Good dishes and good advices have one thing in common: We tend to forget them, if they are not well cooked up. On 7th June, for the first time, a very special dish – the Career Day – was prepared by RESOLV as a part of the Graduate School of Solvation (GSS) Summer School. By combining lectures from guest speakers from industry and socializing events, the Career Day gave the students the opportunity to meet with professionals and learn directly from their career experiences.
The event gathered 8 guest speakers and 66 participants and it was structured into four sessions: a) Short talks (Introduction of guest speakers); b) Lunch exchange in small groups of 6-8 people in order to make open interaction between students and guests; c) Panel discussion; d) Barbecue and Networking.
Such format mirrors the experience made by RESOLV in the past. Several career lecture series have proved to be a straightforward way to impart knowledge to students quickly. However, lectures give little opportunity for exchange. On the other hand, the Kaminabend events have proved to be a fruitful occasion for students to interact with professionals from industry. What if you have both ingredients (talks as well as direct interaction) on the same plate, wouldn’t it be more nutritious? The Career Day had exactly that aim, and could reach the broadest audience of students by being part of the Summer School. Besides, the Career Day (CD) was co-organized by four students.
Being a part of the organization team.
Two months before the CD, the GSS office reached out with the following message, looking for students interested in the organization of the Career Day:
“This is your chance! Get in touch with the industry speakers and if you are a GSS member, get your public outreach points for the moderation!”
To us, it looked as an opportunity to contribute to RESOLV and plan our career steps by getting in touch with successful people in the industry. Furthermore, it was a chance to act as a scientific manager - one of the possible career options after the PhD.
Our first task as organizers was to plan this event through a number of meetings and preparations. During the whole process, the GSS office and the speaker of the Early Career Researcher Board (ECR) Board, Dr. Matthias Heyden, supported us - members of the ECR selected and invited the guests. In roughly 3-4 meetings, the structure of the career day was planned.
On the Career Day we could choose to chair the short talk sessions or moderate the panel discussion. We two took the responsibility of chairing the short talks session, while the two other students opted to moderate the panel discussion.
The day before Career Day
The biggest task was to define the focus of the CD. We wanted to transfer as much knowledge as possible in a day and still make it enjoyable and relaxing. Therefore, after we drafted the questions for the speakers, it was of crucial importance for us to know what the participants were thinking about them. So we decided to have an introductory workshop. The workshop took place the day before the Career Day, participants were asked to priorities their queries and concerns regarding career aspects. That gave us a clear idea what exactly should be focused during the discussions with guest speakers.
Team working and challenges
Working in team was an evolving process which led us to think out of the box, share the responsibilities and propel towards the final implementation. The structure of CD was discussed between all organizers and all the ideas were thoroughly analyzed. Every one of us had different point of view and this was taken into consideration. But of course there were also challenges.
The panel discussion was quite arduous task. Undoubtedly, our two fellow students Dennis and Sebastian did a remarkable job. We had guest speakers working in industry and research institute as well as a patent attorney, a science manager, founders of start-up. Especially, starting the panel discussion was difficult. In the beginning, almost nobody wants to be the first one to make a statement, people need a few minutes before they "dare" to ask the first question.
An equally important challenge was to have appropriate logic connection going from one speaker to another. For example, you cannot ask “how did you get the idea of founding a company?” to every guest speaker. Therefore we had a list of very general questions so that all speakers could give their suggestions – and it worked! Once the panel discussion started, it was easy to keep it going. The guests were motivated enough not to just answer our questions but also to react on statements from the other professionals.
Lessons learned and feedbacks
One thing we learned by chairing the talks, is that the chair has to be polite and strict at the same time: Polite in terms of addressing the guests but strict to remind the time limit to speakers. The organization was a very involving activity, it went all smooth thanks to the meticulous preparation work. So preparation is crucial. It was an interesting job! It added some management, organization and leadership skills to our profile.
We received a positive feedback from the students. They appreciated the idea of inviting two start-up founders. It was good to know that even the students who were thinking of skipping the CD, they liked it in the end. The choice of speakers was one of the keys for the event, because students found them very entertaining and educational. Most students ranked the personal discussion session with guests at the top and want them to be kept the same way. To receive some inspirational as well as professional advices from the guest speakers in an informal way, was as precious as having a good treat at the restaurant. Unforgettable!
In the future, we would like to ask participating students to suggest guest speakers related to their own fields. The career day was a special event and it should be continued!
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