnanti in the end didn’t they!

AiCD: What blogs do you read?

That’s like asking me to name each particle I breathe. There are too many to count because not only do I read some blogs habitually, but I regularly go for blog wanders and collect w
hole pathways of content. I used to try to keep blogrolls up to date on my sites for those that are specifically relevant to the area in question, so maybe check those out for examples – although they’ve surely lapsed. Otherwise I’d list anything from The Bibelotphile to Zen Habits.

Blogging about PhDs: An interview with Sarah-Louise Quinnell

I bumped into Sarah-Louise as part of the online preparations for #dr11. She runs a very good blog called PhD2Published for new PhD graduates. I thought that it was probably time to interview her. So here we go… 

AiCD: Who are you?
My name is Dr Sarah-Louise Quinnell, I gained my PhD from the Geography Department at King’s College London in 2010 and my research interests lie in two very distinct and diverse areas, specifically international environmental politics and development practice and planning and geographies of cyber-space, particularly using social media applications for research and researcher development. 

AiCD: Tell us a little bit about PhD2Published?
PhD2Published is an online resource designed to provide advice / guidance and information to newly qualified / early-career researchers looking to navigate their way through the sometimes confusing world of academic publishing. 

AiCD: You took over PhD2Published from someone else. How did that happen?
By chance really, I was asking for viva advice and approached phd2published on twitter and then got an email from Charlotte who gave me very useful advice and told me about the site and as she says chased me relentlessly to take part and i began working on the site in January 2011. I come from a different academic discipline to Charlotte and i am approaching the issue of publishing in a different way so i am using the site to provide advice, to learn things for myself and to provide a record of my journey through the world of academic publishing.


AiCD: What technology do you use for your blogs/website?
I have a personal blog as well as managing Phd2Published i also contribute to – I like the wordpress environment, while i have programming skills i dont wan’t to spend ages coding before i can upload something so i find this environment works best for me. I will be moving my site to a self-hosted format soon and am currently developing a site to support my social media project that will be part of PhD2Published.


AiCD: Why did you start blogging?
I started as part of my PhD research. I couldnt go on conventional overseas fieldwork for a number of reasons so i had to look at alternative approaches for conducting my research i.e. collecting data and communicating with my research participants. So in tandom with a web-developer i created my own digital / virtual research environment. 

AiCD: How often do you update your blog?
My personal one has been a slow burner post PhD but am now trying to get material up there at least twice a week depending on what i am doing. For PhD2Published it vaires but normally between 2-3 different pieces of content a week and for the thesiswhisperer i post normally once a week. 



AiCD: OK, that is a lot of writing. Wouldn’t you be better off just concentrating on writing academic articles?
A lot of the work i do in advance, especially for PhD2Published. Am currently working on a paper and a grant proposal as we speak as well as job hunting. I find they dont take a lot of time so i can have a blog day once a week. Because i blogged and wrote online during my PhD it has become a habit to post different things online regularly. I believe it acts like a mini peer-review in some cases and is extremely useful. For example i recently contributed a summary of my work to the twitter #phdchat community and that piece generated a lot of helpful commentary. I think the way academics present themselves and their research out-puts is changing and while the journal article and the authored book will always remain supreme the blog is gaining ground as an essential research communication platform and i think you can get just as much out of blogging as you can from other, more traditional outputs.

AiCD: What sort of things do you write about?

The personal one is about ‘life and times of an aspiring academic’ so it acts a bit like a journal where i can keep a record of things I am doing as well as writing my views on a range of subjects relating to my interests, particularly education, social media, ballroom dancing and sheep. PhD2Published is focused on academic publishing. I am currently working toward my first journal article so content is very much skewed toward that angle at the moment. For the thesiswhisperer i write about issues relating to supervision. 

AiCD: How do you decide which blog to post something on?

Well, if its about publishing it goe son PhD2Published, if its about supervisision its for the thesis whisperer if it falls into the any other business or none of the above categories it is mine 

AiCD: Who do you think reads it?

I always wonder about personal ones, the extent to which they are read by more than people you know so am not sure but PhD2Published and the thesis whisperer have very large audiences mainly of PhD students and early career academics. 

AiCD: What is it about you that makes you think that people should listen to what you have to say

With the thesis whisperer i write about PhD supervision, and well, my experience was interesting shall we say so i feel i can contribute to that. I am not afraid of controversial topics such as a post i wrote on how to divorce your supervisior which was very popular and helped a lot of people out. For PhD2Published rather than saying i am a publishing expert i say I am an early career researcher so lets do this together, i would think that if i dont know something to do with publishing other people wont either. I think blogging is either about being an expert and providing advice or being brave and saying i dont have a clue and asking questions.

AiCD: Does anyone come to PhD2Published expecting you to be an expert? Some people might feel that they would only listen to you if you were either a publisher or a world leading professor.

I doubt it, i present myself clearly as someone in the same position as those using the site to find information. We can show that the advice given on the site works because Charlotte has secured her first book contract. We also work with published academics and publishing houses who provide us with content, particularly their experiences and top tips so they get questions and musings from me as well as expert opinion as well. Many of the recent expert posts have come from my asking a question and then looking for someone to respond. I take time out to email academics and publishing houses to get their advice as well. 

AiCD: What have been the best things about blogging?

I’ve met some wonderful people through blogging and a number of opportunities have become available because people have read my work online which gives me good exposure at this point in my career

AiCD: What are the downsides?

Criticism, you open yourself up to being criticised by anybody and everybody if they so wish and sometimes its quite harsh and personal for no reason at all and that can be hard to take. 

AiCD: How do you make your living? Does blogging pay?
I am currently doing some teaching / training at my former university while looking for a full-time job post PhD along with preparing publications and grant applications and being glad i have supportive parents. Whilst i have gained a number of opportunities through blogging none of them have been paid. It would be wonderful if through blogging i could gain paid employment or consultancy however, i think the nature of blogging is more about the sharing of information within a like-minded community so i value the exposure i have recieved just as much as i would financial gain. Obviously if somebody was interested in paying me for my writing then i would be most agreeable!

AiCD: What blogs do you read?

lots, i tend to find new ones all the time but i probably dont read them all regularly it will depend on what i am doing. A lot of the time i am directed to new and interesting material through twitter

AiCD: OK then, suggest some people we should be following on Twitter.

Well, thats hard as i enjoy tweets from all that i follow / follow me but  well @phd2published obviously, @thesiswhisperer, @readywriting, @GdnHigherEd, @linkhigher, @floating_sheep, @lambwatch, @PostDocsForum, @Eurodoc, @prospects, @wonkhe, @haggismaths, @postgradtoolbox, @ProfBrianCox, @charlottefrost and my inspiration since the age of 11 @the_karenhardy.

Interview with Tracy Bussoli: Queen Mary Researchers Career Blog

Last year I interviewed Tracy Bussoli about the blog that she ran at Queen Mary University of London. This was a really good careers blog for researchers. Unfortunately I then lost the interview and haven’t posted it. But, I found it again and put it up. Unfortunately Tracy has now moved on and the blog isn’t being updated any more. But, it is presented here because Tracy’s interview provides some really interesting insights into blogging.


AiCD:  Introduce yourself

My name is Tracy Bussoli and I am the Careers Adviser for Researchers at Queen Mary University of London. I support PhD students and research staff (mainly from the Science and Engineering) in developing both academic careers and careers outside academia. I have a PhD in genetics and was a post-doctoral researcher for a short period. Prior to this post I worked in the NHS as a Genetic Counsellor for eight years as well as doing some free-lance career coaching work. I am also a consultant in a family, property developing business and have worked for Shell and Natwest Bank.


AiCD: Tell us about your blog.

My blog was set up shortly after I took on the role as Careers Adviser for Researchers at Queen Mary. I decided to set it up following an inspiring talk from Manchester Careers Service at a Vitae conference. They talked about the success of their postgraduate careers blog and how it allowed them to disseminate information to postgraduates in a style that was separate from the more generic institutional website.

I find that I frequently come across snippets of information or have ideas that I want to disseminate to the researchers that I see. My blog enables me to do this. I use my blog to post career ideas, resources and tools that I feel would be helpful for researchers as Queen Mary. It is essentially an organised ‘brain dump!’


AiCD: What technology do you use?

My blog uses the WordPress platform. I started off using blogger but I found that I was unable to organise the information in an effective way e.g. there are no tabs at the top of the page on blogger.

My blog also has a twitter feed where I post any interesting jobs that I come across during my research. The more people follow me on twitter, the more encouraged I am to add interesting jobs to my twitter site. The idea is to illustrate the diversity of roles that are available to people with research backgrounds rather than be a dedicated jobs board.

AiCD: How often do you update?

In fits and starts really. As my post at QM is part-time I am often busy interacting with researchers face to face. I do not always get enough time to post all my thoughts, resources and ideas. I often have a list of articles that I want to add but sometimes do not get the time!

AiCD: Who do you think reads it?

Early Careers Researchers from Queen Mary, other Early Career Researchers and Careers Advisers working with Early Career Researchers….probably. From some of the comments left on the blog, other random people also read it from time to time.

AiCD: What are the particular challenges about writing for a high skill audience like researchers

The audience that I write for are highly skilled but I do not feel that this is the main challenge. They come from a variety of countries, are researching across many disciplines and range from 1st year PhD students to more senior post-docs. This presents a number of challenges in terms of what I write about. I try to ensure that the posts have broad appeal, covering career issues that are relevant, irrespective of where people are in their research career. Catering for such a diverse group of highly skilled people is generally a challenge in my work with researchers, in both the workshops that I deliver and career consultations.

AiCD: What is it about you that makes you think people should pay attention to what you blog about

I am not sure if it is me specifically that makes them pay attention to my blog. Having said this, I think that many people start using my blog once they have met me at workshops or at the career consultations that I deliver.

Although I attempt to cover areas related to science and engineering, I think there is probably more of a life-science focus as that is my background and I think that I am naturally more inclined to focus on this. In addition, although I do not feel that you need to have a PhD to offer effective careers advice, I do think that researchers are more likely to engage with someone that has a similar background to them. I probably see more life scientists than other early career researchers and this may be because people know that I was a life scientist.

AiCD: What have been the best things about blogging so far

Having a thought, coming across a resource, attending a talk and then getting this information to researchers quickly before I forget! I also enjoy writing online and it has given me the opportunity to do this.

AiCD: What are the downsides?

The constant pressure to keep the blog up to date!

AiCD: Do you think blogging will ever replace conventional careers advice/education?

I do not think that any online resource (social networking, blogs etc.) can ever substitute for the type of support/help/guidance that you can gain from seeing a skilled careers adviser. If clients see an individual for careers advice/education the service can be adapted and tailored depending on the client’s needs. A careers adviser can offer many things that an on-line service can not e.g. alternative perspectives on a situation, clarity about a situation/dilemma, feedback on skills/ strengths, emotional support ……the list goes on.

I think online resources such as blogs can enhance a careers service. Labour market information, psychometric and careers tools and many other resources are a very useful supplement to a careers service.

AiCD: What blogs do you read?

The other postgraduate careers blogs that are listed on my blog and the blogs on my blogroll. I use these as a source of inspiration and to keep me up-to-date with career resources for researchers.

Academic blogs #dr11

I’ve been putting together some resources for the Digital Researcher programme. So yesterday I was looking for examples of academic bloggers. I’m going to post something more about this on the #dr11 blog in a couple of weeks but for now I just thought that I’d share the examples and lists that people sent me on Twitter yesterday. There is loads of value here and it also serves as an effective illustration of the power of crowd sourcing for academic and teaching purposes.




Lists of blogs/blog compilers


Thanks to everyone who sent me these. If people want to add any great ones then please post comments.


Blogs galore: An interview with serial blogger Helen Curry

The series of interviews that I’ve been running on careers blogging seems to have been well received. In this interview we speak to Helen Curry who may just be running more blogs than is good for her.


AiCD:  Introduce yourself

Hi, I’m Helen Curry, the “Information Officer with Responsibility for Online Resources” at The Careers Group, University of London. It’s a great job that allows me to do all kinds of things including updating Facebook all day, planning websites, making videos, researching careers news, training staff and helping students. Officially, I am a librarian by training. And in my spare time I like a bit of freestyle crochet. Quite geeky overall, and proud.





AiCD: Tell us about the blogs you write/contribute to.

Careers 2.0 is my blog about using web 2.0 – Facebook, bloggng, podcasting etc – for careers advice and information. Using social media is a constant learning curve, and I find it useful to reflect on and discuss approaches I have tried.




Off the Shelves – The Careers Group library blog is my main blog at work. As the majority of my audience will not be users of our library, I like to write posts of general interest, highlighting online resources as well as recommended books.




Reach – Supporting graduates facing barriers to employment is another work blog, a group blog, that I have contributed to. This blog is directed very much at London students, offering a broad coverage of diversity-related current awareness and opportunities.




Crochet Creature is my off-duty blog. I wanted to write about my latest crochet creations, share some patterns, get into the lovely community of knit-bloggers, and maximise the geekery by installing and customising my own WordPress site. Of course I have to find the time to crochet first, then find the time to photograph and write… Which I think leads onto the next question nicely.




AiCD: Didn’t’ Oscar Wilde say something like to write one blog is misfortune, to write two looks like carelessness? What made you set up all your b


I wouldn’t recommend writing for more than one blog. You are setting yourself up for guilt and dissatisfaction. A great blog takes work and commitment. There aren’t enough hours in the day.


Of course sometimes it makes sense, you want to write about a very different topic, to a different audience, you want to learn something new, you want a separate after-work blog… The most important thing is not to set up a new blog for each and every one of these reasons. Like I did.


AiCD:  What technology do you use on the blogs? and WordPress 3.0 


AiCD: Is your authorial personae different on all of the different blogs?

Yes, although possibly getting closer.


Where I feel I am representing my organisation and I am much more careful about the opinions I state and make clear which are my personal opinions. Sometimes I stick to a purely informational viewpoint. I take less risks on work blogs.


Over time I have felt that being too dry and corporate is not what blogging is about, it does not engage people, so I occasionally experiment with putting a bit more of me in it, a bit of life, although I have to make sure I am covering all interests there not just my own.


AiCD:  How often do you update?

What I’d like to do, and what I actually do is very different… It does tend to vary according to bursts of enthusiasm – I think this is typical of a lot of bloggers.


Careers 2.0 – I’d like to write fortnightly, as ideas come up, but it has now been a couple of months since my last post… I write less on here when I have Open University coursework. Or a social life.


Off the Shelves – I think the minimum I can get away with is once a week, otherwise audience figures tumble. For growth, I’ll do 2-3 posts per week.


Reach – I only contribute occassionally, the rest of the team have now made a schedule.


Crochet Creature – umm, sporadically, at best. But I really mean to do more.


AiCD: Who do you think reads them?

The work blogs are partly read by students and users of The Careers Group websites and pages on Facebook, where the feeds are displayed. But I also think a lot of traffic comes from Google and non-university audiences, so I try to write so that anyone can get something from it.


Careers 2.0 is read more by careers service staff. And people searching for lego people apparently.


And no one reads the crochet blog…


AiCD: What is it about you that makes you think people should pay attention to what you blog about?

When it comes to the careers service blogs, I put a lot of effort into finding
and bringing together resources, researching what people want to know, and finding approaches that will engage.


For my personal blogs, I see things differently, I’m not claiming special authority. I’m usually blogging about some puzzle I have in mind which I want to think through, or something that has really inspired me which I want to share. I blog to connect with people and develop new ideas. It is a community thing. Librarians do this very well, they are tremendously supportive. 


AiCD: What have been the best things about blogging so far?

Comments, real comments, from real people.

Learning what to post and how often to see the audience and usage grow.

Feeling useful.

The rush of inspiration and jotting down great ideas to share.

Generating and growing more ideas as I write and read.


AiCD: What are the downsides?

The Guilt. When you haven’t posted for a while. Deciding if and when it might be time to let a blog go (I have killed 3 blogs too).


AiCD: Do you think blogging will ever replace conventional careers advice/education?  

No, conventional careers advice will always have a place. You only have to look at peoples’ varied learning styles to know that some people will always want face-to-face guidance tailored to them, immediacy, personal coaching and motivation, rather than the slow investment and laborious process of searching, scanning and piecing together information from blogs. Self-assessment of ability is also notoriously difficult, so that third-party, professional viewpoint adds a lot of value – if people realise that they need it of course…


But I do believe blogging is a valuable tool for careers education. Writing a blog is a great exercise in reflection, comparable to a career discussion, and perfect for a job-hunter. It can raise your profile, perfect for networking. And you can learn a lot by putting yourself out there and sharing ideas. Reading blogs can give you a better insight into what it is like to do a job, to get an insider view with real character, I’d rather have a well-written, in-depth blog than a superficial case study from a careers website or book. I probably lean more towards blogs and talking to friends for my own career development, but I would never propose that as right for everyone!


AiCD: What careers blogs do you read?



AiCD: Thanks for listing this blog twice! Do you read any non-careers blogs.


And more actually, but I think that will do…



AiCD: Any final words?

Thanks for doing these interviews – you’ve introduced me to a number of interesting blogs!



The Factory: An interview with Jim Bright

We are very lucky to have Jim Bright as the next victim (sorry volunteer) in our series of interviews with careers bloggers. Jim blogs and podcasts at The Factory, but readers of this blog will undoubtedly also know him from his many publications.


So on with the interview…


AiCD:  Introduce yourself

I am an Englishman abroad, with broad being the operative word given my penchant for the food and wine of Australia.  I live in Sydney on the Northern Beaches and might be seen getting into shot on “Home and Away” that is filmed around where I live.  Folks in the UK might know me as the author of Brilliant CV, the book published by Pearson and soon to be in its 4th edition.  I am a psychologist who trained and completed my BA and PhD at Nottingham University.  Then I lived in London and worked at Herts Uni for a couple of years before moving and settling in Sydney.  Throughout my adult life I have combined academic research with consulting and I am a passionate believer in evidence-based practice.  My careers research started out researching Resumes, and Occupational Stress, but for the last decade has been firmly focussed on developing the Chaos Theory of Careers, and researching Complexity, Creativity and Chance events in careers (which are all part and parcel of the same thing).





AiCD: How do you earn your living and how does the blog fit into that?

I am a Career Development person enjoying a portfolio career.  I am Professor of Career Education and Development at Australian Catholic University in Sydney Australia (Australia’s first specifically named Professorial appointment in Careers), a role I combine with running a career development practice, Bright and Associates. I also work as a journalist and write a weekly column in two of the major newspapers, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Age.  With my academic hat on, I research career development, most notably developing the Chaos Theory of Careers with my collaborator Dr Robert Pryor, but also supervising PhD and Masters students doing careers research as well teaching the Postgraduate Certificate in Career Development in Sydney and Melbourne.  Through my business, I do a lot of public/ corporate  / keynote speaking, as well as training career practitioners, seeing private clients and working with organisations developing career development programs.  Over the years I have written 10 books on career development including Resumes that get shortlisted (Allen & Unwin with Jo Earl), Brilliant CV (Pearson with Jo Earl), Amazing Resumes (JIST with Jo Earl), Job Hunting for Dummies: Australia & New Zealand, Should I stay or should I go? (Pearson), Stress: myth theory and research (Pearson with Fiona Jones), Getting a brilliant job: the student’s guide (Allen & Unwin with Karen Bright), Land that get in Australia: the skilled migrant’s guide (Tribus Lingua with Karen Bright); Stresssmart (Bright & Assocs); and the Chaos Theory of Careers (Routledge, with Robert Pryor). They’ve been translated into 10 languages. Several have become firmly established best-sellers.


The Blog and Podcast is called the Factory – it is named after the fact that my office on the Northern Beaches is in a Factory in an Industrial Estate. However this is no ordinary office, it is in the middle of a large acoustic recording studio owned by jazz virtuoso James Morrison.  Clients come into a magical space filled with music, original art, and musicians. I think it sets the tone for conversations about personal reinvention and personal creativity that I believe are useful in helping people appreciate their transferable skills and hence their potential. Sometimes clients literally express their creativity by having a quick go on the piano or drums! 



AiCD:  Tell us about your blog.

The Podcast / Blog was born out of me wanting to give something back to a field that has given me much pleasure over the years.  I have always loved technology, and so playing around the possibilities of social media was a logical extension of a hobby. I also realised that at the time I started in 2007, there was relatively little available in terms of horses-mouth accounts of the ideas of some of the most substantial figures in the field.  Since I was lucky enough to know some of these people or had enough cheek to insinuate myself into their consciousness, I am slowly building up a library of interviews with some of the people that I believe are thought leaders in our field.  All this of this is done by opportunity sampling at conferences or other chance meetings.  Most of the interviews from 15 minutes to about 40 minutes, and so there is time for some fairly extensive exploration of an idea or story.  My approach to these interviews is to be appreciative of the contribution of others, and so the interviews are not confronting or inquisitional in their nature.  That said I do strive to try to draw out my guests to unpack some of their ideas.  I am pleased that people seem to like the results and I know these interviews have been used as resources by students and some of the subjects of the interviews refers people to them for reference. For instance John Krumboltz tells me he does this.  We’ve had some great guests like John, Dick Bolles, Janet Lenz, Spencer Niles, Norm Amundson and Robert Pryor.  I will expand this list a lot next year I hope, and remember it is all completely free, commercial free and ad free.


The second strand of the Factory is the blog.  This is again an occasional thing that I try to fit into my schedule where possible.  I enjoy writing these entries but sometimes feel guilty that I am devoting time here that could be put into journal articles. Indeed I feel we are now transitioning to some extent from sharing our ideas primarily in peer-reviewed journals to social media.  The former model ensures quality through rigorous pre-publication peer review, while the latter when done well can achieve something similar through post publication peer review, commentary, revision and moderation.  In a way it can be seen as assisting journal editors in their labours by massively expanding the pool of reviewers to all interested players in a field.  Of course it means that the “blind” aspect of reviewing is lost, however I am not so sure this is such a great loss.  As a reviewer it is frequently easy to guess at the identities of  the authors of some “blind” manuscripts.  Some journals have gone to what I feel is an absurd extreme of requesting authors to “blind out” all names of references in their manuscript because the references may provide a clue to the author’s identity.  I say this is absurd because as a reviewer, one of the most important factors in determining the quality of a paper is to get a sense of the context into which the arguments presented are being placed.  It can be very important to know if a certain paper has been cited, misinterpreted, or omitted, as it goes to the central question of scholarship.  It strikes me that increasingly getting the ideas out there in blogs, and allowing open and free discussion will become an alternative and increasingly important method of dissemination of ideas.


My blog often contains longer versions of articles that I publish in newspapers, summaries of papers and projects I’m working on, and some “is it just me?” type getting it off my chest articles.  I have also started to connect with other bloggers that I admire, in particular David Winter with his Careers in Theory Blog.  Since stumbling on this I have tried to promote it where-ever I can.  I also comment on David’s blogs and recently we collaborated on developing responses to an article in the Harvard Business Review on Job Hopping that neither of us were particularly convinced by.   We coordinated our responses and posted them simultaneously on our respective blogs with links to each others.  The resulting commentary compliments each other well.


I have also become somewhat semi-active on Twitter.  I started this out of my early adopter curiosity, and once I realised just how much career related advice and information exists in the twittersphere, I got more involved to help me write a new chapter for Brilliant CV.  Indeed my colleagues at JIST have recently published a book exclusively focussed on using twitter in job hunting.


I use Twitter in 4 main ways.  One to announce events that I am involved in, this may be promoting a conference or training event for instance. Secondly, I use it share my thoughts about career development and to learn from others in the field. Thirdly I use it as a way to rapid prototype ideas and questions about career development – i.e. to put up somewhat provocative questions and to see what others have to say, or whether my idea has any legs or is misguided.


Finally I cannot resist stirring things up and have developed a mini-series called “Oppositional thoughts”.  These are sometimes serious, sometimes half serious, and sometimes simply jokes and puns, but all more or less related to career development.  One of my favourites is “I followed my passion, but my passion got a restraining order against me”.  Without trying to get too serious about it, I am trying to use humour as an envelope that contains a provocation.  Perhaps it is the twitter equivalent of an amuse bouche!  In the example other than the gag, I am raising the possibility that injunctions such as “follow your passion” are too simplistic.  Generally my oppositional thoughts are calls to arms in the name of Chaos and Complexity. I am always on the look out for an overly simplistic explanation that just cries out for a poke from the complexity stick. 


I called these Oppositional Thoughts for a specific reason.  I was once patronized by a consultant dripping with government funding who was obliged to get my less than mindlessly supportive views of some government initiative or other they were spruiking.  After hearing a series of my concern
s the response was “it is good to have oppositional people like you around”.  I loved the comment, and the implication that if you are not with us, you must automatically be against us – there’s no room for any meaningful discussion or negotiation!  It was another example of overly simplistic black and white thinking.  So in trying to highlight that tendency to be too simple (or to deny complexity) where I see it, I felt it was fitting to call them Oppositional Thoughts!


I also use LinkedIn which I think is a very powerful networking site for professionals. There are groups you can join where you can initiate or comment on debates, and my linkedin site is linked to my blog and to my twitter accounts.


AiCD:  What technology do you use?

I use WordPress for the blog and host it on my own company servers.  I did this originally as I wanted to keep control of the original files and recordings.  However I am increasingly thinking my decision reflected an old style approach to the internet.  It means I have to do all of the updates to plugins, personally edit themes etc, plus I will confront problems with storage as the podcasts in particular are large files.   WordPress itself though is a fantastic platform for blogging.  I also have the wordpress apps on the iPad and iPhone and so I can be blogging on the move.  I used to record my interviews using either an iPod classic with a Griffin Microphone plugin, or using GarageBand on my Macbook Pro.  Now I am using the Voice Recorder App on the Ipad.  The iPad works really well for this when on the run.


I use  a lot supplementary stuff to put the blogs and podcasts together.  For instance I usually edit the podcasts in Garage Band on my Macbook Pro.  I will also use Photoshop for graphics and Imovie and increasing Final Cut Pro movie editing software.  In addition I now use Adobe After Effects for some things. 


AiCD: You create a lot of podcasts. What made you decide to use that medium?

I decided to do podcasts because there is no substitute from hearing direct from the author of the ideas.  I personally designed the factory podcast logo which is now looking a little dated I guess, because it represents an iPod classic with earbuds.  I suppose this was my vision of how people would consume my content, but now I suspect more people listen through their laptops and increasingly through their iPads.   Be interested in feedback or ideas for changing the logo. Any suggestions?


I think the other reason is I love playing with sounds and  music. So much so, that when I was teenager I got an invitation to go and work at Marty WIlde’s (Kim’s dad) recording studio in Hertfordshire – I wanted to be an audio engineer.  I even went for a university interview to get into a Sound Engineering degree course. I turned up dressed like Elton John in his I’m Still standing garb, complete with an obligatory 1980s music note tie, to be confronted by a bunch of engineers in black leather trainers and marbled jeans talking with Birmingham accents about how to damp down the noise from a Ford Transit transmission.   Never have I experienced such an immediate, unequivocal and mutual sense of mis-match – a case of a modified Groucho – I didn’t want to be a member of a club that didn’t want me as a member! 


So now I get to work in a professional recording studio and get to play around with sound and music editing which is cool.


AiCD:  When did you set it up? 

April or May 2007


AiCD:  How often do you update?

Sporadically / not enough / more in the future I promise…I hope/think/intend.


AiCD:  What sort of things do you write about?

Not enough about J.M. Brearley and his profound influence on my carer development. Lots on chaos theory of careers, stuff on job hunting, resumes, interviews, material on occupational stress, more general stuff on working life, anything that takes my fancy.


AiCD: Who do you think reads it?

users, cheaters, six time losers, a man in a trench coat, practitioners, teachers, counsellors, academics, students, human resources professionals, government policy folks, interpol, inland revenue…


AiCD: What is it about you that makes you think people should pay attention to what you blog/podcast about?

Ever since I got up at my Grandmother’s Christmas party in 1974, borrowed my brother Richard’s music stand and proceeded to “entertain” my family by giving them my “Edward Heath” conducting an orchestra I have never questioned that people should want to pay me attention!! I suppose I try to be informative and well researched, indeed evidence-based.  I want to promote intelligent discussion that is not afraid to get deep or heavy or arcane on occasions, but also practical and immediately useful on other occasions. I want to engage in and encourage others to question, to think, to argue, to share ideas and to advance career development based on sound evidence and motivated by the promise of great and intriguing ideas and possibilities.


AiCD: What have been the best things about blogging/podcasting so far?

Without doubt getting feedback either on the site (I want more, please leave some folks) and having people tell me that they are using the podcasts or blog articles in their training/teaching/with clients or in their lives.  It is still a thrill when someone tells me they’ve found the information useful.  That is the purpose.


AiCD: What are the downsides?

None for me I love it.  I love technology and will play with “kit” and programs for leisure, so that side is a pleasure. I spend most days writing something or other, and i love talking, so what’s not to love. I get to talk to people I respect and admire and to share and promote their ideas.


AiCD: Do you think blogging will ever replace conventional careers advice/education?

Blogging wont, it will aid and abet.  However once we all get decent cable broadband, I think the possibilities for blended counselling with social media, information portals and group sessions will be fantastic.   In my view it is a mistake (and one that funding agencies are very prone) to see the “young people’s interweb” as some sort of labour and cost saving device.   Think cheap and nasty and get cheap and nasty.  Social media, the web generally can enhance, expand, connect, inform, and compliment, but not replace.


AiCD: What blogs do you read?

David Winter’s Careers in Theory.  He need’s a Shakespearian sub-title though, “A Winter’s tale”.

I like Daniel Pink’s work, also David Shapiro.  Bill Law does fine work, but you all know that. Adventures in Career Development obviously!


AiCD: Any final words?

I have been playing around with Youtube and have nascent Youtube channel called Brightcareers.  Check out my video “where will you be?” which is an introduction to the Chaos Theory of Careers Approach. I will be posting more videos over time and doing more film work, including some around my Beyond Personal Mastery model of innovation.  That’s the next area for me I think along with setting up careers courses as webinars.  Are there any takers for a weekly tutorial style course in Current Career Development Ideas, Theories and issues, and what would people be prepared to pay to attend a series of 10 1 hour sessions?  Let me know, and maybe we can make it happen.