Graduate Series: An Interview with Lyndsey Jenkins of Edinburgh Napier
Hi Lyndsey, could you tell us a little about your background?
I have a background in the area of Psychology which helped me to decide on my career path and later supported my choice to study for a PhD. So, I have a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology (Northumbria University) and a Master’s degree in Developmental Psychopathology (Durham University) which focused primarily on developmental and clinical psychology topics. Whilst studying for my MSc at Durham University I thought of applying for a PhD as it was strongly encouraged as the ‘next steps’ in research but after a while I realised this was not the right thing for me to do yet (but something I might look into in the future).
I worked as an Assistant Psychologist, specialising on neurological rehabilitation, within the community, employment and education settings. Whilst doing this, I enjoyed the education and employment side of rehabilitation better as I found that this is what I enjoyed the most but I knew that neuro-rehabilitation was not what I wanted to do. From that, I began working as a careers adviser in England and provided information, advice and guidance to both adults and children on various topics of education, employment, funding and so on. I loved that job but I also enjoyed research too and decided to take on a voluntary research internship at Northumbria University whilst working as a careers adviser. It was from working on the internship that I started to realise that possibly a PhD was then the possible ‘next steps’ for me so my internship supervisor and I worked on building up my research profile so that I could put my internship contributions towards a PhD application. During my internship I did coincidently find the ‘right’ PhD, applied for it and that is where I am at right now.
What is your area of interest for you PhD studies?
So generally, my PhD looks at whether workplace learning can be used to support innovation in the workplace. I am focusing more specifically on the learning of innovative work behaviours and these are behaviours relating to the intentional generation and implementation of ideas within the workplace. I am carrying out case studies to explore how organisations can support this relationship including contextual requirements to developing innovative work behaviours. I am also drawing upon secondary data from the UK and other European countries to explore determinants of successful workplace learning in relation to innovation so that my PhD will lead to the development of a framework to explain how workplace learning can enhance innovation which can then lead to improvements in employment growth, productivity and competitive advantage.
My research is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and supported through a partnership between Scottish Graduate School of Social Sciences – Doctoral Training Centre (SGSSS-DTC) and Skills Development Scotland so I am aiming to make recommendations to them from the results I develop through my empirical work.
What sparked your interest in workplace learning?
Most definitely my work as a careers adviser and my work with my service users when I was an assistant psychologist! From my work I could see how important workplace learning is for all employees to develop skills in the workplace and progress further with their jobs and future careers. I had spent several career calls advising both adults and young people about the importance of learning in the workplace, and how things like apprenticeships, vocational qualifications, work experience and internships were really important to help build skills employer’s desire. However, it wasn’t until I had been a careers adviser for a few months that I realised that workplace learning can happen for all employees, and they don’t have to be on any sort of programme or completing some form of vocational qualification to be able to learn in the workplace. Hence, when I saw a PhD about workplace learning I jumped at the opportunity to apply and put my own knowledge and understanding of workplace learning to the test.
Could you tell us a little about your student experience, specifically your time at Edinburgh Napier?
Yes of course! My student experience from Northumbria and Durham were both quite good. It was a very close group of people on each course so there was rarely a dull moment. The student experience at Edinburgh Napier has been different (not in a bad way though!). This is because I am a different type of student and not one who is studying on a taught course either. It is often said that PhD’s are lonely as you are the only one studying that topic. It’s quite true too. But my student experience so far has taught me that all PhD students are in the same boat, regardless of their topic. If you have any concerns or problem with your PhD, someone else probably has too and talking to other PhD students really does help. I started off being quite reserved as I am quite a quiet person in myself, and it was only when I started getting involved in organising conferences with other students, joining the student rep team and doing some social stuff that I started to experience what it is actually like being a PhD student. It’s one where you don’t need to feel lonely at all but I do understand that it can be difficult to initially settle in, especially if you move away from home like I did. It can often take while to feel like you fit in. For me, I think it’s about knowing who to turn to when you need a little support, but also making an effort yourself at the same time to get involved in things like conferences and social activities to help you feel like you’re in the right place.
Do you have advice to any undergraduates considering studying their PhD?
I have a few pieces of advice and the list could go on forever, but my main ones are:
Firstly, make sure you really want to do the PhD in the first place and you are pursuing it for your reasons and not to please others. The main reason I say this is because at some point in the PhD journey there will be moments of doubt and moments of worry, and I found it helpful to re-evaluate why I wanted to do a PhD in the first place which encouraged me to keep going when things were tough.
I would also advise that if you are unsure if you want to do a PhD, seek information on internships and work experience that will help to build up knowledge on approaching a PhD. It was my internship that definitely helped me see that it was something I actually did want to do and my supervisor supported my through the whole application. She was even very realistic and told me it would be hard thing to do as you devote yourself to one project for three years (full time study as I am doing) but at the same time she helped me to see that it was the right thing for me.
As it wasn’t until I did my Master’s degree that I considered applying for a PhD, I would also suggest looking into applying for some form of Master’s degree first, preferably something with a research component in it (or a Masters of Research, MRes). Some PhD courses require a Master’s degree anyway so apart from furthering your research experience and knowledge, it then provides a solid basis to help make a decision as to whether a PhD would be a step in the right direction. It also gives some insight into whether you could cope in the research student environment!
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